Ask the average person what his idea of a startup is, and he’ll likely describe someone at a card table in his garage with a laptop developing a product or offering some sort of service over the internet. As the business grows, the person hires employees, who now circle the table in the garage until an office can be rented.

Thanks to advancements in technology, this idea is changing. The founder could be at a home office desk instead of a garage. Instead of gathering around a table, the employees could be in a dozen different countries, each sitting at a desk or couch and doing work from home.

Communication is no longer an issue; programs take care of international payroll, and everything is in the cloud. According to Villanova University, it’s estimated that by 2017, 1.3 billion people, or about a third of the world’s workforce, will work remotely. Let’s look at how a startup can manage remote employees – from across the city to across the world.

The Cloud

Today, all of a company’s files can be securely stored in the cloud; that is, on an off-site server, managed by a dedicated company and accessible anytime, anywhere via an internet connection. Though some bigger companies may have their own servers, it’s more common for smaller businesses and startups to outsource. Files  can be shared as easily as dragging and dropping into cloud server folders.

Take, for example, a company working on a video; the visual effects lead in Los Angeles is finishing work on graphics. He saves the file to a cloud-based directory, and a co-worker in London can immediately start work on the video’s score.

With a proper back-up plan, you won’t have to worry about losing any data. If your server is on-site, you can use your own Uninterruptible Power Supply to ensure a failsafe in case of power outages, further protecting your hard work and data.


Thanks to the internet, the communications gap is as small as your bandwidth is wide.

Especially if you have a main office with multiple remote employees, in different cities or around the world, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, can not only allow all of your employees to have office numbers but facilitates many external communication and internal collaboration advances such as telecommuting and teleconferencing. Hosted VoIP services allow you to benefit from the features of VoIP, but a 3rd party owns and manages the hardware, saving you time and money.

This can also allow for video conferencing at a moment’s notice. If you have a main office, a conference room could have a constant feed that remote employees could tap into for quick meetings.

Tools and apps

Now that you have your files available, and have a way for everyone to have an office phone number, how do you manage everyone? Web tools. QuickBooks put together a list of tools to help manage remote employees. Asana and Trello, for instance, are both tools to track what work has been done by employees at the office or remotely, allowing easy collaboration in real-time.

IDoneThis is similar, with employees responding to an email once per day, detailing what they have accomplished. Need some face-to-face meeting time despite living thousands of miles away? Google Hangouts allows for digital meetings, including both video and audio.

Looking for more tools? Here’s a list of translation services, global trading references, and more scheduling apps. For example, World Meeting Time allows you to propose a meeting time, which will then show you local times for your employees. If the time works for all involved, you can send an email announcing the meeting time.

While Google Translate is great for quick-and-dirty translations, and on a phone, will even allow you to translate text on-screen, Gengo or Verbalizeit have full-time translators on staff for your professional needs. Looking to learn the language yourself? Try DuoLingo, a popular language learning tool, for conversing with clients or employees in their natural language.

Navigating international payroll laws

With the work done, the client is satisfied. All that’s left to do is pay your employees, who happen to be in a half-dozen different countries with different payroll laws. As you will be unsurprised to learn, technology has caught up with legislation, with services available to help you comply with international payroll laws. Services can walk you through the process of worldwide payroll, making it far easier than trying to figure out each country’s laws yourself.

Technology is bringing the world closer together than it has ever been before. A small company may only have a few employees in the same country. Time zones, language barriers, and a myriad of payroll laws are no longer barriers to a startup going global.

A former professional journalist covering crime, court and fire stories, Cole spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and slowly writing a crime novel.