You started your own business, your passion project and you have achieved incredible success, based on your own skills and expertise.

Now your business is growing at an extraordinary rate and you are running out of hours in the day, and headspace seems a distant memory. You know that there is a bigger market for your services but you now don’t have the capacity to grow any further. As a one-(wo)man band, you have worn so many different hats, but you know that isn’t sustainable for the longer term. You no longer have time to service your clients and grow the business. 

So you have started outsourcing – employing people. Letting them do what they excel at, so you can get on with your zone of genius.

You know that outsourcing your key job roles will cost money in the interim, but when you have the right team, they will actually bring more money into the business in the long run. 

By allowing you to focus on your true skills and talents – which are the most marketable and profitable within your business, the support team will give you the space to grow. 

But how do you lead a remote or freelance team? Do you treat all your ‘support staff’ as a team, or are they ad-hoc helpers? Are you missing a trick and actually increasing your workload by not bringing them together as a team?

Treating them as a team will make sure that your business is running effectively and will allow you to focus on the big picture, not stress about the never ending ‘to do’ list in front of you.

In fact, if your team includes freelancers, who may work for a number of different companies at the same time, effective leadership will mean you will get the best of them – if you are their favourite client, you’ll get them at their freshest and most motivated!

A happy and motivated team will work harder, stick around longer and help you more in the longer term if you treat them as if they were full time employees.

It’s time to take the step up into your business. 

How do you do this? Who do you need? How do you handle a team of people, especially if they are working remotely. And what about the mind monkeys in your head – are you cut out for leadership?

We’ve all had bad managers in the past, and if you were lucky, inspiring leaders who made you want to be better at your job, and gave you the support to do it. How did the good ones do it, and how do you avoid being the bad manager?

Put simply, leaders help themselves and others to do the right thing. They set the direction that any business or movement needs to take, build and communicate an inspiring vision, and create a community of people to fulfill that vision. 

To lead a team, you first need to lead yourself. Understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and your drive to succeed is important, but we can get lost in the weeds of self-analysis. 

However, if you flip your mindset and focus on the bigger picture, the big vision you have for your business, and yourself, this purpose will inspire you and others to work harder towards the goal. 

This is the same whether you are employing a full time team of people, sitting in an office together, or a group of freelancers working around the country, or indeed the world.  

Here are some key factors to effective leadership of a small business. 

Creating an inspiring vision of the future 

Spend some time setting out your vision, and revisit it regularly as your business grows, and the market changes and develops too. 

Build these steps into your quarterly and annual reviews to make sure your business maintains its path. 

  1. Set a clear picture of what you want to achieve in the business – where do you see the business in 1, 2, 5 years?
  2. Why do you want this? What is the purpose your business serves?
  3. What is your USP? What makes your business different from your competitors
  4. Who do you want to serve and why?

Building and developing a team

Who do you need on board to achieve this vision?

If you already have a team, this exercise will help you ensure you have the right people for the tasks ahead. Involve them in the vision setting process too, so it will give them opportunities for growth, or give you both the insight to see if they are the right people to carry the business forward. 

Look at the vision, and the goals you have set for the business. 

i) What job roles do you need to deliver this vision – including your own?

ii) What functions do you need to be able to compete in the marketplace?

iii) Which roles fit inside your own zone of genius – and which do you actually want to do, which don’t, and who do you need to bring in to bring the vision to life?

Motivate and Inspire

As you build your team, communication is crucial, and no more so if your team is remote.

Paint your BIG Picture

Spend time talking through your own vision for the company; the what, how, where, when and, most importantly, why. When your team understands the bigger picture it gives them clarity and inspiration to work effectively and happily for you. You want them to feed into your big picture and help you get there.

Brief them Properly

Walk them through your processes. Explain everything in detail – your processes are the most important part of onboarding your team.  If they are unsure on how to work or don’t have clear expectations set for them, they won’t put in their ‘all’, and you may feel like they are not delivering.  This is a crucial part to start to build up trust on both sides. Keep asking and answering questions.  Also – expect the onboarding process to take a month or two, especially when working remotely as things can take a lot longer than in person.

Set boundaries and expectations

Give them clear boundaries in each of their roles. What to do if they’re unhappy, what if they’re not clear, delivery dates, remit, and level of service you expect from each of them.  

Understanding their role in your business and in your business growth will remove confusion and empower them to do a better job. If they do not respond to the issues raised or meet your expectations after your discussions, only then can you consider if they are the right people for your business, or whether it may be time to move on.

Pay Them Fairly And On Time.

If you hire somebody who is inexperienced then you can expect to pay them less than somebody with more experience. If you expect experience from somebody that you are paying very little, then that is not fair. Pay them according to their experience and what your business needs.  Agree payment terms in advance and pay them on time. It really is that simple!

Communication Is King (Or Queen).

How you communicate, the method and the frequency is really key, especially with an otherwise unconnected group of people. If you are using WhatsApp, emailing, or sending voice notes whenever the idea strikes you, you are expecting your team to have a crystal ball of your thought processes. The clearer you can make it for them, the easier it is to see what they need to do, and why. And to make it clear to them, it needs to be clear to you too… Look at the process and pick one place to use as a communication tool. Project management tools such as Asana, Click Up or Trello can help you keep on track of roles, responsibilities and due dates. Keep all communication in one place.  This will reduce your hours of people management if the team know each other

Create A Pleasant Working Environment, Wherever You Work.

Make sure your team has everything that they need.  Do they have the equipment they need to do the job they are tasked with? Ensure they have access to the documents and tech they need – help them to help you. Remembering their birthday and organising a Christmas party shows you care and makes your team feel respected and valued.  Add a sense of collaboration to your team and make them feel part of your business. Happy teams will want to stick around

Hold regular team meetings

Getting your team together will mean they are more invested in working together to help you. Set out your monthly goals for your business, ask for their ideas and support. Show your trust and respect for them and listen to their ideas. You brought them in for a reason!

Be a Human Being

Regular check-ins are crucial when you are leading a remote team. If you notice that they are unhappy or their work has dropped off then make sure you ask them if they are okay. They may be going through some work or personal problems and you may be able to offer advice or even some understanding can go a long way. Don’t judge or criticise them.  Be kind.

Don’t Micromanage. 

This is a time, and trust killer, and probably the hardest part for a business owner to get right. 

You have grown the business from the ground up. It’s your baby. So it’s natural to find it so hard to relinquish control of your business to others.  However, keeping all your fingers in all of the pies will not help you or your business to grow. Your team knows the vision, their role in delivering it and what to do if they are unclear/unhappy. You have put the time in to brief and train them. 

It’s time to get your hands off the wheel, and let them get on with what you are paying them for. If you show them trust, they will work harder for you too.

Getting your business to the stage where you need to take on a team is a huge accolade and one that should be congratulated and celebrated. For most of us, the only experience we have of leading a team is when we worked for someone else, so we’re not used to having to set the rules, boundaries and the way you want to work.

This means that additional outside support is needed to ensure that we’re being the best leader possible, whether it’s accidental, or not.