Oh, the moment you discover you'll have to work out of the country (or even out of your home city/state) unexpectedly, for an unknown amount of time. If you haven't been there yet, chances are you will be, and because of the nature of these situations, they often strike without warning, and with little time to prepare before you leave.
That said, if you're reading this, you're most likely a small biz owner or entrepreneur and thus don't have the liberty of proclaiming "I'll use my vacation/personal days and see ya when I see ya!" Oh no, people like us, we have to keep being productive and working, no matter where that work may need to take place. I recently found myself in this exact situation when a family crisis took my husband and I from our home in Brooklyn, New York, across the ocean to Spain, and then England. With less than 12 hours to prepare for our departure we made a mad dash to leave, leaving little time to deal with much more than packing our bags and organizing our travel. We returned to Brooklyn over two weeks later and let me tell you this, it worked. I worked. My businesses went on and everyone was happy. Some projects I was working on even turned out better than they did when I worked in my regular setting (a forced change of scenery and perspective cando the trick). Sure, I had to be flexible, but don't we learn that from the moment we commit to going into business for ourselves?
Every business has its specific needs and deliverables it must meet so this list will vary from business to business, but here are some of my personal must-haves to help things run smoothly while you're away:
Welcome to one of the simplest ways to remain professionally tapped in while far and away! This easy-to-use and affordable phone/video chat service allows you to stay connected with partners, clients (hello, one-on-one video chats) or hold an entire team meeting "Brady Bunch-style". I can't say enough about how face-to-face communication makes the miles disappear, eases client stress and allows you to feel tapped back into your business. You can use it with voice only or enable video settings to get up close and personal, share your screen to show people exactly what you're talking about, run a Power Point presentation while you narrarate - heck, you can even host a class via GotoMeeting. From anywhere. In the world. All participants need is access to a computer or phone. If I had to pick one business tool I would not leave the country without, it would be GotoMeeting, hands down!
When leaving your normal business setting, whether it be a home office or in an office building, you can't be sure when and if you'll be able to maintain your social media posts on a regular basis, but you don't want to leave your feeds empty or filled with old posts. Perhaps you will have the ability to access your accounts from another city or country but not regularly, so is it okay to just let them go? I say no! Social media is one of the most common and popular ways for people to find you, you can't let that arm of communication slide. Instead, schedule time in before you leave (or during a "work moment" while away) to schedule up posts for your Twitter or Facebook account (you can do both or either) via HootSuite. Bonus points if some of those posts direct people to content/products/expertise on your website. You may be out of the office but your promotion and online voice doesn't have to miss a beat!
Keep the Money Coming In...
Who says being out of the country makes it impossible to sign new business? Paper contracts and faxing are both so 1990's! With EchoSign by Adobe you can keep your business thriving with new accounts, a sponsor, advertiser or anyone else you work with via contract completely virtually and nearly immediately! Electronic signatures are the way of the future, and allow you to grow your business and client base from anywhere in the country or world. Why should you be limited by a pen, paper and conference table to get contracts signed, sealed and delivered? The cherry on top? You'll become a more "green" biz in the process!
Though you're not in the office or near your paper billing system while away, the show must go on and bills must continue to be paid. I suggest (if you haven't yet) setting up payment options with clients via PayPal for times like these. You can bill from anywhere in the world at any time, as well as transfer money into your own bank account once payments are received.
Chase Quick Deposit
Leaving the country without time to deposit checks? Checks arrive at your office that will be sent to you but you're without the ability to get to your bank? If you're a Chase Small Business customer (like we are at Tin Shingle) or use this trusty institution for your personal banking, you can deposit those checks into your account via your Chase Mobile App by literally taking a photo of said check. That's it. Simple as pie and no need to stress about finding a branch location wherever you are in the world.
Ensure Coverage for Your Tasks...
Team Work/Back Up Players
It's always good to prepare for this beforehand, so meditate on it after you read this article: do you have a "bench" prepared to cover your work should you be unable to do this. If you're a solo-preneur this could mean having a freelancer or fellow solo-preneur from your field ready to cover you. If you work on a team this could mean having a back-up person for every task you normally do on an individual level. Which leads me to...
Your To Do List Cheat Sheet & "How To"
You must have an order of operations or at the very least an understandable "cheat sheet" or guide to what you do and how you do it. This will make it much easier to leave for planned or unplanned time away from your desk. When the moment comes, you can email this to your coverage team. Sure, it won't be perfect, but it will help guide them through your daily or weekly to do list and lessen the time you need to spend instructing them from abroad.
Have a “Emergency Contact List/Key Contact List”
Just like parents leave a babysitter a contact list when leaving their children at home for the night or a weekend, your business baby needs to be left with a proper contact list as well. This is not only important for those "babysitting your business" but mark my words it will probably come in handy for you as well at some point. What should be on this contact list? I've seen lists that include: client contacts, web team contacts, messenger service details, FedEx Account details, contacts for the entire business team - I've even seen people leave access to Google Docs that house contacts for sales accounts and members of the media. If it's important to your business, it should be on the list.
Last But Not Least: How to Stay Sane...
Despite all the preparation in the world, if you're working away from the comfort of your normal, every day desk, it's not always going to be easy. In fact, it's often the opposite. So how do you deal? Here are a few more musts:
Set & Stick to Work Times, Carve Them Out Daily if You Can - If the (work) show must go on, pick times of the day that you can separate yourself from any distraction and hammer out some focused work.
Communicate - With clients, colleagues and team members about your situation and that you will be working, but it may be at different times or in different ways than usual. Also make an effort to communicate with everyone around you while you are away about what you’re in need of accomplishing and how they can help you do that. Often their help is simply respecting your needs and boundaries during focused work time.
Relax – The only thing you can plan on during times like these is that things won’t go as planned. Once you accept that and give yourself a reality check in that regard, you'll begin to ease up on others and yourself.