How to manage a business operation on opposite sides of the globe [Opinion]

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We are lucky enough to live in a technologically-advanced time allowing us to expand and manage teams all over the world. In fact, the mobile workforce is expected to reach 1.75 billion by 2020, 42 percent of the entire global workforce.

While the rise in accessibility has opened the door for many new opportunities in globalization, managing a team in different areas of the world has its fair share of challenges.

So how do we make sense of this in a way that drives business growth both internally and externally? Let’s dive in.

Respect cultural differences

Cultural differences can either act as walls between employees, or bridges connecting them and encouraging both personal and professional growth.

As a manager, it’s your job to promote a work culture that embraces differences and uses them to strengthen the operation. A case study conducted by the Cedric Herring of the American Sociological Review, examined over 500 for-profit companies, and found a strong correlation between cultural diversity and business performance. Companies with more diversity showed higher revenues and profits, greater number of customers, and an expansive market share.

Mastercard, for example, globally renowned for their efforts to embrace internal diversity, stand by the ideology that ‘diversity is what drives better insights, better decisions, and better products. It is the backbone of innovation’.

As your business grows overseas, implementing a form of ‘diversity training’ is beneficial. Velsoft, which has a number of editable and adaptable courses, is a good resource to get you started.

Image result for velsoft course
Velsoft, has a number of editable and adaptable courses which are easy to use (Images via Pratik Dholakiya).

Invest in project management systems

Cross-cultural or not, businesses already face a number of obstacles in terms of task management. For every one billion dollars invested in the United States alone, $122 million is lost due to poor project performance. This number could potentially be much higher when businesses are trying to coordinate on opposite sides of the globe. This is why a reliable project management system is a must.

Manish Dudharejia, my Co-Founder at full-service digital marketing agency E2M, recently moved from India to the United States to expand our SEO and content services to the American market. He says he cannot under-emphasize the importance of project management tools and systems:

“As our collective business day functions with a 12.5-hour time difference, our project management system is truly the life and blood of our day-to-day operation. Without it, collaboration between the Indian and American teams would be nearly impossible.”

When selecting a tool, it’s best to look for the ones that stood the test of time and have a history of serving culturally-diverse companies. Workzone for example, is a tried-and-true resource with a proven track record of over 15 years, before present-day ‘cloud’ and ‘SaaS’ systems came into existence. Its simplified projects dashboard gives full visibility of every task with progress reports in real-time:

Workzone's simplified projects dashboard gives full visibility of every task with progress reports in real-time.

Intuitive workload reports, file sharing abilities, and milestone-based task representations, can prove crucial to keep operations running on time and ensuring cross-geographic and inter-departmental communications remain smooth.

Hold bi-monthly video chats

When you don’t have the luxury of day-to-day discourse at work, it can be difficult to remain on the same page as weeks go by, especially across different cultures. However, a face-to-face conversation serves a number of purposes: First, it helps building rapport and ensures everyone’s current and future objectives are in line. Second, it helps clearing up any roadblocks or questions between teams without a delay. Thus, managers should aim to meet for a video chat at least twice a month. Plenty of free video chat platforms like Skype or Google Hangouts are at your disposal.

Image result for google hangout
Google Hangouts is a free video chat platform that could be used for remote conversations and meetings. 

The tricky part woul be coordinating times to meet. If you are stationed on complete opposite sides of the globe, try to alternate times for each meeting so there isn’t one person who is always stuck with taking a late night call.

Pay an annual visit

Even though your company members may be living and working in different areas of the world, you are still one, single unit. There is no better way to get a feel for how cross-culture branches operate than making a physical appearance.

As a business owner, try to line up a visit at least once every year. Stick around for a week to get a better idea of how exactly the environments function. Make a list of your observations and compare both similarities and differences. This will help you come up with actionable conclusions about how international teams can work more efficiently.

Over to you

If this is your first experience managing a cross-cultural business, you are in for a challenge, witnessing first-hand the phenomenon of globalization. Although this is far from a new concept, the technology we have at our fingertips can do wonders to break down barriers that may pose as significant obstacles otherwise.

‘Encouraging interaction’ would be the key to making sure the day-to-day routine flows smoothly. This helps employees learn more about their counterparts and combine communication styles, talents, and general outlook on life.

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