Section 2. The New Office Paradigm
- Michael’s ‘no real office’ story:
- Augusto’s ‘Mobile Office’:
- Michael and his ‘home office evolution’:
- Running a business from the iPad
“Work is not a place to go, it’s a thing you do”
Once upon a time there was this idea that you needed a whole office floor or building with a set of expensive tools and powerful mainframe computers in order to have a successful business. Not anymore. You can telecommute and use a regular computer or even better, an iPad that will now be powerful enough to get your job done.
In the same way the Blackberry mobile terminal changed the way people were dealing with email on the go, the old office paradigm that made Dilbert so famous is also gone.
Part of the reason to have an office was to have a place for people to meet and exchange ideas and try to maximize the use of expensive equipment. These days, technology is no longer expensive. The cost of a scanner, fax, copier and printer are negligible. The reality is that with the right set of tools you can create a productive work environment anywhere you want and people will be even more effective there than in a regular office.
Augusto lives in the US and Michael in Europe. We’ve never met in person yet we wrote this book together. The same applies to the way we work with our teams. People who work with us are located in various cities throughout the world. We primarily communicate via different apps, email and text messages, and once in a while we use Skype or FaceTime to talk to each other. There is no need to have a place to meet, no need to travel to be able to work together and do what we do. We don’t even know at what time people work and if they are sitting sipping piña coladas as they accomplish their work. We care only that the stuff gets done and in a timely manner. That’s all that matters anyway.
Michael has always been teleworking and he works in a real office only when he is visiting his friends’ offices. He works from home and his ‘home office’. He finished his college degree with a thesis on teleworking and virtual teams. All throughout his studies his dream has always been to be able to work from anywhere, with just a laptop and an Internet connection. Nothing else. Today, he is running a very successful Internet-based company (Nozbe) and managing his multi-national team of 15 people on an iPad with a cellular connection. Michael can virtually work from anywhere. And he does. And his iPad is his office.
Augusto used to work in a real office with doors and also in a cubicle. In 2006 he began working as a teleworker. His office was in a bag. Like Michael, once he experienced that freedom, he didn’t want to go back. He has been trying to work independently ever since. One of the differences between him and Michael is that he never managed to set up his home office - he still loves his ‘office in a bag’.
Michael’s ‘no real office’ story:
“I started my first company right after college and proclaimed I’d never need an actual office to get my work done. Everyone who knew me told me I could say so because my company was just me. I was the owner, employer and only employee. People said I’d need to get an office when I start hiring. Or when I got my first serious strategic customer.
Both things happened. I got my first, serious customer. They were a Spanish company based in Madrid and I was living in Poland. Two thousand miles apart. Why would I need an office for a customer who’d never visit me? I visited them instead. Great excuse to be traveling to Spain on business a few times a year!
I hired my first employee to help serve my ‘strategic’ customer. She was from Warsaw, Poland. Three hundred miles away. Why would I need an office for an employee who’d never commute 300 miles?
Today I’m no longer running a consultancy business. I’m running Nozbe - a global productivity suite of applications. We are a small team of 25 people (and growing). Some live in Spain, in Germany and the majority are scattered across Poland. Why would I need an office for this bunch? Where would I set this office up? Who would go there?
‘Michael, if you ever decide to rent a fancy office space somewhere, good for you, but don’t make me go there’ - this is what one of my first employees told me. She stands by it. People keep telling me I’d have to grow up some day and get a proper office. MySQL AB - one of the most successful database software companies in the world - had most of its 500-people team teleworking every day. If they could do it, I didn’t think I’d need to grow up either. Not in that sense anyway.”
Augusto’s ‘Mobile Office’:
“I have my own business. I opened it with the idea of never needing another permanent office space to accomplish my work. Today most of my office needs are in my bag. My ‘mobile office’ can be set up anywhere in the world.
My iPad replaced not only my computer, but also my scanner, fax and file cabinet (for those documents that do not require a hard copy for legal reasons). It took me a while to get to this point.
It was back in 1997 when I created my first ‘portable office’. It was an old Samsonite briefcase with an Apple PowerBook 170 and a Palm Pilot Professional. As computer bags were uncommon then, I had to use a lot of foam to protect the PowerBook. This setup allowed me to geek out and work in many places… until my laptop’s battery died. My freedom was limited to the length of the power supply cable.
For note taking while I was studying for my MBA, I used My Palm Vx with a keyboard, using a software package called ‘Documents to Go’. After my MBA, I was handling sales for Latin America, which once again, required having a portable office. I traveled often those days and my setup became quite complex. I had to carry a Scanner, 2 Laptops (a Tablet PC and a Laptop), paperwork, chargers, and much more. Later I’d replace the Laptop for a Mac and much later the Tablet PC for an iPad.
When I wasn’t traveling, I dreamed of working in a proper ‘home office’. I tried different setups with proper laptop desks, cables, external screens and everything else but I couldn’t get myself to work there. The whole ‘home office’ setup created too many distractions for me. I tried again when I was writing this book. As I needed my Mac a couple more times, I decided to move everything to a more permanent set up, to create something that looked more like a traditional home office. When I did, after just a few days I discovered that it was exactly what I needed to avoid at all cost. Instead of helping me focus, that traditional set up was actually providing more opportunities to get even more distracted. I had to unassemble my home office. As it turned out, I didn’t need one. All I needed was a more effective portable office and the iPad was the perfect companion. By writing this book I discovered that my iPad really is my portable office now. Everything else served as a distraction.”
Michael and his ‘home office evolution’:
“My home office has evolved in the past few years. It is a recurring theme on my blog. My home office changes about once a year. For many reasons. Either my family relocates, I move to a different room, or I decide to re-decorate the room. Anyway, the result is that every year I have a different home office. I provide a guided tour of it on my blog for my readers.
Preparing for this chapter, Augusto reviewed my home office blog posts and he pointed out something I had not realized. “Have you noticed that every year you have fewer gadgets in your home office?”, he said.
He was right. Every year I was trimming my home office down to the minimum amount of gadgets I needed to do the office work. When I started I had two laptops, three screens and lots of other gadgets and hardware. Now I have a Mac, an iPad, and an all-in-one printer/scanner. And that’s basically it.
The thing is, I’m rarely using my Mac. And I’m using my printer/scanner even less. Every now and then I need it… but I find myself using an app to scan stuff directly to my Evernote app on my iPad or iPhone much more often… and I rarely need to print anything anymore…
While writing this chapter, I’m at my parents’ house for the Easter holiday. I brought only my iPad and iPhone. No Mac, no PC, no Printer/scanner. My iPad and iPhone constitute my home office.”
Running a business from the iPad
As you can see, we are not kidding. We are running our entire businesses with our iPads. Michael is running a very successful global business with 15 team members scattered across three continents and four time-zones. He is a productivity guy who is a business owner, a product manager, a blogger, a writer and a speaker. He does it all on the iPad and he is having the time of his life.
Augusto also runs his business on the iPad. He doesn’t have employees but he deals with editors, designers, lawyers and more. He works in English as well as Spanish, in four countries. He is also a productivity guy, a writer, an author, a business owner, a project manager, a blogger, a consultant and a public speaker. He does it all on the iPad, and like Michael, is also having a blast.
We didn’t switch to the iPad and #iPadOnly life because we wanted to run our businesses less effectively. We wanted to be even more mobile and more productive. We can say that we have accomplished both.
Yes, it’s possible to manage a successful company from a home office (or a portable office) and an iPad. We know we can. We are doing it every single day and we are loving it!