A few months ago, an Australian showed up on my blog one day and started talking about doing business together. He was challenging my premise of trust online. In some ways, he was calling me out. "Are you really this person you put yourself out there to be? Are you REAL, or just another social media poseur?"
I will never meet MF from Australia in person. Well, at least not before we've managed to navigate and launch several thousand dollars worth of business together. BUT, we can establish a working relationship, we can start the conversations about execution and expectations that will frame up that first International Virtual Project we seek together.
- How does one get paid internationally? Did you know PayPal works, but PayPal has some serious drawbacks and will choke if you receive over $1,000 from a foreign country? (And by choke, I mean shut you're PayPal account down for several weeks!)
- How does one manage a project and expectations virtually, with a team you'll never know and a throat you can never reach?
- When and how will the money change hands?
- How do you validate the integrity and work of the partners?
- What will happen if there are problems?
Doing business with friends and colleagues is fine. And even that has some major issues of accountability, roles and responsibilities, and deliverables. LinkedIn connections offer a small amount of trust, but not much. So what do we need to establish and begin doing business virtually, across the pond with our friends in places that need our skills?
When framing up some ideas around this topic, my "virtual friend" and I came up with some interesting tools and guidelines that may serve as a launching point for YOUR VIRTUAL BUSINESS discussions.
Tools to Establish Digital Trust in an Online Marketplace
1. The money (Who gets paid what and when?)
2. Project management and team leadership (What is delivered when and by whom?)
3. The currency of trust (beyond LinkedIn or Klout, what does a Trust Network Look Like?)
The most valuable thing I've gotten from my relationship with MF so far is this phrase.
"Why aren't you writing this down? When you are talking and not writing you are losing us money."
He was referring to our collaborative document editing in Google Hangouts and Docs. As we were building ground rules and trying to develop a Client Work Order together, we both worked to capture our ideas and links in a DOCUMENT together. If we only "said" the valuable piece of information, as the phrase assumes, we were losing the true opportunity in capturing it for future use and potential leverage.
We had another funny concept that we bandied about. Going META META.
As we started working on the "working" contract for the Australian client, we would hit upon ideas that would be invaluable to a team trying to work on a similar document together. Then we had to decide weather we wanted to continue on the document development or jump over to the META document about creating virtual documents, and capture our ideas. Our talks often escalated into META META talks. We got very little done on the working contract, but a lot done on the "What about trying it this way" process documents.
We came up with a series of documents for the Best Practices when establishing and working with an International Virtual Team. Everything from what international bank to use, how to organize your Google Documents. Did you need to purchase true Google Apps or was the web version sufficient? What are the terms and conditions of storing stuff in the Google Drive cloud? Can they scan my intellectual property in the same way they scan my G-mail? And if not, who's preventing them from doing it? And what is the recourse if we were to discover the next big thing while having one of our META META chats inside a Google Hangout. Who own's that stream? And are there any restrictions or laws keeping Google from listening and leveraging the information gleaned from such services?
At the moment, we are interested in working with other businesses who are struggling with the same issues and would like to collaborate with us. In the long-run (the meta view) we would like to offer services around setup and delivery of these virtual working systems to large international teams.
You can reach both myself and my Australian friend through this website. Operators are not standing by, but our Hangout and collaborative Google Docs are always warmed up and ready for launch.
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