Manage Your Business
How to manage your business when you're on the road
Tips from small business owners on how they keep things running smoothly
The following story is intended to help small business owners navigate some of the trickiest aspects of managing their business, brought to you by Chase Business Banking.
When Andrew Selinka is on the road or out of the office—and that's most of the year—he needs to know that his student travel agency, Academic Expeditions Inc., can function without him. "I try to create systems," says Selinka, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm takes thousands of US middle and high school kids on educational trips around the world. In fact, Selinka has been so successful in creating systems that he spends most of his own time traveling.
If you're running a small business, you're probably spending a lot of your time away from your desk. And whether you're on the go visiting customers around town, or sourcing trips around the country, you still need to stay in touch with your business, your employees and your customers.
Chase asked Selinka, as well as other small business owners and advisers, how they stay on top of their business when they're on the road. Here are some takeaways:
1. Ensure key data and documents are available to all employees
"I've got thousands of nervous parents out there every week when their kids are on a trip," says Selinka. To ensure that whomever answers the phone at his firm can quickly reassure the parents that their kids are OK, Selinka keeps all his records—itineraries, profiles, the latest news about a particular tour—on a shared cloud server, so that any employee can instantly access the information to reassure nervous parents.
2. Prioritize client calls
Communication is key, says business consultant L. Douglas Mault, in Portland, Oregon. Mault makes sure to schedule time to handle the calls and messages that come in when he's out of the office. "Ready communications with clients is number one—how easily can I get to them, and they to me," says Mault.
3. Stay as organized as possible
Miami real estate broker Sam DeBianchi uses the Chase Mobile® app to ensure money flows quickly. With many closings and deposits paid by check, DeBianchi can use her smartphone to snap a photo of a check, and have it deposited instantly to her firm's account. Then she can pay her brokers their commissions without ever having to stop in the office. "My business is very relationship-based —I'm either out listing or showing apartments or meeting people for breakfast, lunch and dinner," says DeBianchi. "You can't be behind a computer if you want your business to grow."
4. Take advantage of online tools
New York-based book agent Doug Grad says he needs to ensure his authors are paid on time, even when he's out of the office. Grad uses Chase's Online Bill Pay service. If he's out of the office, all his regular expenses, from cell phone to office rent are paid automatically. He can set up payments to his authors that only go out once he's received the royalty payments from publishers. If his authors don't have their own Chase accounts, Online Bill Pay has a great solution: "Chase will send a printed check in the mail to the authors and it doesn't cost me a cent," says Grad.
5. Trust your employees
Selinka, the travel agency owner, says he spends several months a year on the road, so he makes sure everyone in his company understands how the firm works, and who's in charge of what. And then he leaves them alone. "In the beginning I'd always check in. If I were in Africa, I'd make sure to be in a big city where I had access to the Internet. Now, I am able to go away and trust my people have the best interests of the company at home," he says.
Another secret to his success: profit sharing. Giving his employees a stake in the outcome makes it easier to trust them, says Selinka. After all, he notes, "now it's their own money they are dealing with."
For Miami broker DeBianchi, trusting her employees is the key to success. "When I am traveling, and a client I work with wants to see a house, they have to feel just as comfortable with an associate as with me," she says.