Tips For Scaling Customer Success

If you’re building a startup, you’re probably wondering how to start and scale customer success (CS). While the first step is to hire the right first customer success lead, the next step is scaling customer success to increase the impact and turn CS into a profit center that increases revenue. Here are my top tips to help you scale customer success at your startup. Hopefully, your first CS hire has already created a culture of operational excellence and started accelerating your one-to-many strategy, as most of my tips for scaling customer success rely heavily on customer success ops.

Meet customers where they are.

Scaling customer success means you’ll need to make it more effective and efficient. At Liquid, we’ve found that it’s imperative to meet customers where they are and where they prefer to engage. While some customers enjoy talking to a customer success manager, others prefer to get help on their own online. Some users prefer emailing, while others like chat. Some prefer personalized meetings, while others find more value in attending group office hours or webinars. Offering one-to-many experiences increases CS productivity — but more importantly, offering a multitude of options allows your customers to get help in ways that they perceive to be most valuable and efficient. Add new initiatives prudently; do so only when you have confidence that it fills a need. In addition, you should be analyzing the metrics of each new initiative to assess effectiveness. Experiment and iterate.

Build a knowledge base.

At Liquid, we recently released a customer-facing knowledge base (KB) based on customer requests for a dedicated help center to help themselves and to direct their additional users to train themselves up. Since its launch, KB usage has grown rapidly while also decreasing the volume of communications from customers. To be clear, our KB doesn’t prevent users from contacting humans — it simply helps users help themselves before asking for help.

When building out your KB, start with the most complex features and sticking points — get feedback from CSMs and support staff about what needs to be covered. As new support requests come in, support staff should create new KB articles. Similarly, as new features get released, work with your product team to add new KB articles at each release. Always include images and videos to be inclusive of different learning preferences. Don’t wait to put out your KB; in my experience, it’s better to put out a 60% completed solution and iterate and add to it.

Lastly, look at KB metrics to gather additional insight. For example, what are people clicking on? This might give you insight into problem areas. Who is looking? A customer with lots of KB views might need extra attention; a customer with a sudden drop in views might be at risk of churning out. What are people searching for? Repeat searches might mean your product team needs to resolve some underlying issues.

Create (and automate) repeatable systems and processes.

Scaling customer success also means dealing with an increasing number of customers. To manage volume, you need repeatable systems and processes. Operationalizing processes by creating playbooks and other documentation helps your team provide consistent service quickly and efficiently. When done properly, this also allows you to provide pooled CS where customers are not assigned a single CSM but instead get help from whoever is available. Start working on this early and iterate often.

As you work on this, also segment your customers and determine how your approach will differ for each segment. For some companies, it may make sense to segment by account value but for others, segmenting by behavior may be more suitable. Growth potential should also be considered in segmentation, along with other factors specific to your industry, company and product.

Another way to improve the efficiency of your CS department is to take your repeatable processes and systems one step further and automate where possible. Be strategic in your use of automation. At Liquid, we use Zapier to automate a few customer success emails and have a few other automations to provide more value to our customers at scale.

Separate customer support and customer success.

While customer success is meant to be proactive, customer support or customer service is reactive by nature. When the same team members manage both support/service and success, the most urgent requests (typically service requests) get worked on first. Unfortunately, this means the proactive work — of managing customer health and actively reaching out to customers who may be at risk of churning — sometimes falls lower down the list. In addition, the skills needed for customer service are different from those for customer success. From my experience, companies achieve better results when separating the reactive customer service team from the proactive customer success team early on.

Know when to grow your customer success team.

Dave Blake, CEO of Client Success, has some great tips on when to add additional staff to your customer success team. Specifically, he recommends looking at three factors:

• Annual Contract Value (ACV) Target Per CSM: Each CSM should be handling about $2 million in ACV.

• Product Complexity: The more complex your product, the fewer accounts each CSM can handle.

• Volume Of Customers Per CSM: Each CSM can generally only create meaningful relationships with about 50 customers (sometimes a bit more if automation is used).

Assess these factors against your own product to determine when it’s time to grow your customer success team. I’ve found that about 30 customers is the sweet spot — with automation required to manage more than that.

Scaling customer success will allow you to deliver more value to your customers, keep them happy and ultimately get them to grow their business with you. Whether you start with operationalizing processes, adding automations, building out a knowledge base, or separating customer service from customer success, be sure to meet customers where they are. Deliver more value in their preferred channels and your customers will eagerly turn into advocates, referring new customers.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Hiring Your Startup’s First Customer Success Lead

Customer success (CS) is one of the most critical functions of a startup, especially a business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup. Your startup’s success depends on educating and keeping customers — exactly what CS professionals are equipped to do. Moreover, when your CS team does its job well, customers turn into advocates, each referring new customers to your business.

If you have the budget, you’ll want to hire someone who has scaled CS at a company similar to yours (in terms of product, sales model, implementation strategy, expansion strategy, etc), from your company’s stage all the way through the initial public offering (IPO). In truth, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find this mythical ideal hire.

Instead, let’s focus on finding you the best first customer success hire for your startup, starting with the basics.

Generalists: At early-stage startups, you need a jack-of-all-trades who can do whatever is needed, whenever it’s needed. You need someone adaptable and resilient to put out fires while thinking strategically and working proactively. You need someone who can build relationships with customers while also analyzing customer data and trends, turn customer thoughts into focused feedback for the product, scale support, and much more. As your CS department grows, you’ll want folks to specialize: dedicated onboarding specialists, expansion specialists, customer success managers (CSMs) for different customer segments, etc. But at an early-stage startup, hire a generalist.

Coachable, Lifelong Learners: When you work in customer success, you’re constantly learning on your feet. You’ve got to be naturally curious about customers and your product. At an early-stage startup, you must experiment and try different tactics, particularly while working toward finding product-market fit. In addition to hiring for lifelong learners, I recommend hiring for coachability to ensure you hire someone who can grow with your company.

Emotional Intelligence: Every successful CS leader I’ve known exhibits strong emotional intelligence; this is no surprise, given how important it is for CS to have empathy and be able to control their emotions and read customers’ emotions. Since CS often manages angry customers, I also recommend hiring for mindfulness. The ability to stay intentionally focused without passing judgment helps ensure appropriate reactions to defuse charged situations.

Leadership: Your first CS hire won’t be your last. Hire someone who can lead your future CS department — a leader with grace and compassion. Speaking of leading a department, you’ll need your CS lead to have a documentation-first mindset to take what they do, turn it into scaleable processes and teach that to others.

Now that we’ve established the overall traits, let’s go over some factors to keep in mind as you hire your first CS lead.


How complicated is your product? Is specialized knowledge required to understand your product? At Liquid, I’ve found that while no specific expertise is necessary, experience with how businesses contract with freelancers and vendors makes the steep product learning curve much more manageable.


Do your customers speak their own lingo? For example, many of our customers are finance leaders, so it’s beneficial to hire folks knowledgeable about accounting as it pertains to working with contractors and vendors. However, since operations leaders also use our product, finance and bookkeeping expertise are purely optional. Additionally, since many of our customers are agencies or social enterprises, it’d be helpful to hire folks with backgrounds in those industries.

Sales And Pricing Model

Very expensive products with a high-touch sales model will probably require high-touch customer success. “Freemium” products relying on product-led growth, self-service education, and low-touch sales will likely require someone who can more quickly operationalize and scale CS.

Implementation Strategy

How complicated is your product implementation? How quickly do customers see value? Is onboarding straightforward and the same for everyone, or does it vary depending on the specific needs/circumstances of each customer? If it varies, you’ll need someone who asks the right questions to craft customized onboarding/implementation plans for customers. In this case, look for past experience in consulting (or a consultative mindset).

At Liquid, we’ve found that implementation can differ quite a bit between customers depending on a variety of factors — including whether the main users have finance or operations backgrounds, whether they use work orders, how much they care about compliance, whether they are moving from existing tools versus hiring their first freelancer, how many vendors they have, and whether they think of their vendors as a virtual talent bench — but not so much so that custom onboarding plans are needed for each customer. In our case, CS needs to provide high-touch customized onboarding when appropriate, while also operationalizing, scaling, and improving onboarding in general.

Expansion Strategy

What does expansion mean to your company? Is it about selling more licenses? Selling on professional services? Upselling on additional features or higher-level plans? Different expansion strategies require different skill sets. No matter what the expansion strategy, I recommend hiring someone data-savvy enough to segment customers appropriately to identify and pursue potential expansion opportunities.

Company Structure

Who will your first CS hire report to? While I recommend having a customer success lead report to the CEO, I’ve also seen a CS lead report to the chief operating officer (COO), head of sales, and even the chief of staff. No matter how you decide to structure your organization, be intentional about this. Where CS sits in your company says a lot to your employees (and to your customers) about how you view your customers. Choose thoughtfully.

Don’t Delay Hiring Your First Customer Success Lead

As I said at the start, customer success is one of the most important pieces to building a successful company. It’s never too early to hire your first CS lead.

And once your CS lead has created repeatable processes and you’re ready to scale, empower that person to hire a team. I’ve found that non-traditional backgrounds like hospitality, retail, and education lay an excellent foundation of soft skills for CS excellence. If you have the time and resources to train someone (and a product that doesn’t require subject matter expertise), you’re likely to get excellent value hiring folks new to the technology industry.

Are you ready to start building your customer success department?

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an entrepreneurship and small business consultant and a co-founder and partner of Lau Labs. She loves to read. Since 2010, she has been focused on “solving” the “problem” of ambitious, educated, talented women and men “opting out” of the traditional workforce for personal reasons. In 2015, she joined forces with two other MIT alumnae to start FlexTeam — a mission-based micro-consulting firm that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors and their most requested projects are market research / analysis, competitor research, financial models / analysis, and business strategy. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Let’s Go Liquid: One Million Liquid Businesses

Today, we launched a new website for Liquid, the operating system for agile businesses. I’m so excited to share what we’ve been working on, and so proud of how far we’ve come from when we first started our consulting firm together many years ago.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on our vision for Liquid and the future of work, how we got here, and why I believe we’re building something important.

Shifting from role-based work to project-based work

For years, I had seen my friends — fellow MIT alums — leaving their careers behind because they couldn’t find a way to make work fit into their lives. Whether it was making more time for their children or parents (or not wanting to be tied to a job and an office), highly educated women were leaving the workforce in droves. I had long found project-based work to be a means of finding work-life fit and I wanted to build a way to make it easier for anyone to do project-based work. And as a long-time consultant, I had seen for myself how tapping into on-demand talent enable businesses to scale quickly and efficiently. I realized project-based work was a win-win for all parties involved.

Project-based work and the future of work

I’ve been a big proponent of project-based work as a critical component of the future of work. Project-based work allows small business owners, entrepreneurs, creators, and enterprises to grow and scale their businesses while also expanding opportunities to bring in diverse talent. Working with on-demand talent is a good business decision for agile businesses. On the talent side, project-based work is a means to find work-life fit, particularly for lifelong learners eager to strengthen and develop their capabilities.

Starting FlexTeam

It was with that goal in mind that I co-founded FlexTeam — we wanted to build a world where previously sidelined professionals could engage in challenging, meaningful work when it fit into their lives. In addition, we envisioned a world where anyone could build an agile business, bringing on just-in-time talent to complete only the specific work that needed to be done.

Building FlexTeam’s platform

As we built FlexTeam, we initially used half a dozen different platforms to get signatures, manage contracts, agree to scopes of work, make payments, etc. We realized a tech platform was needed to manage this. Bringing on a CTO, we built an operating system for our modern consulting firm. Our proprietary platform allowed us to vet, onboard, manage, and pay FlexTeam’s consultants, while also enabling our clients to approve scopes of work, communicate with our team, and make payments.

Going Liquid

Liquid @ Techstars LA

FlexTeam grew to over 700+ independent contractors working on strategy projects with hundreds of clients, from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. But we realized that to accelerate our vision for the future — to help more businesses Go Liquid — we needed to reduce the friction for every business to work with on-demand talent.

We saw several main trends: workforce was becoming more flexible and global and agile companies succeed by tapping into the best non full-time workers. But working with on-demand talent can be really difficult because it’s not a regular recurring expense like payroll — and there are additional compliance issues and challenges with controlling costs / work.

So we created and spun out Liquid — joined Techstars LA, and raised venture capital. Today, the Liquid platform streamlines the way a business’ finance, operations and talent management teams work with its vendor and supplier networks in the U.S. and abroad. We simplify contracting and global payments while ensuring financial controls and compliance.

The Future of Work

It’s widely accepted that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to the future of work. In 2020 alone, wages and workforce participation of independent workers rose by 33%. In 2021, we’ve seen the “ Great Resignation” / “ Big Quit” — which has led to further growth in the percentage of independent workers — and businesses becoming more comfortable with remote work, asynchronous work, hybrid work, and project-based work.

While others talk about the future of work being remote, I believe it’s much bigger than that. The future of work is about everyone and every business working together in a way that works for all parties involved. It’s a distributed hybrid world where some folks will remain employees, but more and more people will become independent contractors — some working through agencies, and others working directly with companies (with some growing to build their own agency and hiring their own subcontractors). The companies that thrive in the future of work are those that Go Liquid, embracing on-demand talent and virtual talent benches.

Liquid and the Future of Work

At Liquid, we are building the operating system for agile businesses to enable everyone and every business to succeed in the future of work — project-centric contracting, work orders, purchase orders, and payments for agile businesses and their global vendor networks. In addition, our platform allows businesses to quickly understand and control their variable non-employee costs. We want to help every company Go Liquid, and we want to make it easier for people to Go Liquid.

Every day, I wake up excited to build Liquid because I know we are changing how work gets done; we are building the future of work. I love our hectic startup life (for example, I previously led Marketing for Liquid on an interim basis) but I primarily spend my days leading Customer Experience and Customer Success at Liquid. With a consulting background and experience as a trusted advisor, I’m thrilled to be building this critical (and growing) department. I love partnering with startup founders, finance leaders, HR leaders, COOs, Chiefs of Staff, and other operations leaders to help them scale their businesses while saving them (and their teams) time and money. It’s been a joy to connect with our customers and ensure they are getting exactly what they need from our platform. I’ve seen our customers take their businesses from idea to Series A and from seed to Series B — and I love knowing that our platform has supported their rapid agile growth.

Today, hundreds of businesses spanning marketing agencies, startups, production companies, social enterprises, and SMBs are using our platform. These businesses use Liquid to contract, onboard, manage, and pay their on-demand talent and vendors in the U.S. and in 175+ countries across the globe. Thousands more are #GoingLiquid and engaging the liquid workforce in ever growing numbers. In just the last year, Liquid has securely processed millions of dollars in global payments. Our customers love our platform, rave about our helpful customer support team, and rely on Liquid on a daily basis. Liquid is becoming the operating system for agile businesses.

And we’re just getting started.

If you’re as excited as I am about what we’re building and our vision for the future, read more from our CEO. Then, visit our new website ( to learn more about Going Liquid or subscribe to our newsletter to follow our journey.

Are you ready to Go Liquid?

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Professional Development Tips For Startup Founders

I’ve spent my career advising startup founders and founding companies myself. When you work in a big corporate structure, there are many structured professional development opportunities. When you’re a founder, you have to create your own professional development opportunities and prioritize those against building your company.

Here are my tips for professional development for startup founders.

Join a community of peer founders.

Entrepreneurship can be lonely. Finding and joining a program for founders at your stage is a straightforward way to find peer founders. Two organizations that I can personally recommend starting with are All Raise and On Deck, which run programs for founders at various stages. All Raise runs a seed bootcamp and a post-seed to Series A program, and On Deck runs a founder fellowship and a scale fellowship. (Full disclosure: I am an inaugural member of All Raise’s Visionary Voices Speaker Bureau and am an inaugural fellow in On Deck’s Fintech Fellowship and in On Deck’s Customer Success Fellowship.)

Connect with founders who are one to two funding stages ahead.

It always helps to know what’s coming and to get advice from those more experienced than you. These founders know and understand what you are dealing with and can provide a fresh but experienced perspective.

Once you get further ahead, be sure to return the favor and connect with founders who are one to two funding stages behind you. Personally, I love the energy of new founders. I find it energizing to mentor and advise new founders. In addition, the experience of advising other entrepreneurs can help you be more reflective of your own experiences, helping you learn more quickly.

Ask for feedback.

Ask for feedback frequently, and be specific when asking for feedback. I’ve found that frequent feedback has not only helped me continually learn and grow as an entrepreneur, but has also helped me generate new ideas to move my business forward. If someone gives you vague feedback, ask for specifics on what was good or what could be improved. Even when you get specific feedback, ask clarifying questions so you can be sure to leave with actionable insights. Always thank people for their time and feedback, and follow up with your progress if and when appropriate.

Get a mentor or coach.

Yes, I said a coach. Don’t be afraid of coaching. When we were kids, we all had coaches and mentors — experienced advisors to help us along the way. As a founder (or any adult navigating their career), a coach can be invaluable. Coaches can help you improve your leadership skills, increase your productivity, unlock new opportunities and help you set achievable goals and deliver results. Not sure how to find a coach or mentor? Ask your peer founders or founders a few stages ahead of you for some recommendations. However you find your coach, make sure you find someone you connect with and trust. Without trust, coaching won’t get you anywhere.

Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Don’t hire quickly. In fact, I recommend doing each job function before hiring. But once you understand the work that needs to be done, delegate it as quickly as you can. Hire employees if the work calls for someone internal, but also be open to building a virtual talent bench. Using a liquid workforce ensures that companies can tap into the right expertise and skill sets as needed for any time frame. Engaging on-demand advisors and consultants is an efficient way for startups to grow their teams and scale their businesses without increasing their headcount.

Grow your network.

When you’re busy building your startup, it can be too easy to get deep into the weeds. As a founder, your role should be strategic. Yes, you should dig in when needed, but you should be focusing on the overall vision. Building a network of fellow founders, industry experts, investors, mentors, coaches and advisors will help you accomplish your extraordinary vision. Network with other founders in your industry, regardless of stage. Network with investors in your industry, even if you aren’t fundraising — and in fact, especially when you aren’t fundraising.

Build a “personal board of advisors.”

No one is exactly like you, and no one has built a startup precisely like yours. So there isn’t a single person out there who can advise you on all aspects of your startup. You’ll have to find and build a group of mentors and advisors who can help you with various issues. The right mentors are people who believe in you and are willing to provide honest, candid feedback.

Get a COO.

As soon as you can, get yourself out of the business of running the day-to-day operations and hire a COO. You need a COO who will not only have strong organizational, analytical, and project management skills but will also be your partner in growing your business. Trust and good communication are essential building blocks to the success of your relationship. The right COO will help you run your company’s operations while helping you take it to the next level.

Invest in your development.

As a founder, it’s easy to put off spending time networking or investing in your personal development. After all, there’s always a new fire to fight or an opportunity to tackle every day. Personal development time can be a low priority compared to the day-to-day requirements of running and growing your business. But this personal investment is critical to your success as a founder and entrepreneur. Prioritize and carve out time to focus on your personal development — invest in yourself as a leader, and it will help you in ways that you won’t anticipate.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Top Tools for Remote / Distributed Teams (Working Remotely)

For most of my career, I’ve worked remotely with clients across the country. While my friends put on makeup, get dressed in business casual attire, and commute to the office, I sometimes work in pajamas (or sweaty athleisure after a morning workout).

As a co-founder of FlexTeam, I manage our team of 300+ executive-level consultants — all working remotely as independent consultants / 1099 workers. At FlexTeam (and at Liquid), we believe working in this way (building companies with a dynamic “liquid workforce” that can easily be scaled up or down) is the future of work.

To seamlessly communicate and work effectively with remote / distributed teams, whether traditional W-2 employees or part of the liquid workforce, you need the right technology and tools. I’ve tested out dozens of email, phone, video chat, and web-based collaboration tools so you don’t have to.

Here are the tools I’ve found most useful for working remotely / distributed teams.

Team Communication

When working with a remote team, communication is of the utmost importance. Slack gives remote teams the ability to communicate in a modern day work environment while allowing users to creatively express themselves through emojis, gifs, and status updates. One of my remote / distributed teams can’t get enough of the party parrots custom emojis.

You can communicate in private direct or group messages, or slack channels. Slack channels can be set to private or public and allow you to keep conversations organized, while reducing the number of emails your team sends and receives. Also, slack allows many apps and integrations within your slack team to increase your team productivity (and/or happiness, depending on the integration)! My favorite feature is the ability to mute channels and set “do not disturb” times — the ability to control notifications feels so satisfying.

I’ve tried other alternatives — Atlassian’s Stride and HipChat, which have been discontinued; Microsoft’s Yammer; and Ryver — but slack is still the gold standard. I use slack everyday with multiple different remote / distributed teams.

Collaborative Documents

I use Google Drive and G Suite (Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Keep, etc) on a daily basis. In fact, most of the tabs open on my browser are from one of Google’s many products. Sure, Google Drive (and Docs, Sheets, and Slides) has its flaws. But I haven’t found a better tools for real-time online collaboration on files. I’ve tried Microsoft’s Office 365, Zoho, Quip (recently acquired by Salesforce), Dropbox, Box, and others. Admittedly, I need to spend some time testing out Dropbox Paper. Still, I’m mostly satisfied with how Google Drive behaves.

My favorite feature is setting expiration dates for view or comment access to files. This allows me to share files without having to remember to go back and remove access.

I couldn’t work with my distributed / remote teams without Google Drive and G Suite.

Document Storage

Google Drive is hands down what I prefer for collaborative documents. But there are many more file types that can’t be edited directly in Google Drive. For those files, and for long-term storage and retrieval of documents, I use Dropbox. (Confession: until three months ago, I used a combination of Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive for various purposes before finally committing to Dropbox.)

Whether it’s logos and design files, or contracts and other PDFs, I like the ease of shared Dropbox folders. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but I’ve yet to find any tech solution that is. Dropbox makes sharing files easy and syncs to every device (web, mobile, pc, mac). And best of all, the syncing is seamless and doesn’t use up all the RAM on my laptop.

Plus, it’s free to start with 2GB! And if you upgrade to a paid plan, you get tons of additional features — features that you’ll be happy to have for managing your remote team. One of the most important ones, in my humble opinion, is version history. As of October 2019, Dropbox Basic or Plus accounts can recover any file deleted or changed in the last 30 days, while Dropbox Business accounts bumps that up to 120 days, and Dropbox Professional accounts gives you 180 days!

That way, if any member of your remote team (or a client) accidentally deletes a file (or worse, infects the file with malware), you can rewind and recover what you’ve lost!

Quick Video Chat

Working remotely, it’s easy to fall back on email, IM, or even slack instead of meeting in person or talking on the phone. Regular video conferences can help you reconnect with your remote team — allowing you to build a more effective working relationship.

I recommend (formerly — I’ve tried skype, Google Hangouts,, and many other video conferencing tools. They’ve all failed me on more than one occasion, usually cutting out video and/or audio part way through a meeting; sometimes they have failed to connect altogether. uses WebRTC (real time communication) and provides a beautiful, smooth, and polished alternative to everyone’s default video chat platform, Google Hangouts. It uses HTML5 only (no flash) and there are no sign-ups. No plugins needed, unless you want to screenshare.

Unfortunately, the free version limits you to 4 participants so you’ll need to pay up (or use another tool) if you need to talk to more than 3 other people at one time.

Side note: has a much better product than but unfortunately their free version limits you to 2 participants (so it only works for one-on-one video calls).

Conference Calls

I used to love for team or client conference calls. But I switched to UberConference (when T-mobile stopped supporting calls to phone numbers) and I’ve never looked back. It has all the features you might want, from custom hold music to free call recording, local dial-in numbers to mobile apps — it has everything. I love that it makes it easy to call in to conferences from the app. And now it also supports video conferencing (with screen sharing) for $15/month.

I use UberConference for conference calls with my remote / distributed teams as well as with clients.

Phone Calls and Voicemail

Google Voice began as a startup called GrandCentral, which Google purchased in 2007. I’ve been using this product since 2006, when GrandCentral was founded.

It’s a simple way to get an extra phone number to share with clients or your remote team — especially when you don’t want to share your personal cell phone number (or want to share a number with a local area code). You can use this separate phone number to answer calls, receive voicemails, and even send and receive text messages!

Full-featured Phone System / Team Phone Number.

When it comes to business communications (especially with clients or customers), phone calls are still king. Whether you’re resolving a client issue, making a sale, or fleshing out details, sometimes phone is still best. If you need a full-featured VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone system, I highly recommend Dialpad. It’s a big upgrade from your traditional PBX network, especially for remote / distributed teams.

Dialpad delivers crystal-clear phone calls to the devices you already use (computers and mobile devices). It’s easy to set-up new users and you can quickly see what calls have been made and when. Plus, it has great iOS and Android apps and integrates easily with UberConference (my preferred conference call tool)!

Project Management

If you’re like me, you’ve got a million projects going simultaneously. But whether you’re working on just a few projects or many, team communications need to be super clear when you work with remote / distributed teams. As the founders of Asana put it in a blog post “the bigger your team, and the bigger your mission, the bigger your coordination problem.”

In my humble opinion, Asana and Trello are the best tools for project management — whether you work in a remote / distributed team or a traditional work environment.

Asana enables teams to track and manage the progress of projects within a shared workspace. At a more granular level, tasks can be created to keep track of individual components of a larger project. Users can add tasks, assign them to team members, set due dates, comment, and share relevant documents. The result is a highly customizable platform for project management. I find that the free version is usually sufficient for most teams — it supports up to 15 team members, unlimited task projects and conversations, and access to limited dashboards and search functions.

Trello was originally a web-based list-making application, which has evolved into task management app based on the Kanban system (a system originally developed by Toyata for for lean manufacturing, but that has become widely adopted by tech startups and other companies). It allows you to have a visual overview of what your remote / distributed team is working on and who is working on it.

Think of it as a whiteboard that you can fill with post-it notes.

The free version of Trello gives you 10 team boards, but only allows you to use 1 power-up (additional features and integrations that make Trello much more useful).

Now, whether to use Trello or Asana? I recommend you try both to figure out which is best for your remote team’s needs. You might find you want to use both for different cases.

Webinars and Video Conferencing

If you’re putting on webinars, there’s nothing better than Zoom. Zoom has a great free version that allows you to host conference calls and video calls, and supports screen sharing, making recordings of video and screen shares, and more. The only problem is that it limits calls to 40 minutes (though you can easily just start up a new call immediately after your call ends).

But where Zoom shines is hosting webinars. Sure, Google Meet (or Hangouts) is okay, too. And I do like when talking to 3 or fewer participants. But if you are hosting multiple panelists with many viewers, Zoom is the tool to use.

Internal Wiki / Shared Truth

Notion is a relatively new tool (founded in 2016). The company describes the app as an all-in-one workspace for note-taking, project management, and task management. I find that it’s great for note-taking and collaboration with markdown support that also integrates tasks, databases, and wikis.

Notion is incredibly versatile and I can think of dozens of different use cases. I highly recommend playing around with it to figure out how to integrate it with your distributed / remote team.

Manage, on-board, and pay 1099 workers / freelancers

Oftentimes (but not always), remote / distributed teams are made up of 1099 workers / freelancers engaged in project-based work. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Liquid, a new all-in-one solution powering the liquid workforce (full disclosure, my project-based consulting firm FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid).

Liquid streamlines the way you onboard, manage, and pay your liquid workforce. It’s currently in limited free beta, with new features added every day. Let me know if you’d like an invite to our free limited beta!

Other tools worth exploring

Here are a few other tools that I don’t use, but have on my list to explore and evaluate.

Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) is a self-described “visual collaboration platform for teams who want to collaborate faster, more easily and deliver better results!” From what I can tell, this is a collaborative white board tool that also incorporates video, chat, presentation, and sharing. And it integrates into slack and other tools! My preferred collaborative white board tools had been Limnu — but because they nixed their free plan, I’m open to exploring other alternatives.

Confluence by Atlassian is another shared workspace platform. Originally created as a wiki and documentation tool for developers, it has potential applications for non-technical teams collaborating on content. To me, what’s intriguing about Confluence is the $10 one-time fee for a self-hosted solution.

Okay, that’s it for me.

To make cross-functional teamwork effortless, you have to use the right tools for collaboration. Whether you work out of a coworking space, at home in your pajamas, at your local coffee shop, or in your roaming RV, I hope you found this list helpful!

Let me know in the comments what tools I’ve missed for remote / distributed teams (or what I got wrong)!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

What is FlexTeam?

We’ve been working on FlexTeam for nearly four years now, and sometimes it still feels like friends don’t understand what FlexTeam is.

Hopefully this will clear things up.

Here’s what FlexTeam is not.

FlexTeam is not a job board.

We are not like a women’s job board like PowerToFly, The Mom Project, Inkwell Talent, or Après. Nor are we like (a job board for remote jobs) or like (an aggregator of legitimate jobs with some form of flexibility such as telecommuting, part-time or flextime schedules, or freelance contracts). We do have independent consultants, working as 1099 contractors, available for work. However the work is almost always project-based, remote, and flexible. And more importantly, the workers don’t work directly for the companies; our members work as contractors to FlexTeam, on highly specific projects for our clients.

FlexTeam is not a staffing or recruiting agency.

We are not Corps Team (formerly Mom Corps),, Prokanga, or The Second Shift (Though like Second Shift, FlexTeam membership approval depends on completing a rigorous onboarding and vetting process.) These are mostly staffing or recruiting agencies for full-time jobs. Some of these sites have some project-based work opportunities but most are still focused on traditional employment. Moreover, FlexTeam members aren’t charged fees to gain access to projects. And again, the difference is also that FlexTeam manages the projects for both the clients and the consultants.

FlexTeam is not a marketplace.

We love marketplaces. We are frequent users of Lyft and Uber. But we are not like Catalant or Graphite (formerly SpareHire). Our consultants don’t bid on projects or write proposals, and our clients rarely scope out their own projects. Clients tell us their needs via email, phone calls, or our mobile app and FlexTeam sends back a clearly defined scope of work with pricing (and when approriate, also, hours estimates). While clients are reviewing the scope, we reach out to FlexTeam members who are a match for the scope so that we can start the project upon client approval. FlexTeam’s matching algorithm select consultants for projects that align with their particular skills and past experiences.

FlexTeam is not a provider of or a connector for returnships.

Returnships are an important path for women returning to full-time work. And we are fans of iRelaunch and Path Forward. And there are more and more companies focusing on matching women to returnships (OnRamp Fellowship, for example).

And oftentimes our consultants work for us for a short period before finding a full-time job in the traditional workforce. We love to see that happen! But we don’t have partnerships with companies to provide a clear path back to the traditional workforce. We are leading the way to create an alternative to working in traditional jobs.

FlexTeam’s focus isn’t covering maternity leaves.

Again, we aren’t a recruiting agency and we certainly aren’t focused on the niche of parental leave coverages. That said, I was disappointed to hear that Emissaries shut down in January. It was a unique business model and I hope someone else can make it financially viable.

FlexTeam’s focus isn’t retraining or reskilling.

It’s true we’ve done some training sessions for our existing consultants. And our consultants gain and refine their skills through our projects. And some consultants specifically choose to work with FlexTeam to gain experience on projects or industries outside of their skillset.

But that isn’t our business model. There are plenty of other options for highly educated women who want retraining / reskilling (reacHIRE and Reboot Accel, for example). And, by the way, there are tons of options for people in general who want to gain new skills (Coursera, EdX, Udemy, Skillcrush, and many others). As an aside, I love taking classes and gaining new skills (and I’ve found that women who are lifelong learners are better suited for working with FlexTeam).

FlexTeam does not teach companies how to provide flexibility for their existing employees.

While this is certainly an example of work that FlexTeam might do (helping a company assess their current policies and making recommendations), this is not the core of work FlexTeam does. Werk “provides flexibility insights and data into the hands of companies to help them work smarter.” That is not our core business.

So we’ve covered what FlexTeam is not.

So what is FlexTeam and how does FlexTeam work?

FlexTeam is a trusted network of executive-level women working in teams on project-based work to enable business leaders to accomplish more. (Some other phrases we’ve used to describe ourselves include: Brainpower without boundaries; Brainpower beyond your time, knowledge, and resource constraints; and Your time is valuable.)

We are a mission-based micro consulting firm whose most requested projects are competitor / market research; financial models / analysis; and business strategy. We also do investor decks. Our clients are mostly US based companies of all sizes and across all industries and sectors.

Our independent consultants are highly accomplished and highly educated women who have left the traditional workforce for a variety of reasons (often to spend more time with their young children, or to care for their elderly parents, or simply to live life more fully).

We were founded in 2015 by three MIT alumnae (that’s three female MIT alums) on a mission to create a #NewPlayingField for our colleagues and women everywhere. We believe everyone deserves #WorkLifeFit and we are also the team behind Liquid.

How does FlexTeam work?

Good question. FlexTeam provides clients with a scope with clear deliverables and pricing, after understanding clients’ needs. As I mentioned above, clients convey their needs to FlexTeam via email, phone calls, or our mobile app. The scope usually also includes estimates for time and an agreement on when the work product will be delivered to the client.

In parallel with defining the project with the client, our matching algorithm identifies the best FlexTeam member(s) to do the work and we reconfirm their availability (so that we are able to quickly start on the project once the client agrees to the scope). On occasion (when clients have very specific needs), we go out and recruit consultants for projects.

Unlike a marketplace, the client does not select particular consultants, nor are FlexTeam members bidding on projects. (In fact, as a general rule, we don’t share the names or background of our consultants with our clients prior to scope approval.) This allows FlexTeam members to focus on challenging, interesting, and paid work instead of spending time doing business development or writing proposals or bids.

We believe that time is valuable, that it is the most precious resource we have. So our projects help our clients maximize the value of their time, and our processes are aimed at making efficient use of our clients’ time and consultants’ time.

Clients find that working with FlexTeam allows them to focus on higher level tasks that demand their attention, freeing them up to do work that is both personally interesting & socially meaningful. Working with us allows clients to focus on the bigger picture, accelerating growth and impact.

What’s so special about FlexTeam’s consultants?

First of all, our consultants (mostly MIT alums) complete a rigorous onboarding and vetting process before becoming eligible to work on projects. We’ve found that soft skills are highly correlated to success with FlexTeam and our onboarding process reflects that. The onboarding process makes note of each consultant’s core competencies and skills, experience in different industries and company sizes, and experience working in startups. But it also looks for evidence of computational thinking and excellent writing skills. And it looks for evidence of “soft skills” like grit, resilience, persistence, being a good listener, empathy, a desire to learn, a cooperative attitude, resourcefulness, kindness, a “always do your best” attitude, optimism, ability to deal with difficult personalities, and more.

Morever, as I’ve written previously, project-based workers often bring skills and experiences from a range of challenging roles, often across many industries. This is true of FlexTeam members, many of whom have previously held C-suite positions. We are alums of McKinsey, A.T. Kearney, J.P. Morgan, Bain, BCG, Google, Disney, Nike, and many other distinguished companies. But we are also seasoned builders and operators of start-ups and many are also experienced angel investors.

Oftentimes, project-based workers have the ability to see innovation as a part of their working method rather than just a buzzword. This, too, is true of FlexTeam’s consultants. We have honed the ability to make sense of uncertainty and complex ideas, developed flexibility, and are experts in how to communicate new ideas and roll them out quickly. And we find satisfaction in working on challenging projects for companies with compelling stories or business problems.

In short, the insights FlexTeam provides are often worth far more than the hourly, daily, monthly, or project-based rates charged.

Our consultants aren’t just highly educated women with deep expertise in their fields across many industries. We are world travelers. We are mamas. We are philanthropists. We are investors. We are lifelong learners. We are doers. We care about making the world a better place and we’re here to help you make your impact on the world.

What’s the deal with the proprietary software?

As we’ve grown FlexTeam, we built software to manage clients, projects, and consultants (including onboarding, invoicing, receivables, and payments). We also built an iOS app for client productivity that integrates our software and allows clients to turn to do list items into projects to be completed by FlexTeam (by the way, look out for a new website soon!).

We have spun out the software into a separate company Liquid, which (from our own experience) solves a lot of pain points for working with freelancers and agencies. In addition, the original FlexTeam software may be available in a white labeled version soon.

Hope that leaves you with a clear sense of what FlexTeam is. Got questions? Let me know!

Co-founders of FlexTeam celebrating our alma mater — MIT

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

What Exactly is Project-based Work?

I strongly believe in the power of project-based work as a means to find work-life fit and as a way for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and “starters” to grow and scale their businesses. Project-based work will be a critical component of the work of the future.

Obviously, I’m biased; I’ve been doing project-based work for 10+ years via my own consulting firm Lau Labs and I’ve been helping others find and complete project-based work via FlexTeam for the last three and a half years. I’ve seen small companies use project-based work to gain a better sense of their business needs via new financial models. I’ve worked with women, who are in the first few months or weeks of motherhood, on projects that have allowed them to still feel connected to their careers. I’ve seen entrepreneurs pursue (or not pursue) new markets or products after getting an outsider’s analysis and report on the competitor landscape.

I’ve seen firsthand the promise of project-based work. But I often get blank stares, initially, when I talk about project-based work.

What exactly is project-based work?

Project-based work are specific projects with clear milestones and deliverables. If needs change, the scope of work can be expanded by mutual agreement. Project-based work can be entirely remote, or have in person requirements.

Project-based workers (contractors) work for a specific number of weeks or months until the project is completed. They may or may not work at the client’s office or equipment. They can’t be told exactly how to perform her job or be told she can only work for you. And project-based workers can’t be called employees.

Why use project-based consultants / workers?

Project-based workers often bring skills and experiences from a range of challenging roles, often across many industries. Oftentimes, project-based workers have the ability to see innovation as a part of their working method rather than just a buzzword. They’ve developed flexibility, the ability to make sense of uncertainty and complex ideas, and an understanding of how to communicate new ideas and roll them out quickly.

In short, the insights they provide are often worth far more than the hourly, daily, monthly, or project-based rates charged.

Let me give you a few short examples of project-based work.

Assessing your competition. It’s not enough for your company to be doing well. If you aren’t taking a look at your competitors on a regular basis, you’re apt to miss the boat on market trends that could drastically change your industry. Project-based consultants can provide you a report of your competitors.

Generate written content. You have ideas you want to communicate. Ideas that set your company or your personal brand apart. Project-based consultants can help take your outlines or bare-boned ideas to help you generate blog content, white papers, press releases, and more!

Generate social media content. We all know social media marketing is important, but we don’t all execute on it. There always seems to be other priorities. Project-based consultants can help you do the leg work of creating content.

Create marketing strategy. Speaking of the importance of marketing, we also know it’s not enough to simply post stuff on social media. It’s best to have an overarching strategy that helps you direct your efforts. Project-based consultants can analyze your existing marketing strategy and provide recommendations for best practices in your industry, and craft a strategy tailored to your specific company. What is the right combination of paid and organic marketing across multiple channels? Project-based work can help.

Helping you craft a go-to-market strategy for a new product or service for either an existing company or a new one. For an existing company, the new product could either be an entirely new line of business, a variation of a current product, or something in between. Project-based consultants can help you determine the best strategy to go-to-market, provide a report to help you implement the strategy, and could help you implement the strategy.

Perform data analysis. Any business that neglects data an analysis will be left behind. Every company has some data that can be collected and analyzed to make operations more efficient, or enter new markets, or help make decisions about creating new products or services. Project-based consultants can get this done for you, though data experts usually have higher hourly rates.

Help you with gut checks. Sometimes you just need a quick 1–4 hour call with an expert to help you gut check your current strategy, and project-based consultants are perfect for this kind of work.

Determine where to cut costs. Every company needs a robust and professional financial model that accurately models your business. Project-based consultants can help you create a financial model from scratch, working with your managers on the important assumptions, and help you update existing financial models.

Help you research just about anything. Need a deep dive report on subscription based companies that rent products and an analysis of the differences and opportunity for new entrants? Or a list of potential acquisition targets in a specific city? How about due diligence on a company you’re considering making an angel investment in? On-demand project-based consultants can find research just about anything these days.

Create business plans and investor / fundraising decks. If you are a growing start-up, you need a solid business plan and a fundraising deck to convey your story to potential investors. Whether you have all the underlying information ready to create these documents, or you also need help with all the pieces of a business plan and investor deck, project-based consultants can help! For this kind of work, project-based consultants working in teams are best, as that enables the main consultant to pull together the various skill sets needed (researcher, financial model expert, designer, etc).

Branding and design work. Need brand guidelines for your company? Or help making your website or decks more polished? Design work is a great example of project-based work.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Project-based consultants can help your business with practically any question or problem.

Ready to get started? I’m partial to FlexTeam for obvious reasons. But if you’d prefer to use a marketplace of consultants, instead of a one-stop-shop, you’ve got plenty of options. And if you’re already working with project-based consultants, may I recommend giving Liquid (brought to you by us at FlexTeam) a try .

Do you have a story of project-based work helping your business grow or overcome challenges? I’d love to hear it!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

15 business practices to adopt as you start your small business

I’ve started and operated several companies, all of which used independent contractors (and some of which also used traditional employees). Some key business tactics I believe in include: relying on empirical data to make decisions (whether or not that means using rigorous programming based data analysis techniques); preferring slow incremental growth via low risk bets (versus making high risk decisions that could lead to disaster); keeping cash reserves to protect against disaster; and that trust is critical to successful relationships with colleagues, workers, and clients.

Those practices can be implemented in any company, whether you use independent contractors or traditional employees. But over the years, I’ve compiled a list of operating practices I would adopt if I started a “normal” business with “normal” employees. If you are starting a business with employees, maybe you’ll find you, too, want to adopt some of these practices.

Here’s an overview of 15 business practices to adopt as you start your small business. I could probably write a full post about each of these practices (and for some of these, I already have), so I’ve tried (with limited success ) to keep each section brief:

Whenever possible, reduce the number of choices to customers.

Barry Schwartz’s 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More. We’ve all been conditioned to believe that the more options the better. This book’s counter-intuitive premise is that adding options reduces the likelihood that people will select any, whether the decision in question is trivial (which gourmet jam to purchase) or very significant (which health insurance plan to sign-up for). And when most people stop to think about it, they can think of personal examples when more options led to indecision. For me, this often happens at coffee shops — when I see too many different breakfast sandwiches and scones to choose from, I order only coffee. In contrast, I love shopping at Costco and only having a few brands of yogurt to choose from!

Don’t be afraid to turn down customers or clients, or to refer them to your competitors.

It is scary to turn away business. But there are two theories behind my tip. The first is opportunity cost — if you accept “bad” business, you may be losing some “good” business because your time and resources will be tied up with the “bad” client / customer. Bad can be defined in any way you choose — customers who try to negotiate price, customers who threaten to take their business elsewhere, customers who need lots of extra time and attention, etc. The second theory behind this idea is that if you aren’t the best fit for the client (whether that’s because of price, or skills, or other reasons), then referring them to someone who does fit their stated needs helps you to build trust. And when they trust you, they’ll be more likely to recommend you to people who are a good fit for your company. As an added bonus, sometimes, when the issue is price, the clients may learn that you get what you pay for and end up coming back to you. Take a look at The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford and Trust Based Selling: Using Customer Focus and Collaboration to Build Long-Term Relationships by Charles Green to learn more about these ideas.

Create ‘Good jobs.’

The Good Jobs Strategy

MIT professor Zeynop Ton, in her book The Good Jobs Strategy, defines good jobs as fulfilling jobs that pay well. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Trader Joes, Costco, UPS, In-N-Out Burger, use human-centered operational excellence to offer low prices to customers while ensuring good jobs for their employees and exceptional returns for their investors. Ok, that’s a lot of buzzwords. Put another way, make four operational choices — Offer Less, Standardize and Empower, Cross-Train, and Operate with Slack — and you will find that (contrary to popular belief) you can run a successful business and pay your employees a living wage or more. Read this post I wrote in 2016 to learn more.

Subsidize family care.

When people know that their loved ones (young children, elderly parents, and other dependent family members) are being cared for, they can focus on their work at work. I believe in universal high-quality childcare for all, but that’s a post for another time.

Paid family leave.

This is corollary to subsidizing family care and I could write an entire post about the importance of paid family leave. The short version is simply that allowing people to take care of their loved ones: 1) allows them to be more focused at work; and 2) secures loyalty from your employees.

Hire for soft skills.

I’ve always done this when hiring independent contractors, and it carries over to employees as well. It’s better to hire someone eager to learn who works well with people, than someone who has already perfected the skills but lacks emotional intelligence or communication skills. Mastery of content is important, but that loses value if you can’t communicate your thoughts or collaborate with others. Read more about my thoughts on this topic here.

Invest in your people.

Turnover is costly. Provided you’ve invested in creating a relationship of trust with your employees, it is cheaper to train and develop your existing employees, than it is to find, recruit, and onboard new ones. Cultivate your employees.

Encourage vacations.

When people go on vacation, and truly step away from the office, they come back to work happier, more creative, and more productive. More vacation days has been shown to decrease the number of sick days taken off! And when you, or other executives go on vacation, ignore emails unless it’s truly an emergency that only you can fix. Doing so shows your people that you trust them (if you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in trust) and gives people the chance to develop new skills and talents in your absence. And it helps reinforce the company culture that vacations are encouraged.

Additional paid leave between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

Obviously this isn’t possible for all companies (retail shops, for example), but if at all possible I’d reduce operations during this period. Forcing people to take time off means your employees come back to work rejuvenated. For employees with young children, they often have to take time off anyway and this can be a huge stress reliever. Plus, no one really wants to work during this time anyway (employees and clients) and you save your employees from fighting over who gets to take leave during this time. Lastly, think of it as part of your benefits package, that allows you to hire and retain the best employees. Not convinced, take a look at this post from Inc. (not written by me).

30 hour weeks at full time pay.

The eight-hour workday is a relic of the industrial era; Henry Ford pioneered the five day work week (down from six days), and that’s how we ended up with the 40-hour work week. Most of us can agree that we’ve moved beyond industrialism. Isn’t it time we move on from business practices created for that era? I believe that if you trust people to squeeze all their productivity into 30 hours, instead of 40+, and you’ll have more engaged, happier employees. That sounds too drastic for you? Here are some alternatives: 35-hour work week; a four-day, 10-hours per day schedule; create core hours (say 9:30am to 1:30pm) where employees are required to be working (then trust that they will work from home in the mornings or evenings to work the required number of hours).

Encourage people to be their full selves at work.

Need to take long lunch to recharge? Leaving early to coach your daughter’s baseball team? Coming in late after your son’s school play? Taking your mom to her doctors appointment mid-morning? People are more productive (and loyal) when they don’t need to hide a part of themselves during work hours.

Trust your people with the big picture.

Share your vision, make it a shared vision, and employees will dedicate themselves to your vision. Work becomes more meaningful. Feeling inspired, people are more likely to go above and beyond to help each other and your customers. And when you share the big picture, every employee feels empowered to contribute ideas. Innovation happens more quickly.

Don’t grow for the sake of growth.

Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham is one of my favorite books. It highlights businesses that chose to stay small and true to themselves, instead of growing for the sake of growth. Another book in this vein is Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last has a slightly different message, but the common ground between it and Small Giants is the idea of building a meaningful, enduring business.

Diversity and inclusion strategy.

D&I is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. The business case for a D&I strategy is clear — increasing diversity leads to tangible economic gains. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2018 study is just one of many studies that have made a clear business case for diversity. There are many resources out there for companies who choose to tackle this issue (and I hope that most will), so I won’t write too much about this here. What I will say though, is that we should (perhaps unintuitively) focus on inclusion (how people are treated) before diversity (the demographics / numbers). Start with inclusion and company culture — what things are said and unsaid, who speaks at meetings, who gets chosen for presentations and projects, etc — and work on overcoming biases. Then, work on diversity.

Commit to pay transparency.

Employees are happier and more motivated when salaries are transparent. They work harder, they’re more productive, and they’re better at collaborating with colleagues. All this leads to greater profit for the employer. But researchers say transparency is also important because keeping salaries secret reinforces discrimination. So back to D&I — committing to pay transparency will help close the pay gap, and increase diversity, all while helping your bottom line.

Whew, you made it through all 15 business practices! 
These practices may seem extravagant, but they’re practices that have worked for successful companies. They might not all be appropriate for yours. But I believe in treating employees with decency and respect, and giving them meaningful work while allowing them to also have lives outside of work. And I believe that doing so will ultimately improve your financial performance.

What are your best practices for operating businesses? Please share them!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Why I gave up my consulting business

Okay, I didn’t exactly give up my consulting business. I’m still doing some work through my company Lau Labs for friends and friends of friends. But I essentially shelved it to start FlexTeam. Here’s why.

My Solo Consulting Business

I started advising and consulting for entrepreneurs and small business owners more than a decade ago. Business plans, websites, basic financial models, marketing, branding, operations strategy, business development … I pretty much did it all for small companies. And I was pretty successful at it.

Then, I Became a Mother

I’ve always been interested in work-life fit. But during my first pregnancy in 2010, I became increasingly interested in “solving” the “problem” of ambitious, educated, talented women and men “opting out” of the traditional workforce for to spend time with their kids or other personal reasons. I started thinking about how I ought to start a company to get projects for all these smart moms.

Once my daughter was born, I kept working on consulting via Lau Labs but also considered myself a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). And as I became friends with more SAHMs, I started to feel the urgency of creating a company to get projects for all my smart SAHM friends. Women who had once had successful careers, who had begun to discount their self worth after quitting their jobs. Women who transitioned to part-time work, only to quit after finding they were doing full-time work at part-time pay. Women who were throwing themselves passionately into motherhood, parent teacher associations, and fundraising. Highly-educated, highly-experienced women wondering if they’d ever be employable after being at home with their kids.

A Difficult Pregnancy

Long story, the pregnancy with my son was not easy: very frequent doctors’ appointments. And so, while I still thought about creating this mom consulting company, I put working on it on hold for awhile. It didn’t stop me from brainstorming. Talking with other moms, I began to envision providing a whole suite of services to mothers who left the traditional workforce. Services like project-based consulting work, resume services, workshops to help women transition back to work, confidence building exercises, training sessions, networking events with a community of like-minded women, and more. And once my son was born, I began more actively seeking out partners for this endeavor and working on a business plan.

Starting FlexTeam

All this time, I continued to do consulting work via Lau Labs. Working from home and out of coffee shops (and hotel lobbies) and doing pretty well, if I do say so myself. Especially considering the number of actual working weeks I was putting in — which I coordinated around school breaks, school performances, and other personal obligations.

But when the opportunity to start FlexTeam with two other MIT alums (including a former roommate) came up, I put Lau Labs aside. And instead of working just when I wanted to, I began working 25 to 60+ hours a week (still from home or coffee shops or hotel lobbies) to make my mom consulting firm a reality. Why? Because I had seen too many smart moms struggling with motherhood and their career. Women shouldn’t have to choose. Men shouldn’t have to choose either.

So why did I put my consulting business aside to start FlexTeam? Because, as Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson said in Rework, “What you do is your legacy.”

The work we are doing with FlexTeam is important. I’ve seen women regain their confidence after working on a project or two with us. I’ve seen women use FlexTeam’s projects as one of many sources of work, allowing them to work full-time from home. I’ve seen women go through the onboarding process and learn something insightful about themselves and what they want.

Today, FlexTeam’s highly experienced, networked, and intelligent consultants have over 8,000 hours of time each week to spend working together to solve our client’s business challenges. We are generating a better income for women; a tight knit professional community that is fueling our growth of projects; a growing body of knowledge and technology that helps us scale the value of our time; and a long waiting list of others that want to join.

If you are as inspired as we are, come grow your business with us.

And more importantly, are you doing something to make the world a better place? Are you doing something that matters? What could you be doing to make a better world?

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.