#02: Five Must Have Tools To Go Virtual

#02: A successful virtual team is built on a strong foundation. The tools we discuss in this episode makeup the core of how we communicate and organize our work across a worldwide team.

Although it will be easy to get up and running quickly with these tools, if not used properly they can turn the dream of a virtual team into a total nightmare!

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Video Chat:
Zoom: the best video chat available
Google Hangouts: totally works, just not our favorite for pros.

Team Chat:
Slack: The best all around chat tool hands down.
Microsoft Teams: Great if you’re already a Microsoft shop

Documents & Shared Storage:
Google Docs
Box: A bit more “enterprise-y” than Dropbox.

Project Management:
Asana: What we’re currently using.
Trello: A damn good product.

Knowledge Base:
Tettra: Amazing integration with Slack.


Deacon Bradley 0:04

Hello, and welcome to the Virtual Business podcast. I’m your host, Deacon Bradley. And I’m joined today by Angela Palmer, and Ralph burns. And so we’re gonna be talking about the key tools that you need to run a remote business. So before you go crazy, trying to figure out like texting everybody at your company or trying to figure out how to communicate with everybody. We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. But when it comes down to it, we have found this ourselves giving the same advice over and over to people that have been asking us a lot lately. What do I need to be able to run a remote business? What tools do I need to have in place, and we’re going to be sharing kind of the four key tools that you need and we’ll be going into a lot more depth on these also. So Angelo, Ralph, stoked to have you guys with us today. And he just approved we’re doing this right so I’m in Austin, Texas today until Little bit rainy, which is disappointing. Ralph, where are you at

Ralph Burns 1:04

Sagamore beach, Massachusetts,

Deacon Bradley 1:07

Cape Cod. And then we got an Angelo coming to us from

Angela Ponsford 1:11

Australia. And it says the sun’s just coming up right now. So beautiful day here.

Unknown Speaker 1:17

That’s how we do it every day.

Deacon Bradley 1:19

Yeah, just a normal day for tier 11. And so I’ve been getting a lot of questions on Facebook, email, everybody is suddenly kind of thrust into this world of, of whether you’re starting a business to work online or whether you’ve got an existing business that suddenly can’t go to an office anymore. It’s a it’s very unnerving. And it’s seemingly like a daunting task. And so let’s today we want to share like these are the the must have foundational tools that you need to put in place. All of these can be put in place within Gosh, a day, probably the time it takes you to listen to this episode. You could have each of these up and running for your team and it makes a world of difference. So let’s give an overview on these today. And we’ll go into best practices on these. And we’ll get into some really good topics because I think we each truly believe that running a remote business on an office is the future. I don’t think this is how we expected to get here, though. No,

Ralph Burns 2:19

kind of that events have led us to talk about it probably a lot more, which is a good thing. So it’s something that we certainly know how to do. And it’s the only way we really know at least for me, it’s the only way I really know how to run and launch and start a business. So you know, we’ve never ever had an office here at Tier 11. And we’ve always been this way so happy to be able to share what we do best practices and all the mistakes we made along the way because we made hundreds of them and so far it’s Yeah, it’s working out pretty good so far though.

Deacon Bradley 2:52

So I’m gonna throw this out to you guys are often Angela. Let’s say you’re operating in a normal traditional business environment. And then suddenly you’re like, I’m an online business. What would you guys say Ralph like first go to tool that you would put in place?

Ralph Burns 3:11

After crapping my pants First, I would say the first thing I would do is probably the only stock and the stock market right now that’s doing well. Aside from anything relating to curing Coronavirus is I would get zoom ASAP. I think that’s the most important tool just because we’re doing this right now recording the show, we’re actually looking at each other, and three different time zones. And we have a meeting every Tuesday a standing meeting for most of our staff. And it quite honestly, it looks like you know an episode of The Brady Bunch times two or three if you guys remember that maybe I’m just dating myself. But it’s the only way that’s one of the rules that we have at Tier 11 is you have to have your camera on because that’s the way in which you can Read the nonverbals and that’s how people I think, you know, I’ve heard that and various percentages but a very large percentage is the nonverbal part of how you communicate your words are actually a distant third or fourth depending on which study you look at. So I would say that zoom is the most important thing and the funny thing is, is that I’m getting requests for meetings for you know, family members on zoom all the sudden so people have gotten wise to it, but I would say that’s the most important tool that we use for sure. And the first one that I would get and there’s a free account that you can do and that is from not mistaken

Unknown Speaker 4:39

so yeah, it’s great tool for us.

Angela Ponsford 4:42

Yeah, I think for me, obviously zoom. I mean, we can run we can run the business without him at all. I think for me, slack would just because getting the the communication from different channels because I knew the tendency for people is like oh show that show. I SMS them, shall I send them a message on messenger? Shall I email them? No. And different people like different things. And especially if you have a team, getting that team to commit to one form of communication is going to be a game changer for you. I mean, like, Yeah, all of these tools are just non negotiables. Yes, slack is a bit of a favorite for me.

Ralph Burns 5:22

Yeah, for sure. And I think that you make a huge point there is consolidating your modality in which you communicate with your team. Yeah. Because Yeah, I mean, we text each other, but we’re in the leadership team for we are the leadership team is, you know, our CFO and our VP of sales, but very rarely do I text you guys. It’s always on a direct message through slack in most cases, unless it’s something that’s really sort of changed. It’s not on Facebook Messenger. It’s non email. I mean, that’s the big escape. Yeah, not Skype, like consolidated. Otherwise, you’re gonna go insane And I remember Yeah, the big thing. When we were first starting this, and I was just prior to Deacon coming on board, maybe around the time that you started with Terrell Evans, I was the big push to get off email. And now I think about that, like, why didn’t we do that sooner? And I don’t even though if slack was even around, then maybe it was maybe it wasn’t and it probably wasn’t. But that’s been a huge game changer. I mean, it’s like, how do you pick your favorite tool? I would say, no, it’s like one a one B, you know, totally like in zoom, at least for me. So,

Deacon Bradley 6:37

yeah, I was helping my son’s school and several other groups with this and with like, what do they need in place? And I always said, like, zoom number one, slack. Absolutely. And I kind of described slack as the glue that holds your remote team together. Because let’s say you do have zoom and things are going well as especially as you’re transitioning to a new environment and whatnot. It’s like you have Have a mechanism to connect people to the meeting. And how many times like even before we jumped on here, Ralph’s in slack going, Hey, do we have a link? Like, where are we gonna meet? And it’s like, without that it’s, you’re stuck refreshing email, or like, like slack that brings us together in so many ways, in real time chat that are so important.

Angela Ponsford 7:21

Yeah, totally.

Ralph Burns 7:23

Yeah. Because you don’t have the luxury of we talked about this all the time inside tour. 11. You don’t have the luxury of walking down the hallway and peeking over somebody’s cubicle for just a short five minute conversation. All average room are we in? Yeah, like conference room again, really? What conference room? Are we in? Or is the URL for the zoom meeting? Like that’s nice. You know, and I believe it’s free up to 40 minutes right Deacon like it’s, it is they have done.

Deacon Bradley 7:51

I’ve been really, really impressed with Zoom’s response to this Coronavirus because I haven’t checked the latest but when I was working with my my son’s Last week, they had made it free for K through 12. Education, like no restrictions. I know they’ve made it free and some specific countries when I was looking at the time, I can’t remember what those were. But depending on what type of organization you have, you might be able to just get full access to this tool right now. If not, I think we pay ballpark come in quickly. 1015 a month a user? Yeah. money well spent,

Ralph Burns 8:30

like off the top of my head. I don’t even know what we pay more than rent, how’s that? It’s a lot cheaper than rent. I mean, if I knew what our rent check was, every single week, if we had an office, or if we built an office space, like that you’re talking about in the hundreds of thousands, multiple millions, like zoom is I don’t know, I think it’s like 200 bucks a month, maybe. And we have almost a 40 person team. You know, so it’s just it’s the greatest tool I mean, I know that, you know, we tried other tools, the reason why we chose zoom, I think, Deacon, you know, since you’ve come on as as VP of operations and really sort of tidy things up from operational on a tool perspective. We were doing everything on GoToWebinar, I think or goto meeting before that meeting. Yeah. Which I don’t know if they’ve improved the service, but always just felt so clunky to me. We got it. Boom.

Deacon Bradley 9:30

Yeah, we got an episode coming up on zoom, best practices, slack best practices, we’ll get into all of this stuff. And yeah, I can’t wait to share my initial experience of coming into 11. And joining one of those GoToMeeting, and is this Yeah, listen to the best practices episode, I’ll say that it makes a world of difference overall. The tool that I would bring up is actually Google Docs. And I want to say this one specifically Because the key attribute of this that I love is the live co editing. I think some services call it co authoring. But the ability for us to be in a document, one document, and just adding notes, changing things kind of working on it together, adding comments is huge. And it’s one of the things that, that we have to kind of train people as they join our team to like stop sending us Word files. Because like, anyone who’s worked in any sort of business, whether it’s remote or co located, knows the pain of which version of this document Am I looking at, or where’s the latest, whatever. And Google Docs is just like, here’s the document. That’s it. That’s the latest version. And so, we use these for meeting notes and we’re all in there live during the meeting, watching each other take notes, adding in the notes come out so much better. That’s that’s one Mine is and I know there’s a number of tools that allow co editing Google Docs is what we’ve used. And well, I’m sure explore some more coming on.

Angela Ponsford 11:09

Totally. I think in the words of a Highlander that can be

Ralph Burns 11:17

said so well, Shang said, by the way, not be able to pull that one off. No, I mean, it’s it’s tremendous. I mean, just as an example, we were on a Google Doc on a sales call. So I still do sales calls with our VP of sales for agency. And part of our selling process is a strategic account plan where the media buying team which Angela leads, and then collaborates with our creative team, our creative director to create a document that actually shows what we will do for this customer when we start running their ads. And as my VP of Sales was going through it, I was literally he was on the top and I was on the bottom still editing like in real time. Never knew. And in fact, they’re going to be a new customer this week, thanks to that awesome strategic account plan. Thank you, Angela. But the point is, it’s like, how could we operate without this, and he was doing it as a screen share on zoom to sell this customer our service, like, everything we’re talking about here all in one. And we were also private messaging inside slack slack. Like, what can these tools not do? And I think, you know, I said before, it’s like 181 B, but really, it’s one a one B, one C, maybe. Um, so yeah, it’s absolutely vital. Mm hmm.

Deacon Bradley 12:39

I’m adding to my list of things we need to talk about coming up how to run a remote meeting, because that was interesting what you just brought up It seems normal to us. Right now you’re talking. you’re sharing a screen, you’re co editing a document and messaging each other and slack sounds crazy. We’ll break it down for you because it’s actually really effective, and I think more effective than when we meet it. Person sometimes. So that back channel is always fun.

Ralph Burns 13:03

Yeah. And that’s normal for us. I guess that’s why it’s why it’s so fun talking about it on the show here, cuz it is normal, but for other people like

Angela Ponsford 13:12

an over your own camera as well, right, right? Cuz they can’t see the hands.

Deacon Bradley 13:18

So my three B four a tool is similar to Google Doc Google Docs, they kind of go hand in hand, same product, shared drive access. So we use Google Drive primarily for things box and Dropbox or other examples of a shared drive. But you heard Ralph mentioned this earlier when he was talking about communication modes, but the key is, you need to have a very clear where’s the one place you go for this. And if you can get that that’s going to make everything so much better. And we’ll get into some pros and cons of drive box Dropbox things, some some of the ways that we use them for different teams and whatnot, but that’s really the main thing. There is where do you Where’s the one place you go to get the thing that you need? And that is should be something that you can get from home, in the office in the coffee shop someday when I get to go back to one of those.

Angela Ponsford 14:11

Yeah, totally. And I think it’s easier just with all of these tools. The amazing thing about these tools that we’ve mentioned there, you can have them on desktop, you can have them on mobile. And you can have them on on tablets, as well. They all work across all devices.

Ralph Burns 14:28

It’s great. It’s great. It’s like, when you when you were just mentioning, it’s one place to find everything. Like I take it for granted that everything, every document that I have, literally is on Google Drive, right now. Like there’s no I don’t have I mean, I have paper in my office, but not a whole lot. It’s like, there’s no way I can really lose it unless I put it in a folder I can’t find but you can still find it and obviously it will get into like tips and best practices, but it’s so true. It’s like The way that we run things, people don’t get it. My wife is still like, Wait a second. So all your stuff is on Google Drive. Like, how is that? But it’s true. It’s just a very efficient way of running things. And like you said, like the mobile apps for all these, like the mobile app, zoom is amazing. slack is amazing. Google Docs, Google Drive, like it’s all really, really good. Because you know, we can take the business with us. I was joking with my kids and my wife. It’s like, I run my business through my phone. Like you guys get Snapchat and Instagram and doing whatever the hell what you’re doing. I’m taking and Google Docs here. So yeah, tremendous tools.

Angela Ponsford 15:41

I think another thing just to point, you know, we’re talking about, you know, Google Docs, Google Drive, we all work off of Apple devices. So it don’t it’s not just that if you’re working in an Apple device, you have to use Apple’s tools. We prefer Google’s tools for the you know, the management of stuff, but we all of us prefer Apple devices. For so these work across all devices, they’re not just specific to Google phones or something like that. I don’t

Ralph Burns 16:06

think there’s anyone in on our team, maybe some of the producers on the creative side might be, but I don’t think anyone has a PC. I think we’re all Apple for all of our employees.

Angela Ponsford 16:20

I think I think I know one person one See, we do

Deacon Bradley 16:23

have a couple on the creative team. They are just using Adobe products. And again, right Adobe products, are there the same cross platform, all of these tools that we’ve mentioned, are the same across every platform, which is why I mean, if we did have more people joining with Microsoft, with Microsoft operating system, I don’t think it would really change anything better. Yeah, as long as they just don’t send us a Word

Angela Ponsford 16:51


Ralph Burns 16:52

But those can even be converted easily to inside Google Drive. So it’s like yeah, it’s an annoyance, but it’s Not like a total game changer, you can adapt to it.

Angela Ponsford 17:03

Yeah, absolutely.

Deacon Bradley 17:05

And the fourth major area that we have some, a lot of experience in tools and different software to organize, you know, what’s everybody working on? How are we going to work best as a team, not just across remote geography where we’re not face to face, but across time zones all over the world. And that’s project management. We have used Trello extensively. We’ve used or using Asana currently. And what was it that we used to

Angela Ponsford 17:31


Deacon Bradley 17:32

to do the Wayback Machine? I still know some some good people getting a lot of mileage out of podio. Shout out Mike Rhodes their

Ralph Burns 17:42

audio master.

Deacon Bradley 17:44

Yeah. So there is a huge amount of information there. And we’ve done a lot of switching and figuring out what works best for us. We’ll be sharing all of that stuff coming up in episodes as well. Always a really fun topic there. And then finally, we have Have a knowledge base that we use called tetra. This actually links right onto slack and makes it really easy. But we’ll be talking about how we use that and like why you might put an SLP and tetra, or information in tetra versus putting it in Google Docs. And, again, it’s all about knowing where to go to get information, and about having the right information at your fingertips when you need it.

Ralph Burns 18:24

Yeah, and Asana is the latest, and I think the greatest for us, but if you go back, you know, it was Trello before that, podio before that, before that, it was actually rikey it was we had like two or three others. This is predating you guys like we’ve gone through a lot of them. And I think you know, just looking at the way that Asana is set up, but it really is a very logical way to stay on top of whatever project like the difference between Why we use Asana versus slack people like well, why do you use both? Like, and Deacon, obviously, you know, you were the one that spearheaded this. And the Angeles team really helped with the Asana side. Like, why is that? Why can’t you just do it all in slack? slack is great, but why do we have these other things?

Deacon Bradley 19:20

The number one thing I always tell people about Slack, because it’ll kind of gravitate this way. If you don’t have an Asana, if you don’t have a Trello slack is a communication tool. It is not a project management tool. Now, you’ll have lots of important project management conversations in slack. But if you’re relying on it for who needs to do what, it’s quickly going to break down and you’ll be dropping balls, Al Yes. Yeah.

Angela Ponsford 19:51

I think tank. Oh, can you just do this thing for me? And, you know, I think especially for some you know, if you if you’re leading a team, you know, I receive all of the accounts. So you know, there’s a say, you know, like 20 different customer channels. And if people are pinging me with questions in 20 different customer channels that you know, need to be done over the next week, then then that onus falls on me to have to sort every single request. It’s a, and we’ll probably talk about things about, you know, moving monkeys off of people’s backs and future episodes. But yeah, but that’s why you need that project management tool. So it’s, you know, the person who needs me to do the task for them. They get that in Asana, they get it with a due date, and then it’s there and it’s trackable. So yeah, we can def, we’ll be talking more about how we integrate them and how we work across them. And yeah, once you once you know how to do it, it seems so intuitive, I think for all of us. So yeah, we need to we’ll get ourselves back in the beginner maintain and remember what it was like when we first started doing it.

Ralph Burns 20:51

Just remember the other project management software’s that we tried before those others? We did we started on base camp, which we really Didn’t like a lot of people love that one. And teamwork, which was another one. That’s right. Oh, yeah. And there’s another one. I think that’s since gone out of business. So that was like seven easily get to this point. So the episode that when we talk more about Asana best practices, project management best practices, I think you’ll really want to pay attention to that. Because, yeah, like I said, you know, we’ve we’ve done this, we’ve proven this out 10 years now. And it was 10 years two months ago that I got fired. So my 10 year freedom gratulations

Deacon Bradley 21:33

Yeah, thank you.

Ralph Burns 21:36

And then really started this like seven years. So this is seven plus years as a full service agency doing what we’re doing. So definitely learn from what we’ve done, our mistakes. And what we’re doing right now, because this is and we all believe it here on the show. This is the future of business. Absolutely. 100%. And current events, I think have pushed that along a little bit more. yet.

Deacon Bradley 22:04

That’s it for this session. These are the tools you must have in place if you want to have a really well oiled machine at your remote business. And all these resources are going to be in the show notes. Check the notes on your device for a link and we’ll link all these tools up there. Also, be sure and check out our upcoming episodes for deeper best practices on how to use each of these tools coming up.