There are estimated to be over 700,000 different business books in the world, and a significant portion of those books are about managing a company. The amount of literature on management shows the importance and difficulty of managing a business. There are many different crucial components to running a business and being close to the operations of the company is definitely one. So how do you deal with management when you are not close, but thousands of kilometers from the office, the team and the business?
There have always been companies that have been managed from a distance, however since the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 the challenge has become more mainstream. Many borders are either closed or require a period of quarantine, as currently is the case in China. Some managers were too late in going back to the location of the office, and others are not allowed to leave their home country.
So how do you run a company in China from a distance, both literarily and figuratively? There is no solution that will completely mitigate the challenge, however, there are some crucial ways to make the best of the situation. Acclime China has vast experience in management consulting in China, both nearby and at a distance. We identified five key takeaways on running a company from a distance and listed them in the article below.
The first and most important takeaway for running a company from a distance is the need for local leadership. When managing a company from a distance, you need help from someone like your partner in managing the company. The local leader could be a young talent you perceive to be the future leader of the organisation, a local CFO or an external management consultant. Besides being your eyes and ears in the organisation, the local leader can help you to maintain control over the organisation.
Picking the right person for the job as your local leader is not easy. The local leader needs to be loyal to you and your organisation, and your goals should align. You need to be able to fully trust the local leader and be able to communicate clearly with him/her. The local team needs to fully accept the person as the extension of your leadership and therefore as a leader. Finally, the local leader has to understand Chinese culture.
However, when suddenly forced into such a situation, it might be hard to select the right person. If no one in your office suits the role of a local leader, there are two alternatives: splitting the role between several team members or considering hiring management consulting in China.
Meeting & reporting rhythm
A very basic yet crucial part of running a company from a distance is a rigorous meeting & reporting rhythm. Perhaps when managing within the team, you prefer a loose rhythm and reporting upon request. But when leading from afar it is important to adapt towards a system with recurring meetings and reporting. Such systems offer more structure to yourself, your local leader and your team.
Some examples of recurring reporting could be a weekly cashflow statement, a monthly profit and loss overview, a quarterly management report and a weekly project report. To increase your control even more, you could opt for management tools such as Monday.com, to track the status of projects, action items of the teams and outcomes for clients. Examples of meeting rhythms could be a daily call with your local leader, a weekly finance update and a biweekly management meeting.
Working on relationships
There is a major pitfall to having a great local leader in your office: entrusting him/her with everything, including the relationships towards the other staff in your team. Working on those relationships is crucial for three main reasons: the potential day of your return, a change in local leadership and insights from different angles.
It is important that upon your return, the team still recognises you as their leader. And such recognition is based on an existing relationship. A received message for their birthday or a card in challenging times are simple steps to showing you are still part of the team.
When the local leader leaves you or you need to let the person go, it is important that the rest of the organisation stays intact. People are more likely to be loyal when they have a connection to a leader.
Furthermore, it is important to gain insights from multiple angles. If the local leader is the only source of information on what is happening in the company, you might miss crucial parts of running a business. A complete picture of your organisation is more challenging and more important from a distance.
Vision and goals
No matter if you are close or far away, vision and goals are important for achieving results. However, such alignment is even more important when you are far apart. People need to understand the direction they are going and the goals they are reaching for.
A simple but effective way is to hold a digital strategy day/week. Allocate a set amount of time during that week to developing a shared vision and shared goals. Creating such a vision and goals together with a significant part of your organisation will increase the support base for both.
You are fully dependent on modern technologies to manage your organisation from a distance. There are many different tools out there, with different prices and benefits. Some of the tools that we suggest to use for an organisation are:
How Acclime can help run your company from afar
The overall goal when running your company in China from a distance is to maximise control and insights by implementing leadership, meeting rhythms, and clear communication using the right tools. By doing so, you will be able to keep your organisation running smoothly, without being present.
We have helped many of our clients with setting up their “management from a distance” system and even helped them with locally managing their staff. So if you are interested in learning more about our services for management consulting in China, feel free to reach out to us.
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