Can you tell me a bit about your working life?
I run a company called IFLY, which owns the Pizza Hut stores in Cambridge and Te Awamutu. As part of the business, I also provide marketing services to five other franchised stores.
Living in Auckland, I am an avid property investor and am also in full-time employment as a senior auditor with BNZ.
How does teleworking benefit your business, IFLY?
Remote working enables me to add more or less the same value to my business without having to physically travel there all the time, saving many hours in redundant travel time. It also helps me manage multiple initiatives at the same time. With the help of technology, I can be virtually present in my businesses while sitting in Auckland.
What are some of the technologies you use to help you do this?
Video conferencing is an amazing tool; it helps me connect to my staff as if I was present, and that means I don't have to travel to the stores anymore to hold meetings.
It's also convenient and easy to use - you just need a smartphone or laptop with internet access to connect. Luckily for me, all my staff have iPhones, so I can make the most of FaceTime. However, there are other tools you can use, like Skype, Google hangouts and so on.
As a small business owner I need to have access to key information stored on various business computers in relation to sales, inventory and rosters. In my case, the computers at the stores hold all of that so I use Citrix, which helps me access those computers remotely at any time using my personal laptop.
Another tool I use is remotely accessible surveillance cameras. Their primary role when they were installed was to be surveillance cameras and provide a security feature.
However, when I learned they could be viewed on my iPhone, iPad, laptop or even over the web I realised they could work like a pair of eyes for me at the stores, allowing me to see most of what I would if I was present there.
This means I don't have to be physically present to see what is happening: if customers are being served promptly, if they are greeted within a certain time frame - if the store is being run like it should. It also holds these recordings for a certain time frame, so if anything does happen that I need to follow up on, I can check the footage.
What have been some of the challenges in terms of doing this? Have staff been resistant to the cameras, for example?
Instituting these systems in the first place has been a challenge, but spending time researching on Google and reading reviews has really helped me figure out what I needed and what would be a fair price to pay.
Helping my staff to adapt to all of these changes was another challenge - in particular to the video surveillance and access to store computers. Explaining to them why I needed these systems has helped immensely, so has avoiding micro managing and being realistic about my expectations.
Most importantly, though, the challenge has been to stop being 'plugged in' all the time.
I initially started spending more time on reviewing everything than I really needed to. I just had to hold back and tell myself 'I have a life outside of this'. I've had to discipline myself around the time I was spending versus the time that was required.
What are some of your top tips for other small business owners looking to get the most out of teleworking?
1. Don't be afraid of the change. Be adaptable.
2. Embrace technology and make the most of it.
3. Do your research and seek assistance if you need to. Look for the products and services that tick the most boxes for your requirements and go for quality.
4. When buying products and services, make sure you have covered all the requirements with the supplier or providers. Surprises could be costly.
5. Lastly, once you've got all the tools, don't be over plugged-in to your work.
Coming up in Small Business: With Easter is on its way, I'll be looking at small business chocolatiers. If you're keen to get in touch, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.