Not just a better way–the only way–we could work
By Steve Strauss, USA TODAY’s small business columnist, a best-selling author and corporate spokesperson. He has written over 17 books including the best-selling The Small Business Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in Your Small Business. He is often called “the country’s leading small business expert.”
A few years ago, I had what I thought was a bright idea. A very bright idea. Except it almost wasn’t. In fact, it was almost a Very Dumb Idea. Almost an unmitigated career disaster idea.
The only thing that saved me from myself was Webex video conferencing.
Let’s backtrack for a second. For many years, I sat on the board of the World Entrepreneurship Forum. This was an incredible think-tank that would, once a year, bring together global entrepreneurs, innovators, academics, and experts from around the world for a week-long confab where we would share notes and ideas, wins and losses, ideas, and strategies.
Entrepreneurs from South America. Experts from the States. Business people from China. African innovators. We had it all.
It was at one of these get-togethers that I made what was my almost-fatal error. Being the author in the group (The Small Business Bible, etc.), I shared this thought: “This is an incredible group,” I said. “Our collective expertise on every aspect of entrepreneurship is truly impressive.” And then I uttered the fateful words:
“We should do a book together.”
Needless to say, everyone loved the idea. The problem (though I didn’t realize it at the time) was two-fold:
- Even though they were all accomplished in their own right, many of these folks had never written professionally
- We lived on five different continents
Nevertheless, a dozen of my colleagues proved to be either incredibly persistent, very enthusiastic, or both, and I returned to the U.S. with a very creative idea for a book idea to pitch my publisher.
They bit, and eventually we published Planet Entrepreneur, but not before the twin problem outlined above almost derailed the project altogether.
The writing problem was not insignificant. While these were world-class entrepreneurs I was dealing with, they were not professional writers. For many, English was a second (or third) language. Eventually, as the lead writer and editor, I was able to find a balance between creating a manuscript with a voice that was both authentically theirs, while, at the same time, one that read well.
Let’s just say it was a lot of work.
It was actually the second problem that proved more vexing. How would we work together, being as remote from each other as we were? Eventually we figured out the solution here as well.
How did we figure out who would write what? Webex. How did we handle scheduling snafus and coordination conundrums? Webex. 12 people on five continents writing one book and we handled it all using a few emails and a lot of online conferencing.
Of course, we were not alone. The world has changed, and the world of work has changed. Remote teams like ours are commonplace and the need for reliable web conferencing is real. That is why I suggested Webex and why it worked for us.
Specifically, what we really liked about the system were a few things in particular:
It was intuitive: For us, one of the best aspects of the Webex video conferencing solution was that it mimicked what we did every year at our live conference. The Webex platform felt familiar to us because, after all, looking at each other in the face is what we were used to.
The technology truly made our lives easier: So much technology offers the false promise of ease of use, simplicity, and time-saving. But–as we all know–that is often not the case.
Cisco’s Webex was different, better. Whether it was in the office or on a mobile device, the hardware and software worked seamlessly. It was easy to set up and use. The feeds looked and sounded great. We were thus able to concentrate on the work, not wrangling the technology.
The good news is that our situation was not unique. Given that teams today often do in fact work remotely (even if not continents apart), Webex offers the best software to help teams collaborate no matter their location. Today, your team can easily stay connected, work on work, not get bogged down in technical minutiae, and grow the modern way.
(And you should feel doubly happy that you don’t have a team member who thinks that a 10,000-word Blackberry text makes for a good chapter of a book!)
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