Going Global: Technology and Small Businesses

A folding card table with a person or two sitting in a garage, developing software or inventing a gadget. Apple, Google, and HP were all created this way, and it’s still the go-to image when someone mentions a startup.

Technology, meanwhile, has made the old image of a startup obsolete. With the rise of the home office, a startup’s employees can work from home, with their home being anywhere in the world, meeting in person only occasionally if ever. Language is not a barrier, with translator apps. Advancing technology is improving communication, and collaboration is a snap thanks to the cloud. International payroll laws, which can be complicated for a startup not well-versed in tax laws around the world, are easy to deal with.

Helpful Apps

The first step is managing the workflow for employees in a half-dozen different countries. For tracking work, try Asana or Trello. They allow for lists or visual boards for managing workflow and assigning tasks in real time. In Asana, for example, a team could meter out subtasks, with team members checking off each individual piece as they are done. Then, when all the parts are checked off (any time of day), a manager will know when the project is ready for her approval. IDoneThis, meanwhile, sends a daily email. Employees respond when they are done with work, detailing their accomplishments. This is a bit more delayed, but with employees in different time zones, this may not matter as much.

There are plenty of apps that can help an international business, such as translation services and international trading references. For a quick-and-dirty translation, Google Translate gets the job done. The phone app can even translate text in real time using your phone or tablet’s camera. For a more professional job, Gengo or Verbalizeit both offer full-time translators to prevent any confusion in what that important email says. And if you want to learn the language for yourself, try the popular DuoLingo resource and app  – which has the added benefit of being a free service and treats teaching language as a game.

The Cloud and Collaboration

Now that everyone knows what they are supposed to do, it’s time to get down to work. Using the cloud to share files makes collaboration with employees (even freelancers, which are on the rise in America) based anywhere in the world a simple task. You can access a network drive anywhere you have an internet connection. A file saved to the network drive can be opened by anyone with access to the drive, regardless of physical location.

Let’s use a team of content creators as an example. The worldwide team is collaborating on their newest YouTube video. The visual effects lead is working late in Los Angeles and finishes just before 11 p.m. He saves the file to the network directory, his part done for the day. The sound designer in Paris just finished her breakfast and sees that she can start work immediately. A few hours later, the expat in Thailand opens the file, ready to edit the video. With proper cyber security ensuring hackers don’t have access, it is the ideal solution for a worldwide team.

VoIP

Distance is no longer the dominant limiting factor in communication; bandwidth is. Voice-over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, such as Skype or Google Hangouts, can make employees a world away feel like they are in the main office’s conference room – provided there are adequate internet connections for both employee and office.

 Teleconferencing and telecommuting have greatly improved as internet technology has advanced, making video conferencing and digital phone conversations available at a moment’s notice. Some international companies are leaving an open connection on in a conference room. This allows for a remote employee to stay connected to the office, able to interact with passersby, and making them feel part of the larger whole rather than an isolated employee.

Paying Your Employees

The work is done, the client is happy, and the final step is to pay your employees. Payroll isn’t too hard – until it has employees in different countries. But fret not, as services are available to help make international payroll law easy to navigate. While different tax laws from a host of countries sounds complicated to deal with, technology makes it simple.  

Technology is making the world smaller and easier to handle. Because of this, a company might find themselves with employees all over the world – sharing a language or not. Location, languages, and even different payroll and tax laws are not issues that a small company needs to worry about anymore.