My Lean Summer Office: Mixing Business with Pleasure

Work From AnyWhere for Small Business

My Lean Office

I had lunch with an intriguing friend in Toronto yesterday.  I love this guy because we get to share conspiracy theories about american politics and gold fixing. But you don’t want to hear about that. I also love this guy because he’s everywhere. The ultimate global citizen. On a given day, he’s having lunch in Toronto, dinner in Montreal and then off to South Africa. He sleeps somewhere in between. He is a mining investment banker who has gone solo. Times are tough right now so he decided to move to cottage country for the summer. So, how will he stay connected? Well, it sure looks complicated.

His system goes like this. He emailed everyone with his new contact info for the summer. His junior associate shuttles between offices to distribute faxes and documents. His email….a Sympatico.ca address. Good grief.

What my friend needs is a “lean office” (inspired from the Lean Startup). Time to rethink the modern workspace, with the professional nomads in mind. At minimum, this is what I would recommend:

First, I would get a cloud based phone system

Get a phone numbers for all the cities you want to be virtually located. You don’t need different cells phones, just DID (direct inward dialing) numbers. If you are a little geeky, you can get your DID numbers from a “voIp wholesaler” like Voip.ms for about $40 per year. If you have no time to figure it all out, then sign up with Ring Central, or in Canada, Versature or Bold Beaver Communication. They will help you configure your smartphone and so you can be location independent in most cities you want. You can also route your faxes via your cloud based phone. If you can receive emails, you can receives faxes. Easy.  You will save big on long distance and callings charges and…no one will ever know that you are doing business from your patio. .

Second, I would change my email address

At minimum, own your own name (your “domain”). If your name is John Spitfire,  then register “johnspitfire.com” if it’s available. Once you registered your name, you can set up your email address, so it would look like  “john@johnspitfire.com”. With your personalized email address, you can change from Bell to Rogers a thousand times and never need to change your email address. Hover can help you set up your domain name. In Canada, I personally rely on Funio. Now you know how to register your own virtual real estate.

Third, start moving your work to the cloud

For many of you Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, the cloud remains a tough sell. Gen Xers and Boomers are concerned about privacy risks, as we should all be. Here’s my take on this. First, you are already being spied on (my penchant for conspiracy theories is showing again…) so sign up to Open Media if you really care about your personal privacy. If not, don’t complain. Second, there are some really easy things to do to stay safe, like encrypting all your emails. More on that later, soon. Lastly, your computer is more at risk of being dropped than having your data ripped off. My digital modus operandi is to store everything in the cloud so that if I lose my computer, I won’t freak out at the risk of losing all my work, software or pictures. Start moving your work to the cloud with Dropbox, at minimum. Once you are in cloud, it’s easy to share large files or work in progress with your colleagues and clients.

Yes, you can mix business with pleasure. Just start with a lean office for your patio.

The Battle of Virtual Offices in Ottawa: Bridgehead or Starbucks?

Finding the best of both worlds

Starbucks as the best virtual workspace?

I spend most Thursdays and Fridays in downtown Ottawa. Politics, bureaucrats, and usual suspects. Before I kick off the weekend, I like to finish off business in espresso bars. Ottawa is not yet home many single origin espressos and barista face offs. In fairness to TAN Coffee on Wilbrod Street and Illume Espresso Bar on Wellington Street (I have yet to go but hear great reviews).  If you want great espressos and wifi downtown (a necessary combo for virtual office), it’s between Bridgehead and Starbucks. This morning, I’ve been to both. Here is my take on which espresso bar doubles up as a great virtual office:

Bridgehead on Elgin

The scoop on the espresso coffee :

  • bitter roast: My personal preference is to have a coffee with less acidity and more of a roasted flavor. However, if you favor a clean and balanced finish, this place if for you
  • nice crema
  • great staff with modern decor

But the wifi is complicated. You basically have 1 hour  to finish your virtual business. Also, you must ask for the login credentials. Too many steps. This espresso bar does not make the cut for a great virtual workspace.

Starbucks

We have a love hate relationship with Starbucks. The list of complaints about their beans and assembly line espressos are infinite. However, when you are looking for something else than Tim Horton, we are relieved to find a Starbucks.

But when it comes to great wifi, Starbucks wins, big. They have great speeds for a public hotspot. You can go through your work for hours, and the music is not loud. When traveling, Starbucks remains the best spot to bring your virtual office on the road in Ottawa.

Convert your iPad into an ultra portable laptop, like a Macbook Air

 

I once wished I had a Macbook Air. Going through security at the airport would become just a little easier (in principle, no need to remove the laptop from the bag), the weight would be like that of a magazine and the boot up time would be on demand. One day while listening to a Mac Power Users podcast, lawyer David Sparks described how the Incase Origami Workstation allowed him to write his book from anywhere, even at the airport with his iPad. This workstation even doubles up as a protective carrying case for Apple’s wireless keyboard.

My Macbook Air envy quickly dissipated. The workstation /carrying case ($36) and the wireless keyboard ($69) totaled less then $110 which leaves me with plenty of money to work from any expresso bar I want.

Steve Jobs: His 10 Commandments – The Daily Beast

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Jobs: His 10 Commandments – The Daily Beast.

Please rest in peace, Steve. What an incredible legacy.