When Joan Barrett and Kari DePhillips set up shop in their first office, they loved having a physical locale to build The Content Factory, their social media, public relations and copywriting business.
What they didn’t love was the lack of phones.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania workplace used to house an automotive company, and unbeknownst to Joan and Kari, the office wasn’t wired with any phone lines.
“Those first few months we completely relied on Skype for all our voice and video calls,” says Joan. “We had launched our company in 2010, the year before moving into the office, and we already had been using Skype all the time in our operations. We don’t know what we would have done without it.”
These days, Skype is even more integral to The Content Factory. They no longer have any office at all, since they realized that the company’s business could be handled completely virtually.
“In addition to Kari and me, we have several contractors working for Content Factory at any time, depending on our clients’ needs,” says Joan. “Our contractors, like our clients, are spread across the country.”
The company conducts all team calls on Skype, and trains new contractors using the screen sharing functionality.
“We use Skype on our mobile devices too,” says Joan. “One of our contractors spent a month in Australia, and that’s how we stayed connected.”
Joan also credits Skype for helping to strengthen relationships with clients.
“We do a lot of client conference calls, sometimes with our clients’ other agencies, and Skype conference calling has come in really handy,” she says.
Joan’s team often uses the group IM chat simultaneous to a voice conference call, so her team members can drop in links to clients’ media coverage that they’re discussing.
But The Content Factory doesn’t just rely on Skype for pre-planned, scheduled calls. One of the biggest benefits, according to Joan, is the ability to maintain ongoing, informal conversations between her team and their clients. And that has nurtured a real rapport.
“Having an open IM makes it possible to chat throughout the day, which means we really get to know each other,” Joan says. “I loved hearing one of my contractors tell me, ‘I’m Skype BFFs with one of my clients!'” (*Editor’s note: Check out this post for more on ongoing group chats like this).
And because one of the perks of being virtual is the ability to work from anywhere, Joan counts on Skype to keep her connected even when she heads to more isolated spots.
“I have family in some pretty remote locations, like the California desert and rural Kentucky,” Joan says. “It’s pretty cool that I can pull up Skype on my phone and stay connected even when I’m visiting them. Kari even uses Skype when she’s out by her pool in the summer.
“Our clients are so diverse in so many ways. It’s really awesome that no matter where they live or what type of business they have, we all have Skype in common.”
(Pictured above: Alayna Frankenberry (one of the company’s writers), owner Kari DePhillips, Etta Britt from Wrinkled Records (one of the company’s clients), owner Joan Barrett.