Get Scott's take on what he is doing to create today’s virtual office. My take on virtual offices, the tools, policies, cost, clients, areas to focus on for success and pitfalls to consider.
Scott's take on virtual offices
Scott Hoppe has gone full monty when it comes to going virtual. He’s based in San Francisco and is the owner/principal of his firm, Hoppe Tax, and a board member of CalCPA Education Foundation. He telecommutes full time and employs telecommuting-only colleagues that operate out of California, Florida, Ohio and New Jersey. His company is 100 percent virtual, or “100 percent behind technology,” as he puts it.
The Tools of the Virtual Trade
Google Drive, Google Hangouts (IM and video), Gmail, Nextiva (cloud phone system), Asana (project management), Jing (creates short videos), Camtasia (screen recording software), Say It Mail It (iOs app for sending voice messages to email), Hosted Tax software (Citritx login) and Lastpass (sharing and securing passwords).
More on our tools can be found in our other blog posts on Asana, HourStack, and security tools for remote firms.
The Policies in Place
Our policies have to do with keeping our client information safe. Part of it is sending encrypted emails, and another is the anti-virus and spyware software we use on our computers. We also make sure all our employees and contractors have encrypted computers. In addition to the software, we make the same security measures very clear in our written policies and provide training to our employees. One place to start learning about the issues, especially for young CPAs considering launching their own firms, is to check out the various Education Foundation courses dealing with the cloud and other technologies.
In depth article on our security policies.
What Does This All Cost?
The subscription cost covers all the tools we use, so that will relate to how big your firm is and how many employees you are supporting. But, for us, a four-five person firm, it’s somewhere in the range of $2,000 to $5,000, which is really not that much.
How Long Will It Take to Build My Virtual Office?
When we established our virtual office, the guidebook on how to do it didn’t exist, so it’s taken the full three years we’ve been in existence to really develop it, and we’re still growing our procedures and tools. But I would say it would take at least two to three years, and that’s keeping in mind we were built 100 percent on this type of technology, which is unique. Most firms are trying to transition instead, which requires getting people on board—and you have to have the right people on the bus. There’s no room for the old ways when you’re 100 percent virtual, and that could take years. But getting the tools in place is easy and shouldn’t take much time at all.
How Does a Virtual Office Affect Clients?
Those that don’t want to work with a 100 percent virtual office like ours will go find a typical accounting firm, but those that do want it really win. They win really big, because being 100 percent behind technology means we have to be 100 percent on top of our emails, phone calls, video chat and all the ways you typically talk with your accountant. And we have to be responsive, because if we don’t, we lose a client. The client experience has to be great, because there’s no room for error
What Should Firms Focus on to Ensure a Successful Virtual Office?
Over communicating: Things must be written out, and written out clearly. We need to be sure that, without even having a conversation, things can be understood.
Any Pitfalls to Consider?
The biggest one is losing a bit of personality. We try to integrate through technology some tidbits about us. For instance, a meet the team page with pictures and profiles, including your birthday and favorite quote. Those little things help people know a little more about the person. Also knowing when to not just use email and jump in and make a call is important, because so much can be lost in translation.