Ryan Evans loves connecting people. As the president and founder of three companies with an all-remote work force, his passion his helping people make the connections that they need to do their job. He spends his days helping journalists connect with reputable sources with Source Sleuth, connecting small business with the media through Bite Size PR and helping companies connect with potential clients by delivering custom marketing solutions for his Lift Marketing clients. But to manage all of the projects on his plate, it is essential that he stays in touch with everyone from his six employees to his clients and future clients. To do that, he has the help of some must-have digital tools.
Here are three apps that Evans could not live without:
HipChat. In a traditional office, employees can chat together at the vending machines. But with a remote workforce, Evans team didn’t have the casual encounters that help staffers know each other and work together. His solution was having all employees install HipChat, a simple messaging system. “HipChat helps make up for the loss of office culture and lets us chat about the weather and our kids,” Evans says. “It really helps our team feel like they are all working together and are a part of something that they want to contribute to.” The app has been especially useful the past few months when one of his employees began working remotely from Mexico. Staffers can feel connected to her as she shares stories about life in a new country and even an adventure losing her cellphone, says Evan.
Base Camp. Before his teams started using Basecamp four years ago, when clients inquired about status of their project employees spent hundreds of hours total hunting down information stored in a cumbersome and basic Google Docs spreadsheet. After realizing that this wouldn’t work long term, Evans began having all employees, contractors and clients use Base Camp, a web-based and mobile tool, that tracks all projects, including tasks, status and communications. This was helpful recently when an inexperienced project manager felt Evan’s company wasn’t delivering. Evans could quickly show his client all communications and approvals and files, to show that all contracted services had been provided. “Without Basecamp it would have turned into a he-said/she-said, that we likely would have lost since the project manager was the client's employee,” says Evans.
Olark. Customers at retail stores are greeted and their questions answered personally. This isn’t the case with online sites but Evans wanted to replicate the experience for his companies. Through Olark, a chat application installed into his companies’ websites, he or his employees can talk in real time to website visitors. Evans found that with 200 visitors daily and up to 20 people wanting to chat each day that he needed a person dedicated to handling incoming questions quickly and effectively. In some cases, it’s even led to more business. While chatting with one website visitors, a marketer, he learned that she was considering leaving her business. Thanks to the real-time chat, “it lead to a deal where I took on most of her marketing clients,” Evans says.