Operating a virtual business
Paper……. Can’t run a business without it? Well actually, yes you can. Not only that, but what if I told you that My Window Cleaner is a virtual business, where the majority of the admin team are based in Spain. Yes, you heard it here first… SPAIN!
I was a skeptic, but I have now been converted and can see the light. Let me show you the way…
You see Karen Prewer, our wonderful founder; setup My Window Cleaner some 22 years ago. Although she loved her business and was fully dedicated to it, she always felt tied to the office desk and to the area where the business was based, Enfield.
Karen did not want to sell the business, which she loves so much, but she recognised that a change of environment was needed. Along with David, her partner at the time and now her very supportive husband, she set about changing the way that the business was operated, by using technology to achieve her goal.
The ultimate aim was to be able to run the business from anywhere in the world. Sounds a bit extravagant, especially for a window cleaning business based in North London! Karen is the kind of person where ultimate aims become reality.
The starting point was effective communication. It is easy to pick up the phone and call a customer, or vice versa, a few miles down the road. But with telecom technology, coupled with a sensible price, phone calls can be diverted anywhere. Our customers only pay a normal charge rate and the telephone number is a UK number, but an English member of staff living in Spain picks the call up 1,432 miles away.
Having got that sorted, the next thought was how to tell and give confidence to the staff based in Enfield. So, before the beans were spilled, a My Window Cleaner IT system and App was designed, built and thoroughly tested before going live.
Once proven, it demonstrated the versatility that the business and system had, to be able to be operated from any PC, anywhere.
Then the moment of truth…telling the team. To begin with there was doubt, there was concern and there was an air of trepidation. However, as the weeks passed and as the system showed it’s skills in ease of use, communication and organisation, what was the new became the norm.
Karen and David moved to Spain four years ago and the business has continued to grow at pace, it has not lost it’s focus and it has actually benefitted from a technological change that benefits the team, the window cleaners and our customers.
What about new staff, new franchisees and their training?
Firstly, the initial face-to-face training is conducted in the UK and Karen comes back to implement that. There are also regular regional meetings and a My Window Cleaner conference, where we all get together too.
However, our main training tool is online as a fully developed Operations Manual. This tool covers everything you need to know, from growing a business, to marketing, to health and safety, pricing policies etc. Not only that, but if you are not a great reader, you can download it in an audio format, or even watch it on your phone, PC or tablet. This is always available, easy to use and a flexible, but comprehensive training tool.
What about a bit of human interaction?
We use Skype and a piece of software called TeamViewer. TeamViewer allows us to interact with another persons PC (with their permission of course), whilst both parties are online. This means that we can demonstrate the software we use and train the individual, whilst the other party is watching. We are always available, whether online or at the end of a phone.
All of our team and franchisees work from their own home office; so we do not require office premises. The use of technology actually means reduced operating costs and a more effective and efficient business. These savings can be significant and all that is required is a change of mind-set… like mine!
As a very successful business, we are paper-free, office free and can be operated from anywhere in the world, where there is Internet available.
You see, it can be done!