6 Crucial Steps to Successfully Running a Business from the Road
Many digital nomads rely upon small side gigs and several streams of income to earn a full-time salary. However, this isn’t always the case. Numerous road warriors are out traveling while simultaneously running full businesses, complete with employees and everything else that comes with heading up a legitimate company. And they are doing it successfully.
Overseeing your company from a remote or outdoorsy location (or another country entirely) can be very different from doing the same in the average office setting; you’re likely to run into some challenges that traditional in-house bosses won’t typically face.
But the rewards of traveling are many, both for yourself and your business, and can be well worth the inconveniences you might encounter. Here are six practices that can help you run your business remotely and successfully.
1. Prep your team
Prior to setting out on the road, you’ll want to have a skilled and trustworthy team in place. To begin with, be sure you identify any talent gaps before you leave and hire people to fill these roles.
Once you’ve got a full roster of talented and well-trained employees, then be sure each member of the team knows what’s expected of them during your absence.
Identify key people and delegate specific responsibilities to each team member. Ensure that each member of your team understands their role.
Set up cross-training to put a backup plan in place in the event that someone becomes ill or leaves the company, etc.
Anticipate emergencies that might happen in your absence, devise appropriate responses, then run drills with your employees for each contingency.
Create and solidify separate contingency plans so your people will know what to do (and whom to look to) in uncertain circumstances or if you aren’t reachable for some reason.
The more comprehensively you plan in advance and prep your team, the less likely something will go off-kilter in your absence. This way, you ensure greater continuity while you’re on the road.
2. Research potential pitfalls
As you get set to travel, be sure to research any potential hurdles you or your team may run into and make a list of any possible pitfalls that might be encountered. Pull together a plan to address each one. Prior to going on a long road trip, consider taking some shorter ones to see how things play out. If all goes smoothly, you and your team will feel more confident as you make your long-term plans and goals.
3. Carefully plan your tech needs
Living on the road means you run the constant risk of suffering technical mishaps. Dead batteries, sketchy Wi-Fi, damaged SIM cards, or — horrors! — the blue screen of death on your laptop or phone. It’s also important to remember that the more outdated your equipment, the less likely you’ll be able to secure internet access in all the places on your itinerary. Prevent these mishaps by taking care of tech needs before you embark.
- Invest in extra batteries, chargers, and SIM cards.
- Buy an unlimited data plan. (Your company will thank you for hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars saved on date overages.)
- Plan to rent WiFi from a hot-spot company.
- Be sure your hot-spot capabilities work seamlessly across your devices.
- Buy a local SIM card. This can do wonders for accessibility and convenience.
- Set up cloud backup and storage that’s accessible from anywhere with Wi-Fi.
Remember, not every place your travels take you is going to have a Panera or Starbucks on every corner. Bottom line: Always have an internet backup plan.
4. Utilize automated tools
The more you can place on auto-pilot, the more solid your company’s footing will be, and the more recreational time you’ll have to enjoy the experiences that led you to a nomadic lifestyle in the first place.
Automation is most definitely your friend. Be sure to use online platforms, apps, and other automated tools to help you with tasks such as scheduling, project management, logistics, and fulfillment. Also explore communication apps that will enable you to easily connect with employees, customers, and vendors while you’re traveling.
5. Plan time for networking
Working remotely doesn’t mean you should be a hermit. Networking and cultivating relationships will always be a key factor for running a successful business, even (or especially!) as a digital nomad. And being out on the road offers a unique opportunity to connect with people you may not have met otherwise.
Plan to set up a presence at various trade shows and conferences to increase your brand exposure. If you hire remote staff, give them the opportunity to do some networking for you in their home cities. And before tasking any employee with this important job, be sure to train them and provide them with a trade show checklist so they’ll know exactly what to do.
6. Embrace time management
Any business owner needs to embrace good time management. Those who can totally master time management find running their businesses from the road to be that much easier. Consider all the gaps of time you have while traveling — sitting at an airport gate, spending a few hours in the sky, or RVing or bussing it from one destination to the next. Rather than sit and find unproductive ways to pass the time, be sure to always maximize those “down” hours to their fullest potential.
- Promote your business or catch up on social media.
- Type out that contract proposal.
- Pay your bills and vendor invoices.
- Schedule meetings and events.
- Shoot out your daily emails or touch base with your staff.
- Write anything that needs to be written.
Think about it: If you’re spending 2-4 hours in an airport, translate that time into what you’d be doing if you were spending those hours in the physical office. As long as you have an internet connection, you’re good to go from anywhere. And even when you don’t, you can draft correspondence, articles, white papers, and anything else you need to write and edit before posting.
Other details to consider
Once you get your plan in place to take your business on the road with you, you’ll want to make sure you tie up any loose ends before traveling. Here are a couple more things you should plan to do.
In addition to finalizing details to your business, you have your personal life to consider as well. If you own a home or rent an apartment, consider renting out your residence as a vacation home.
Although the volume of mail has dropped drastically for us all in recent decades, there are still pieces of post (IRS notices, jury duty summonses, etc.) that you can’t afford to miss. Make arrangements with friends or family, rent a post office box, or explore the option of a virtual mailbox to deal with your postal burden.
It might be easy to forget, but you’ll still have to answer to Uncle Sam while you’re traveling. Be sure to keep careful track of any business expenses you’re able to write off and estimate your taxes accurately.
Taking your company on the road can be one of the best business decisions you make, especially if you’re in a place where you feel your business growth is stunted because you need a fresh perspective. A change of location can do wonders for your inspiration, creativity, and access to new prospects.
If you’ve still got the wanderlust but are unsure whether you can manage it, you can always plan a few short journeys to different locations and see how it goes. Chances are, once you get a taste of life on the road, you won’t ever want to go back to your office.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
About the Author
Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad. She works remotely, travels constantly, and explores different cities across the U.S. She started her site, www.digitalnomadlife.org as a resource for travelers, nomads, and remote workers.