Depending on what your business does, you could run it from anywhere in the world – including even a beach if you wanted to.
Modern technology has freed the entrepreneur from the need to be stuck at a desk every day just to stay in touch with customers and suppliers.
It’s actually pretty easy now to live in one part of the world and deal with customers in another part. Even if you sell physical goods, you can outsource the fulfilment part of your operation to another company.
Here are some issues to consider, including the technology you’ll need to harness if you want to run your business from anywhere.
You could just rely on a mobile phone, but there is a danger your customers will perceive calling a mobile number in a negative way (it feels a little like a one man band operation – perhaps not the kind of image you want, especially if you are a one man band). With VOIP (Voice Over IP) phones, your phone calls are carried over the internet rather than on traditional phone lines. That makes them cheap and highly flexible. It’s also cheap to buy or rent 0845 or geographical numbers which you can divert to phones elsewhere. It means you can have an 0207 London number, which you actually answer from your Chateau in France. Nice work if you can get it. If you’d rather work from the beach and not take phone calls at all, there are hundreds of companies that will answer your phones for you, deal with simple enquiries and then text or email you any messages.
Email on the move is so easy it hurts. Just get an iPhone, BlackBerry or a PDA and get your new provider to set up your email for you. Mobile email has been a battleground for the producers of these devices ever since BlackBerry started the battle, and that means you are spoiled for choice. You don’t even need an expensive email server; you can use Google Mail with your own domain name – free.
If you need to read large attachments from your email on the move or surf the web a lot, you will be better off with a laptop and mobile broadband dongle. This will give you access to the internet using the mobile phone data networks or WiFi connections. An increasingly popular alternative is a netbook, a new breed of laptop that’s designed purely for surfing. Typically netbooks don’t have a CD player or other gadgets, meaning they are small, light and relatively cheap. Look for one with a long battery life. Google has recently announced it will produce its own operating system called Chrome OS to rival Windows for these netbooks. Inevitably that will be free and will bring the cost of netbooks down even further.
Conferencing and meetings
Video across the web has improved so much in the last few years that it’s now really easy to have virtual and video meetings on the web. It’s no longer expensive; in fact in many cases you can hold a phone or web conference for the price of the calls alone.
One of the things that has traditionally tied a business to an office has been servers and software. No more. You can now safely and securely store your business’s information online and access it anywhere in the world you can get on the internet. It’s possible to access quite complicated CRM (customer relationship management) systems, project organisational tools and even edit Word and Excel documents without having Word or Excel. Best of all, most of these services are typically free to use and have low fees if you become a heavy user.
The real key to running your business from anywhere is to automate as much of it as possible. It’s really easy to automate marketing on your website, and follow-up customers without having to send emails yourself. Look for an email autoresponder, or if you are serious about your marketing, invest in a system that integrates email marketing with things like a CRM system and a shopping cart.