Guest post by Chris C. Ducker of Virtual Business Lifestyle
Lifestyle design is what it is. It’s about sitting down, making plans and designing a lifestyle that you’re going to love to live.
For some people this could be becoming a digital nomad, traveling around the world using their laptops to earn the money they need to, to be able to support their nomadic dreams. For others, like myself, it’s just about freedom.
For the past five years I have worked my tail off growing a company in the Philippines that, as of writing, has exactly 217 full-time employees working for me. I’m the boss, the founder, the CEO and I’ve calculated that throughout those five years I’ve worked approximately 1,240 days in the office and an average of 9 hours a day – 11,160 hours in total.
Simply put, I’m done.
Sitting Down. Planning.
In January this year I did exactly what most aspiring lifestyle designers do to begin their journey — I sat down and I planned. The ultimate goal was to become a full-blown Virtual CEO by the end of 2010. I then went about breaking that goal down to mini-goals by turning the journey into a month-by-month action plan.
I won’t bore you entirely with the complete run-down on the monthly mini-goals I’ve been putting in place, but I can tell you that they’ve included everything from throwing my Blackberry into a swimming pool to escape mobile email, to going cold turkey from the office, sometimes up to a week without setting foot inside the place, and even hiring nine individual managers to fundamentally replace myself from a day-to-day basis.
Why am I doing this? Two reasons.
Firstly, I am the father of three awesome children. They are fifteen, twelve and two respectively. With my first two, I was always at work, providing (sometimes with three separate jobs), busting my hump. With the youngest, its been different. I’ve created a certain amount of success for myself in the last five years and I’ve been able to spend more time with him – however, its still not enough. Now, I want to ‘be there’ more.
Secondly, I want to create a way of life for myself and my family, which I like to call the Virtual Business Lifestyle. A lifestyle that revolves around family and mobility, but one that still focuses heavily on business.
I am a serial entrepreneur; I love the brainstorming, mind mapping, the start-up and growing businesses, although the ‘running’ of them is getting a little tiresome now.
As a Virtual CEO I will unshackle myself from my desk, full-time (to the point of not even having an office in my company facilities anymore) and work predominantly from home. The plan is to go into the office twice a week for a 3-hour meeting with my management team, and when clients visit obviously, and then oversee things virtually the rest of the time.
This will enable me to spend more time with my family and also focus on continuously growing the company and our subsidiaries. I have plans to launch three more additional business models next year alone, plus several online entities, too.
Three Things I’ve Done to Create the Virtual CEO Lifestyle
There are a whole bunch of things I’ve done to get to the point where I am almost ready to become that full-time Virtual CEO. However, the following three things have been absolutely instrumental in the preparation to be able to create the lifestyle I’m about to start living:
Email Loop Retiring and the End of ‘Push’ Email — I used to be stuck in front of Outlook for 5-6 hours a day. It couldn’t continue. So, I systemically took myself out of as many email loops as possible.
Email is a massive time-drainer for busy entrepreneurs. I sat down and made a list of all the email threads that I used to get my staff to copy me into. When I was done, I looked at the list and was amazed. It was a miracle that I got anything achieved on a day-to-day basis! Everything from admin related purchases, to HR and recruitment decisions (even on low levels), right up to IT requirements and Operations issues. It was madness.
I now receive email from just three people in my 200+ employee company on a daily basis. Firstly, my Personal Assistant, secondly, my Marketing Manager and lastly, my Operations Manager. I now spend no more than two hours a day dealing with email. Not only this, but I stopped carrying a Blackberry (well, threw it in a pool, as mentioned above) and the headache of receiving email even when I didn’t want to! I have since purchased an iPhone, which I do not push email through to – but, obviously can check email if I need to on the hop, so to speak.
Eliminating Myself from Daily Operations — As I used to manage Operations myself, I knew that if I wanted to take myself out of the office, I would need to hire some new management, but most importantly a fantastic Operations Manager.
My plan was to do this by June, so I could spend the second half of the year working with them to be comfortable enough to ‘leave them’ to do things on their own. However, being a little fussy and knowing how important of a decision it was, I went through interview after interview, both locally in the Philippines and overseas, too. As a result, I didn’t hire my Op’s Manager, Ben, until late August – but, it was worth the wait. He is superb and has fit right into our company culture! I have big plans for him in the future.
Embracing the Cloud — Up until September, the idea of not having little folders to stick all my email into after I had read it seemed very foreign to me. However, to be truly virtual, I couldn’t continue to glue myself to one location – or one computer!
So, at the beginning of September, I switched everything over to the Google suite of app’s and now do all my emailing and scheduling through Gmail and GCal. I have to be honest; this part has been a joy! I can now read, reply to and archive all my email on my MacBook Pro, my iMac at home, my iPad or my iPhone (yes, I am an Apple fan!). Not only this, but I have my calendar with me no matter where I am, and no matter what device I am working from. Awesome!
Stop Dreaming, Start Designing
Creating a lifestyle that we crave, for whatever reasons, is our God given right. We are in control of our lives – or we should be. The majority of those super-glued to a cubicle, or handcuffed to their office chairs, having to work for ‘the man’ probably read the 4-Hour Work Week and have been dreaming of being able to stick it to ‘the man’ ever since. Some might have acted on those feelings already; some might still be running their 9-5 grind, desperate to escape.
For me, this virtual way of doing business isn’t something that I am rushing into. I have been planning it, month-by-month all year. I’m ready, I’m willing and I am looking forward to it more than ever as we approach the end of the year.
It hasn’t necessarily been the easiest journey to be on, but on my own mission to ‘free pursuits’, I have been focused and if nothing else damn-right paranoid about hitting the target!
And I will hit the target. I will become a Virtual CEO…!
Questions for me? Comments about the being a virtual CEO? Please share in the comments!
Chris Ducker is a 20-year sales, marketing and PR professional originally from the UK. He’s now the (soon to be virtual) CEO of the Live2Sell Group of Companies, a thriving total business outsourcing provider based in Cebu City, Philippines, with almost 200 full-time staff. Read more about Chris at Virtual Business Lifestyle.