One of the most interesting / challenging things about the Infinite Monkeys business, is the fact that we have built the entire organization in the cloud. Our amazing team is spread out across six continents (btw – if you know anyone in Antarctica looking for work, let us know!) – but that makes staff meetings and corporate culture difficult things to do.
We chose to operate under this model because:
  a) Our customers are in 60+ countries, and since most of them don’t care where our online app maker is physically based, that gives us some flexibility.
  b) There are some incredibly talented people who make iPhone apps all over the world. By operating on a virtual basis, we have the ability to hire THE BEST people, and not just “the best people who coincidentally live within 30km of our office”
  c) There are all kinds of efficiencies we get in terms of cost and round-the-clock support we can benefit from, allowing us to offer a better service than any of our appmaker competitors.
However… despite those great benefits, there are also some real challenges.
In most businesses, there are lots of formal meetings (like a weekly all-hands staff meeting) and lots of informal chats amongst team members around “the water cooler”.
In our case though, we use Google Hangouts for video-based staff meetings. We run several video conferences a day, using Hangout’s screensharing, whiteboarding and Google Apps collaboration features – they work great.
As for “The water cooler”, we’ve replaced it with an amazing service called 15five, which asks each of our staff members four simple questions each week:
   1 – What went well this week?
   2 – What challenges are you facing?
   3 – What Good Idea do you have that good improve our service / product?
   4 – How are you feeling and how can we make your work experience better?
Each report should take less than 15 minutes for the staff to write, and less than 5 minutes to review. By sticking to it every week, we actually have better communication than any “real” office we’ve ever worked in.
Here is a great excerpt from 15five’s excellent blog on “5 Things You Can Do To Improve Internal Communication“, it’s worth reading (and implementing) for any business:
1. A Clear Mission and Vision28

What does your company stand for? Why should your employees feel motivated to wake up and come into work every day? Answer this question thoroughly. On paper. Get multiple leaders and team members involved in the discussion. Drill it all down to 2-3 sentences.

Post the results on your walls, email your teams, and repeat this vision on many internal resources. Instill this vision wherever and whenever possible. With two sentences, you’ll unite your entire operations around a common goal.

2. Day One Commitment

What happens when new employees join your team? Do you immediately throw them into the trenches, or do you to empower them with a training program?
If you’re not opting for the latter, you need to start now. Implement a training program that gives new team members a much-needed crash course on internal dynamics (culture!), core operations, protocols, and best practices. If you leave new team members to their own devices to ‘figure it all out,’ you’ll waste time. Save your crew the trouble by showing them the ropes.

3. An Open Door

Empower your employees to have an opinion and share it, even where the perspective of our own performance is concerned. Let them know that feedback is two-way and you’re not only here to offer it, but to receive it as well. If everybody’s bottling up their thoughts, nobody wins — the collective minds of 15 to 50 employees are exponentially more powerful than even the smartest CEOs. Emphasize to your employees that they’re safe and that politics are a complete and utter waste of time. Trim the fat, and your company’s ‘good stuff’ will be better than ever.

4. Write It All Down

Encourage your teams to create internal FAQ repositories — or even a company wiki. Your team members are smart and completely capable of quickly self-teaching important concepts. They just need the resources to get up and running. If a question comes up once, it will likely come up again. Eliminate redundancies by making information readily available.

5. Get Out of the Office

Do something fun. Grab lunch or drinks. Be ridiculous, comfortable, and let your guard down. When your team members genuinely like each other, communication will naturally flow — without artificial walls. Have a work-free day or two to really get to know each other. Whatever you do, have a blast. The energy will make its way back to the office for the long term.



To read the rest of the post, and lot’s of other great business communication tips, check out: