Learn how two smart and tech savvy SMEs are making the most out of their mobile devices while operating their business on the go.
Cloud computing, BlackBerrys, i-Everything: it seems that with every new mobile invention that hits the market we’re being more and more released from the shackles of our office desks.
For SMEs, it’s even easier to reduce the amount of in-office hours with business owners and senior staff managing to conveniently run their businesses on the go, from cafes, restaurants, hotels and even the beach. All that’s needed is some internet access and you’re set to go.
Access is everything
Take Paul Ronis. One of the principal consultants for Brisbane-based company Periscope, who provide management consultants to SMEs in the industrial services sector, Ronis is on the road “for at least half the year.”
With this in mind, it was important that he could be accessible and also access everything he needed on the go. “I could have any number of businesses that I’m dealing with on a monthly basis, and a lot of that can be done through technology,” he explains. “We’ve had instances in the past where people have been away in the States for long periods but I could then be doing interviews or reviews with them via Skype, or I could be getting updates and data on the phone.
“Getting updates if and when required is important. I have to be contactable 24/7, because things don’t just run nine-to-five in Australia. I could be talking to people in the UK, South East Asia, Pakistan, Europe: you’re in all time zones,” Ronis says, adding: “The world is trading 24/7 and either you decide to be a part of it or not.”
With this in mind, Ronis hunted down the best piece of technology to help him on the go. “People that know me know that I’m generally not someone who will jump into something because it’s fad or fashion, I’m generally quite utilitarian about the kind of technology I use. I chose my current model, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, because I was so happy with my previous model.”
Running from meeting to meeting, often on and off planes, makes Ronis’ BlackBerry invaluable to ensure his time is always well spent. “I actually record all my time within an acronym: Prospecting, Admin, Sales and Exercise. At the end of the week I’ll tabulate how much of my available time I’ve recorded as being spent productively, or in the right manner. So if I’m travelling, am I talking to a customer, am I prospecting, or is there admin I can do? So basically as I go through the day, I’m making the most of my device to make sure that I’m maximising my time.”
One size fits all
But does this type of mobility depend on the type of business you run?
No, according to husband and wife team Franziska and Chris Iseli-Hall of small business marketing company Basic Bananas. “To be honest I don’t think it’s so much the type of business that allows us to work like this, but the characters in the business,” Franziska explains. “We’re not the only marketing consultants out there, but I haven’t met one that is doing what we’re doing.”
What they’re doing is running their business, specialising in creating marketing strategies for small businesses, completely from their personal devices. They have no bricks and mortar shopfront, no office other than that at their home, and spend about a third of their year travelling.
“I think one of the things is the mindset. We know it’s possible, I’ve seen people do it. Sometimes you work with clients and they say how do you do that? It’s a mindset thing. It’s not the type of business we have that allows us to do this, but it’s more that we believe that it’s possible and our clients believe in us. Because they’re getting the results, there’s no question that it works.”
After coming from other industries, the duo decided that they wanted to run a business that would allow them to be as mobile as they liked. “We planned the lifestyle first and then built the business around it. We always wanted the freedom to move around,” Chris says.
“My passion is surfing so to be able to be anywhere in the world, in nice surf locations and warm weather (especially when it’s winter here) and still work as we go, was the goal,” says Chris.
“Franziska’s background is Swiss so another initial driver was that if we were in full time work and only had four weeks annual leave a year, visiting Swiss friends and family would be limited so we were determined to organise it so that we can work while we’re there as well.”
No more bricks and mortar
Not having a shop front or an office base hasn’t yet limited Basic Bananas in their business. “If there was a problem I think it would be clients that we might miss out on because they want us to have an office they can always go to, with someone at reception,” explains Franziska. “But because we only want to work with clients that believe in what we do, it’s not really a limitation I guess.”
Nor has it limited Ronis, who found that having mobile internet wherever he goes incredibly handy. “Earlier this year I used my BlackBerry because someone reversed straight into my car. I took snaps of the accident with my BlackBerry, had a look online to check the location, stored them all date stamped with the GPS satellite position of the photos and sent it all through to the insurance company.”
Be wary of charges
There are however some pitfalls to be wary of if your mobile device is your main source of internet and phone connectivity. “It does come at a charge. Some people that you speak to will quite happily have a conversation for an hour or so on the phone and then get a bill that could be eight or nine hundred euros because they didn’t know,” Ronis says.
Chris and Franziska haven’t yet had trouble finding reliable internet, even in some unusual situations. “We were on a remote island in Indonesia and we had to run a webinar from the resort bar. So there was music playing and people talking and drinking in the background but I just explained that to our clients,” says Chris.
“We had a client I was talking to over Skype and it dropped out, but you just figure something out. You go to another coffee shop and call them back,” Franziska comments. “We’ve had fun, and a lot of our clients say they feel like they’re travelling with us.”
One of the biggest advantages working from a device is that you’re never burdened with the weight of something more bulky. “I got a laptop when I first started out travelling that was 2.6 kilos and that sounded feather-lite, but when you’re dragging it around of course it’s not,” says Ronis. “You keep downsizing. The BlackBerry gives you all the flexibility you need in an unobtrusive device.”
With the added advantages of mobile devices becoming more secure, more accessible and much much faster, workforces may very well spend more of their time outside of the office. “What makes our lives easier is to have good stuff: a good laptop and good iPhone makes a difference and makes it more enjoyable to work on. I save time by having faster software and hardware,” Franziska says.
“I know it’s not for everyone,” she admits. “A friend of mine is a graphic designer but she loves having an office. A lot of our clients love not having to travel. It’s a lifestyle choice, and we don’t have children yet, so I guess it might change. But for now, we just wanted the lifestyle that we wanted to live.”