January 22, 2015
After a series of interactions across the social web, we realized that Brian Wallace, President and Founder of infographics agency NowSourcing, and his team are an outstanding bunch. They are always up to offer great insights, and are very personable.
We decided to feature the Brian and the NowSourcing team this week, to learn more about how they manage business messaging and team collaboration.
1) Please give us some background information about NowSourcing.
After a bunch of degrees and a good decade of tech/marketing experience in a variety of organizations, I really wanted to try impacting the world by making my own marketing agency in 2005. We started off as being more of a portable CTO to organizations that needed tech smarts, but eventually we became known as a social media agency over the next couple of years. Once we saw the social media explosion worldwide, we knew that we had to take an account of what we were the best at and focus on those aspects of our company. We wanted to become world-class at a few things, versus just pretty good at a lot of things.
That brought us to half a decade ago when we made the leap to servicing clients in the realm of infographic research, design, and promotion, along with some interesting products that benefit from infographics, such as whitepapers, video, interactives, product packaging, annual reports, and presentations.
2) What were your needs in business communication in the very beginning? How has that evolved?
It all started in our basement, so our needs were small back in the day. 🙂 That the beginning we didn’t need much more than a phone, a computer, and a basic Internet connection.
Present day we have a larger team, with an actual office. I travel a lot, so communications have become much more complex. The need for faster Internet, telephone conferencing, messaging systems, project management, and productivity apps has increased immensely as this is what keeps the entire team on point.
3) What are some tools you are using to communicate now?
Communication is essential to our business. Within the team, we communicate predominantly face to face, or use Skype to share files and other information. Mobile devices for communication on the go is also an indispensable part of our arsenal. Although a mobile device is mobile after all, and will never be able to take the place of in-office, in-person communication. With a client base that spans around the world, it’s not always a possibility to talk face to face. When clients are not able to come into the office, email and conference calls are the way to go.
4) Which aspect of business communication generally annoys you the most, and why?
Video conferencing is a great idea in theory. The thought of a virtual, “in-person,” meeting with someone that doesn’t even have to be in the same timezone is very appealing, but rarely does it ever work out the way we had hoped. Dropped calls, unreliable bandwidth, and other variables, can easily turn a video conference meeting into a video conference nightmare.
Conference calls can also get pretty hectic, pretty quickly. Depending on how many people are dialed in, it can be hard to hear, hard to understand, and obviously impossible to read any type of body language. For many clients, a conference call is the only option, so we make it work. We wish there was a better way, but there just isn’t.
5) Do you have employees (or freelancers) that work remotely? Maybe different timezones? If so, how do you all communicate?
When someone on the team is traveling, working remotely, or visiting trade shows, we each find the best combination of tech to help keep us in touch. A mixture of Skype mobile, email, and sometimes even Facebook chat, keeps us in the loop and well connected while one of us is out and about. We’ve been known to be in mobile meetings at all hours of the day or night, talking to clients who don’t share our time zone or our country!
6) What are the pros and cons of team collaboration via the web/mobile devices, versus in-person?
Again, face-to-face communication is, and probably will always be, the best form of communication for us. Mobile devices are good tools for sharing files and links quickly, but it is never our favorite medium of communication. When texting, emailing, or instant messaging, a lot can get lost in translation, for instance, tone and emotion completely go by the wayside..
7) How can the cons from answer #6 be fixed?
Team building, pure and simple. We do everything we can to assemble a great team and keep the lines of communication open to avoid confusion.
8) How is leadership over virtual teams different from teams on-site?
It all hinges on having the right team. When I’m on the road it’s good to know that my team knows what to do, as well as, how to reach me if any issues arise.
9) Do you have some productivity and collaboration tips (tried and tested by NowSourcing) that you can share?
At NowSourcing we believe that a team is stronger when its members have personal connections. Sure anyone can build a team of strangers and get results, but quality productivity comes from a team of people who understand and trust one another. We make use of a ping pong table, billiards, and a dart board in our office to lighten the mood for those times when situations become high-stress. Though these may seem like major distractions to have in an office, it’s not uncommon to hear two people bouncing ideas off one another over the crack of pool balls.
10) What are some team communication tips you can recommend?
Regular meetings, though it may seem like a waste of time, helps keep everyone on the same page. Even just for 15 minutes every day to go over what everyone is working on can be incredibly useful. Also, nobody likes long meetings and they are rarely effective. We try to keep all of our meetings that we have control over down to 15 minutes or less.
Trust your team, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and never underestimate the power of camaraderie.