Can you think of a friend or relative who no matter how much time passes between visits, you can pick up exactly where you left off? It’s as if no time has passed. After a five-minute recap, you’re completely in sync with each other.

Yeah, that doesn’t happen in business.

One day of not communicating can create a bottleneck or derail a project, which points to the importance of regular meetings.

“Just what I need, another meeting.”

If you’re disgruntled about business meetings, you might be doing it wrong.

There is no place (or time) in business for unproductive meetings and meeting for meeting’s sake, but meetings that support operations, a big project, or advancing the business plan, are important and necessary. And what’s just as important as the content being discussed is having the right people at the table.

Speaking of the right people, especially with small business, there is someone who is often left out of regular meetings. And it can really, really hurt your business.

They’re your service providers (freelancers, contractors).

As business owners, we may outsource certain functions. The idea is to capitalize on the expertise of a specialist without having the expense of hiring a full-time employee or creating another department within our business. But outsourcing, especially for the long term, should never mean hands off. Below are the key benefits from strategically aligning with your contractors and four tools to help you build a stronger virtual team.

Bring your contractors to the team meeting

Why you should bring contractors to your team meetings:

  1. Keep everyone on the same page – What’s the number one fear of a business owner? A bad surprise. Regular meetings with your contractors helps everyone learn about the different personalities of team members, their work habits, and how best to work together.
  2. Build trust and accountability – You probably receive a formal report from your contractors outlining the results of their service. Reports are informative, but can your contractor answer questions about your business on the spot? With a strong working relationship, they can. Bringing your contractors to the table also helps you learn more about their business and the work they are doing for you, and ultimately the results you should be seeing.
  3. Identify new opportunities – Your business contractors have their own strategic networks. The more they know about your business and your goals, the more input they can offer, and they can connect you to their network.
  4. Get the best results – Bringing your contractors to team meetings engages them in your core business. We no longer accept clients who aren’t able to meet regularly, and the reason is, the results compared to those who are willing to meet were drastically different. Your contractors want you to succeed and if they’re kept at arms length it won’t happen.

Free tools to build a stronger team:

  1. Google Docs: We use Google Docs to store a master copy of the business marketing plan. Everyone has access to the plan and can update it based on their progress.
  2. Slack: Slack helps build better business relationships. It’s a messaging App for teams and it offers a desktop link and smart phone connection. We can reach each other anytime, anywhere without getting lost in an email inbox or a text news feed.
  3. Evernote: We use Evernote to compile research and gather information for client projects. While we have a master file for each client, we may not always have access to it when we’re out. Evernote offers a phone App and desktop App, so when we come across information that will support a client project, we can save it immediately with a notation.
  4. Skype: Not to sound like a broken record, but yes, Skype offers a smartphone App and a desktop App, allowing your virtual partners to connect with you wherever they are. Record your meetings so that absent team members can access them later. Alternatively, Google Hangouts will work.

The most difficult task of using the tools above is setting them up, but once you complete that, your life will get a lot more organized and productive. Learn more about managing virtual teams from a few companies who have 100 percent virtual teams.

What’s your take? Are you getting the most out of your contractor relationships?