I just got back from a 2.5 months overseas trip where I visited 5 countries in 2 continents. Since office chores never stop or can be put on hold for too long, I had to turn my office into a global office to keep the wheels churning while on the road!
Globalization continues to infiltrate everyone’s life. Entrepreneurs and small-business executives are- or will soon be finding themselves- more dependent on global workers, customers and offices to operate from. We are all constantly reminded of the financial and business benefits of operating globally, requiring us to spend more time overseas and away from our home office. As such, extended international business travel will no longer be unique to large and medium-size corporations.
When this happens to you, don’t panic! Here are 10 useful tips that you can use to help you deal with extended sojourns outside of the comfort of your home office.
1. Portable Laptop
1Your constant companion and friend in you global office is your portable computer. Since you will be on the move, you need it to be light but powerful. If you are not already using a portable for your daily computer use, purchase one early, set it up immediately, and then get rid of your desktop. Make the portable your primary computer and use it for at least one full month before your scheduled departure. This will ensure that you have all the apps you need, with you when you travel. Your home office can be setup with the external drives, large screen, external full keyboard and mouse and all other handy appliances if you are used to having them. But when you travel, you want the maximum power with the minimum weight to get by with.
2. Global Smart Phone
Once you’ve taken care of the portable, get a global smart phone. Technology today enables us to make and receive calls pretty much in any country around the globe. Check your carrier and make sure that the same number and phone will work internationally, if not, get a global phone. While traveling, keep in mind that mobile phones are not as secure as land lines and can be very costly while roaming. You can pay upward of $2/min even on calls that you do not take. Inform your key clients and workers of your travel plans and ask them only to call in emergencies. Also, remind them of the difference in time zones.
P.S. Don’t be afraid to use the off switch on your phone when rest is warranted!
3. IP Telephony
For free international calls to the USA, bring a Vonage, Ooma or Magic Jack with you. I have used both Vonage and Ooma and the Ooma Telo stopped working after a few days. Ooma’s support was very slow! Vonage worked non-stop my entire stay. You can even forward your home office calls to it. The Vonage app on my smart phone saved a lot on phone calls.
4. Reliable Email
Email is of paramount importance and the centerpiece of the global office. The issue is not to have an email account, but to have:
- A reliable internet connection everywhere you go, and
- To train everyone that you deal with to communicate with you by email and not by phone.
Email is very cost-friendly and convenient and will allow you to be in control of your own time.
5. Online Banking
Most of us nowadays use online banking. When you travel internationally, you may need more than the basic features. You will need to be able to perform account reviews and transfers, pay checks online, and monitor your credit card transactions. But you may also need to make payments to overseas vendors, so look into online wire transfers options– they can now be handled online in all currencies.
Depositing checks still requires someone checking your snail mail and looking out for them. Checks can however be scanned to the bank for electronic deposit.
PayPal can be an option too. Caution, if you use PayPal from an international IP (Internet Protocol) location, PayPal security alerts will trigger a block on your account requiring you to verify it. This will cause unwanted delays. Call their support and inform them of your travel plans so that they don’t keep blocking your account. Another way to overcome the security issue is to connect via VPN (Virtual Private Network) to a machine at your home office and perform your PayPal transactions via that machine. To PayPal, it will appear as if you are still in your home office.
Same issues may surface if you perform wire transfers from your bank from a new IP location. Your bank may contact you to verify your current location. This is another reason why a global phone can be handy.
Make sure also that your bank supplies you with at least two major credit cards and that they are accepted where you will be traveling. It may be useful to inform your bank of your travels so that they don’t block your credit cards due to suspicious international charges.
6. Bill Payments
Paying bills has to continue while you are away and there are many ways to deal with them efficiently. Bills can be categorized into 3 categories:
- Received and paid online: phone, credit card…
- Setup on automatic withdrawal from the bank or credit card: electric bill, subscriptions, Google Ads…
- Fixed amount so it can be paid with online banking: rent, medical insurance, car insurance…
What is essential is that you can attend to paying your bills regardless where they originate from. Online banking with check payments or ACH, a debit or credit card, and wire transfer ability, coupled with PayPal can handle most of your bill payment needs, local and international.
For other odd bills, bring your checks with you so that you can write/print them and mail them.
7. Handling Payroll
Do you run your own payroll? There are many firms that handle your payroll requirements, but if you process payroll yourself, salary payment processing may be done easily by your accounting software online. I use QuickBooks and their process does not change no matter where I am as long as I have an internet connection. You can also process your federal and state payroll tax payments and form filing online! Again, use VPN if security is an issue.
8. Snail Mail
Mail you receive at your home office will not reach your global office. You can forward mail, but only in the USA. So you will need someone to check your mail and go through it and inform you of any irregular or unexpected bills, or other pending issues. If you have an administrator at your home office, he or she can take care of that for you and get all your bills, receipts, and other mail organized. Last thing you want to face after you get back from an extended overseas trip is hundreds of unopened letters and junk mail piled up and waiting for you.
Also, the U.S. Postal Service can now send you daily emails about the mail you are receiving. So you can get an idea of what you are receiving and make sure important pieces are handled properly.
Pay attention to the local power/electric requirements. Make sure you have the correct voltage adapters (110-220v) and correct plugs for all the electric and electronic appliances that you bring with you. Most equipment today is setup to handle 110-220V and 50-60Hz seamlessly. But double-check by examining the device before you plug it! All my equipment was compatible except for my electric tooth brush which only took 110V. Buy ample supply of plug adapters and one 220-110V transformer just in case.
10. Local Languages
1Last but not least, know the local language. There is nothing like communicating with customers or employees in their own language. I am not advocating that you learn the language of every country that you travel to, but I strongly recommend learning one or two languages for the countries that you visit the most, then some basic vocabulary for others. This is probably the hardest to accomplish; but the payoff is worth the investment!
Global Office not 24/7 Office
While working overseas, it is very important to remember to regulate your work hours. Since there are often time zone differences, it is typical that you find yourself working two shifts, one during your local time zone hours and one during your home office hours. Avoid burning out!
International travel can be long and tiring. Noise canceling headsets, your own music, and an eBook reader with a large selection of eBooks, newspapers and magazines are much less costly than a business class airplane ticket– particularly if you are travelling with family members! Equip yourself with what helps you relax and affords you your needed rest. After all, when not working or experiencing the cultures and attractions of the countries that I am visiting, listening to my favorite music with my noise-cancelling headsets while reading the latest titles in history and business eBooks, regardless where I am globally, I can almost feel at home! R
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