The Devins Network Lake of the Woods

Working Remotely at the Lake

Hello out there Canada !

I'm re-issuing my "virtual office" blog post on working remote at the lake. I am also adding a new "video" produced this summer to help you think about how you might plan on working remotely this summer. Cheers to Canada's 150

VIDEO LINK HERE  

Ah summer...time to set up the virtual office.

A time when families plan to spend more time together with each other, extended families and friends. For many Canadians, it is a time to enjoy that special place known as the "cottage", "camp" or "cabin", depending on of course which part of this vast and magnificent land you might be headed to...the coast - lake - river - countryside - hills or mountains.

For me, that "camp" becomes my summer location and headquarters in Central Canada for the Devins Network. I get a a smile across my face just writing that! It's the virtual office.

Even when I was still working full time at Molson Coors, I would make the weekly treck northwards to Kenora from Toronto late on a Thursday night and return on Monday.

Thankfully, I had the benefit of understanding and supportive colleagues and a CEO who knew that I was plugged in and accessible at all times, regardless of my physical location. Ground rules in that regard are critically important to make the model work. Establish that agreement early on so that the context is understood by your team and clients.

The remote or virtual office concept is being adapted and embraced by more and more individuals and businesses. I truly believe in this web-connected network society in which we live, if you've got access to the web, you are on the job; available and in touch.

Obviously, the truth is that virtual office or job locations are not for everyone. If you are an administration type, that requires physical files at your disposal, it's likely the case that you need to be next to those physical files. 

If you are on a production line or supervising production lines or operations, it is likely important that you are physically on the site in case troubleshooting is required.

However, if you can execute your responsibilities and fulfill on your accountabilities on line, without requiring a physical presence - you can likely make the virtual office thing happen.

So what does a virtual office look like, feel like ?

DETERMINE WORK SPACE

Establishing your physical "work space" is a critical consideration, in setting up your virtual office. A desk, chair, printer, filing space, office items, mouse, keyboard, clock are all important for your physcial set up. Most important is an agreement with your family members of where you locate in their environment. You may have to take a call or examine something on line at any point in the day. Having space that will allow for this and not cause friction with the rest of the family is key to happiness for those sharing your newly created office space.

A PHONE

Cell phones allow you to be in touch anywhere anytime as long as you have cell service. I find that more and more folks are leaving the land line behind and moving to cell phone only. Given that most families have plans for each member of the family - it has become the predominant device for contact...voice or text. As a solopreneur my cell phone is my phone for business and travels with me everywhere. Depending on how "remote" you are, you might need to do some research on network availability and service in your area. Most communities and service providers have figured out how to keep their permanent and summer residents connected.

COMPUTER

Hard wired to the net or Wifi will provide you with the connectedness you need to access your work team, clients, suppliers, colleagues, and prospects. If you don't have wifi you may actually have the benefit of a data plan and you can "hotspot" from your phone. Research most accessible and affordable options. Another critical consideration is your "back up". By this, I am referring to backup device. I stumbled onto a situation where my computer needed servicing. Having an Apple Mac Book it required being shipped away for several days. Thus, I needed to have a back up laptop, tablet or device.

WIFI

I have struggled year after year with just simply unacceptable wifi service from the local provider. This year I am experimenting with xplornet.com and find them to be oustanding. Currently, I have 23 MBPS down and 1MBPS up. And, I am currently looking at increasing the upload by enhancing my plan to 4 MBPS up.

DOCUMENTS 

Platforms such as dropbox, box, icloud and or various other clouds allow you to arrange your critical documents for access. You can also share and edit with teams via these platforms. It might take some getting used to but is really slick once you are operating in this space. This will also provide a safe back-up for you with access on any device if your primary computer or lap to go on the fritz.

FACE TO FACE

Facetime for Apple folks, SKYPE for just about anyone and many other video conference platforms like "Go To Meeting" allow you to conduct virtual meetings where you actually do have face to face ability through your computer, tablet or phone device. 

VOICE TO VOICE OR SCREEN SHARING

Plenty of conference call platforms on phones and available today to ensure that you can remain connected and be engaged in meetings whenever that call might be on your calendar. I recommend securing a conference line so that you have it on the ready, rather than having to scramble if in need of convening a call with your team or clients. Join Me is a terrific service to share your screen with others via conference call.

CONFERENCE ROOMS

Most hotels, and many local businesses offer up their conference space for use by individuals or small businesses. You don't have to look too far before finding something that will suit your needs. This is particularly important if you are need in several hours on a "call". It could be a major inconvenience to your family if you are set up in common space in your abode. Often times there is idle space in summer months in cottage country, the establishment might appreciate a few tweets, Trip Advisor referral or Facebook like or recommendation from you in return.

CALENDAR AND ALARM

Don't fall into a trap of getting distracted with what is going on at  your virtual location environment. Have a calendar plan with "notifications" when meetings, calls or assignments are due.

PLAN YOUR WORK WINDOWS

Put a plan in place to lay out your work each day. Rob Hatch at Owner Media has a good process that he talks about in his "work like you're on vacation" course. His suggestion is to lay out your work the night before, plan it, plan the outcomes and schedule that time free of distractions.

MAIL

Canada Post will allow for personal mail being forwarded, or how about having home office send you your mail weekly in a ground courier envelope. Many cottage communities also have local post office box availability. Depending on whether you know your community, or are just renting for the summer - don't just assume that your standard courier will be able to get to you. Talk to locals first.

BANKING

There are now so many options to bank and complete transactions on line. All of the banks and credit unions seem to have set up on on line banking ease. You can also utilize PayPal as a transaction service to pay on line.

FEELING REMOTE AND AWAY FROM INFORMATION

Google it ! YouTube it ! There is no reason for you to feel out of touch if you are connected to the web in your virtual office.

NETWORKING GAPS

Pick your pathway and engage with folks through platforms existing on LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and Google + (to just name a few...). If you are remote,you may feel that you are disconnected from people. You can stay in touch through your networks. As part of your plan you might decide to reach out to a number of people through the week. Drop those into your calendar with a purpose in mind. Check out profiles with your cottage community in their profile. A great tool for this is Audiense.

DISCIPLINE

Getting your mindset established from the get go is most critical. Know when you are at "work" and when you are at "leisure". Plan your day, work your plan. Schedule appropriate amount of time for calls, email, social networking. Routine calls or meetings will make for better planning over the longer term. Discipline and planning will make this work with ease. Those early morning sunrises might make for the perfect time to wipe off the morning dew, grab a nice hot coffee, cup of tea, iced drink or smoothie on your deck or dock to check incoming mail and plan your day.

JUST A CALL OR EMAIL AWAY!

The biggest hurdle with establishing a virtual office is you getting your head around the fact that nothing is impossible to get done when you are remote. The other hurdle is getting those that you work with and support comfortable with the fact that you are achieving your goals and accomplishing the work that needs to get done; even though you are not physically at a location. No need to rub it in, but acknowledging accomplishments from your place away is a good reinforcement that the work is getting done.

Get your virtual office established and...enjoy the summer !

VIDEO LINK ALSO HERE - smiles.

@FergDevins @DevinsNetwork

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Main Street Social Networking

Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario - Kenora - I recall such wonderful experiences of "Main Street". I used to love just driving into small towns across Canada and the USA and enjoying the sites, sounds, flavours, aromas and unique bits of each Main Street in each community. Heck, Disney made a feature out of "Main Street USA" - and what a great stroll down memory lane that is at Disney World.

Main streets not only existed in small towns, but also within neighbourhoods in major urban centres. Each urban centre tends to have it's old fashioned "Main Street" nestled somewhere in their community.

Main Street Hubs Eroding

I would suggest that "Main Street" has eroded in its impact as a true hub for community. With the emergence and continued evolution of strip malls, Big Box and major retail - Main Street has taken a significant hit as the merchant destination in smaller centres. Even major centres like Toronto that used to be speckled with hardware stores in every community now witness the larger footprint stores as the destination for all. One would be hard pressed to find any long standing independent hardware stores in major urban centres. 

This offers a challenge and opportunity for the remaining Main Street businesses to rally for their cause and their collective organization in getting more active in Main Street Social Networking. Grab some real estate for your brand in social networks and work with your business improvement group or association to draw people to your Main Street or downtown. 

Survivors on Main Street

Many "Main Street" businesses (I'm generalizing Main Street now as smaller entrepreneurial independent businesses) have survived and carved out their particular niche and clientele in spite of the consolidation and larger store formats.

I would propher to say that many of these stores have maintained a unique offering and a connectedness with their clientele. They really sweat their data based, their relationships, their customer loyalty. They keep in touch with their client base.

I would also suggest that for those to continue to succeed, there will be a natural migration to great use of social media applications for Main Street Social Networking as an impactful approach to raising awareness, generating trial and interest in their products or services and connections to work on building loyalty.

Social Media Networking a Critical Tool

By ensuring that they are deploying Main Street Social Networking by engaging in social media, connecting with their customers, placing features in social networks, liking, being liked and keeping up on all things relevant to their core customers - the Main Street business can be relevant and top of mind by Main Street Social Networking.

Critical in being social on Main Street is letting people know that you are up and active in social networks. Be sure to highlight your social networks on shelf, at the cash register, on your door or window. Let people know that you are connected and they can connect with you. Main Street businesses that are maintaining relationships with their network will naturally engage in conversation.

Real Life Example on Eglinton

Walking on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto last week I was impressed by the work that Sense of Independence Boutique has done to bring their social networks to street level. They have posted their active social network platforms in the front window. They also have their social networks in a prominent placement on their website. It is somewhat reminiscent of days gone by, when businesses posted "phone numbers" on their signs on store fronts. Today's approach is as easy as posting a website or social network. The business can then be searched and found.

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Remember to connect in a dialogic way with your audience. You might just want to talk about that new winter wear that has arrived. But think more contextually about that message. Refer to the school yard play, the Christmas pageant, the first taboggan run. Share photo and video where appropriate - create a stronger connection with your audience through visual representations of you and your shop. Get into the lifestyle conversation with your audience - rather than just talking about you.

Get Social

I look forward to seeing more Main Street Social Networking in the coming weeks and months. I'll tweet about what and where I see it. If you're interested in having a conversation about how you might do a better job at your Main Street Social Networking, just comment below or contact me. Cheers !  FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork