How my small business operates on a global scale

While in Melbourne for work recently, a client asked me how I manage a global team at my small design business. I’d just hired new staff in London — a move that seemed intuitive to me, despite being based in Sydney, and that I hadn’t really thought much about until asked. It occurred to me that my company, popdot media, is actually very different from your average small business in that we not only take advantage of the connectivity in the world around us, but, as a company, we live in that interconnected space.

The connected world we live in offers flexibility that is increasingly changing the way people work and the way in which businesses operate. Popdot media initially came into being in New York City in 2012. Our first clients were split equally between the US and the UK. I had come across the pond from London where I had worked for years on magazines marketed largely to a US audience, and in a business whose teams were shared across London and New York offices to foster synergy and collaboration on both sides of the Atlantic. I suppose coming from an in-house role in a large international company the benefits of globalization came to be second nature to me. While I sat at my desk in London, my work was global, as was my interaction with colleagues in other locations around the world. Add to that the transition from running a freelance side business out of my bedroom to running a business operating out of creative hubs without a fixed address, and I suppose location independence was more of a necessity than a goal in those early days, making the setup of a global rather than a local startup a no brainer.

Since returning to Sydney on a permanent basis, the spectrum of clients in my business has shifted to include a large number of businesses on Australia’s east coast, in addition to those in North America, the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Other business leaders have asked me how I manage the logistics of such diversity. I don’t see this as something that needs to be managed with enormous difference to a small business in a local market. And my answer to this question is always the same: ‘connectivity’.

My team holds regular global team meetings over Skype so that our staff in all locations know what everyone else is working on. We also hold collaboration and brainstorming sessions for new project utilising video conferencing to keep the whole team involved at all stages of a project. The relationship between staff and clients is skills based, not location based. We match talent to a job and pool our global resources for more creative local solutions. The client then benefits from a global team with diverse skills and fresh ideas that cross cultural boundaries.

We use Dropbox for file sharing, which means that there are never concerns over who last updated a file or whether you’re using the right version. And everyone has access to everything — a huge plus when it comes to sharing resources from our image library, for example. The other main tool we use is Trello, which we organise obsessively in line with our workflows; Trello allows everyone to see what everyone else is working on and where their projects are up to, and for me as business founder, it allows a measure of control and relief in knowing that nothing is falling through the cracks — a problem that can develop quickly in global teams if you don’t have a system in place to keep the workflow in check.

In hindsight I feel very lucky to have been able to assemble such an amazing international team, while retaining the boutique structure of the company. We are tiny compared to the big international agencies, yet we also have the strength of a global outlook, total flexibility over location and are small enough to get the whole company around one table for an annual lunch — wherever that may be.

Originally published at popdot media.

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