Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Lifestyle Design For a Family Man and Entrepreneur: Why I Decided to Become a Virtual CEO

Chris Ducker - Live2SellGuest 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.

The Motivation

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.

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  1. Dan

    Too cool Chris, super quality writing here… I really can’t wait to see what you’ll get up to in 2010. I’m super hot on the theme of hard work over a consistent period of time, people tend to get caught up in the ideas more than the work.

    • Thanks, Dan.

      I’m also looking forward to seeing what I will do next year! I have some plans, but not as many in place NOW than I will do in about 6 weeks from now.

      Thanks for dropping by.


  2. Great that you outlined specific things you’ve done to free yourself, Chris. I’d be very interested in hearing your month-by-month action plan; I think that’s where most of us get caught up – the daily planning and distractions (so doesn’t sound boring to me at all!).

    Thanks for sharing your experience in lifestyle design!

    • Hi Amber

      Much appreciated. Got your email, too – will get back to you this week.

      Month to month plan will be put together early next year, for sure.

      Loved your comment, thanks.


  3. Chris I respect you for going after your dreams and making it happen. My motivation also is my family, and when you break it down..we will do anything for our family to become successful.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  4. Hi Chris!

    This is by far the best blog post I have read this year! Amazing. You have a fantastic goal and most importantly you have a vision! People like yourself with long term vision will be able achieve any goal they set for themselves. Besides, you have fantastic motivators for that.

    I had my own offline company with 200+ employees (successfully sold it 6 years ago), and I know from experience how much time it takes to learn how to manage everything and not to waste time on unimportant activities. So, I am totally with you.

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Peter

      Awesomely cool comment, and very inspiring.

      I must say, I enjoy my business and growing it very much. The idea of selling is certainly not in my mind right now (unless Steve Jobs wants to make an offer!??).

      But, its good to hear that you’ve ‘done it’ and I thank you for the kind words, too.

      Chat soon,

  5. Hey Chris,

    Congrats! Nothing more rewarding then to see our dreams become reality time and time again . . . a very realistic and inspiration story.

    Thank-you for sharing


  6. Awesome write up Chris. Like I’ve said before, I have mad respect for you! Not many CEOs will do what you’re doing. Good luck in your journey… 2011 is just around the corner!

    • Hi Jenny

      Awesome. Thanks for dropping by and checking out my post on Corbett’s excellent blog.

      Really hope to see you rock the he’ll out of your own plans next year, too!


  7. I love your take on Lifestyle Design Chris. Thanks for sharing!

    I think dreaming needs to be given a time frame to turn those dreams into goals. Design what the whole picture will look like when all those dreams come together, and outline a step by step plan for yourself to get there.

    Its brilliant to me, and it looks like you see it the same way too.

    Cheers Chris!

    • Hi Brandon

      We’re are bang on the same page, by the sound of it, buddy!

      Having a big goal is great. But they are tough to hit, unless you break them down into smaller goals. That’s what I’ve done. It looks like it is going to work.

      Thanks for taking the time, I really appreciate it.


  8. As a father myself it’s truly awesome to see a business owner, readjust his priorities and put his family first, instead of his many hours in the office.

    Still so rare today- Huge respect for you Chris!


  9. Congratulations! I have a similar story-working at an agency for endless hours and losing sight of priorities. A baby made me stop in my tracks and come to the same realizations you experienced. Most people just don’t realize that their children will only be young once and they should be the priority. But we can still find a way to be challenged at work and be there for our families. Best of luck to you and thanks for being a great role model for other entrepreneurial men and women.

    • Hi Kathy

      Thanks so much for your comment, it was nice to hear from someone who certainly has their priorities well in check.

      Next year is gonna be awesome for me and mine, and I wish yours all the best, too!


  10. Hey Chris,

    Fantastic post! It’s great to see another family man achieving success in Lifestyle Design.

    Awesome thoughts on how you did it too.



  11. Hey Chris,

    You mentioned that after the initail brainstorming period, comes a the tiresome stage of running the business. Have you any specific strategies in place to over come this?

    • Hi Ryan

      Great question – yes, several. The way to read into them a little more is to check out my blog – just click on the link at the bottom of the post.

      Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you again in the future sometime.


  12. Hi Chris, your final piece of advice is really gold: Stop dreaming and start designing. Too many people talk too much and don’t get started. I’ve been guilty of this myself and am taking solid steps to start doing! Thanks for inspiring :)

    • Hi David

      Just admitting your faults, in regards to being guilty and procrastinating, youre taking those first steps already, bud.

      Keep focused, with your eye on the prize, as they say, and I am sure 2011 is gonna be a rockin’ year for you and yours.

      Thanks for the comment.


  13. Great post!

    I am a world traveler, and published photographer and writer. This year, I would like to start my own business. It’s been on my mind for the past two years and I think that it’s time to commit to that dream. I am passionate about textiles and interior design products from all over the world and am reaching out to people who own their own business, especially in foreign countries. Would you mind if I ask you some questions on how you started your own foreign business? Thank you in advance.

  14. Bas

    Hi Chris, thanks for a nice read and an inspiring story. I too tend to overthink things and ending up actually not doing anything. Solid piece of advice there, now it’s time to take some action!

    • Hi Bas

      Taking action is what its all about, buddy. We can all ‘talk’ until the cows come home, but if you dont actually get up off your butt and make things happen… Well… You know what happens to people like that…….

      Thanks for the kind comment, much appreciated!


  15. Posts like this are far more inspiring for people than the majority of posts available to us. It sounds a bit more and realistic when there are children involved. For some reason, I have a hard time buying into the ideas and pursuits of some of the bachelor writers out there, but that could just be me.

    I had the opportunity to take the past year off to be home with my new daughter. I could go on for a lifetime on how rewarding that experience really is, and I know it will only get better.

  16. Hey Chris, great writing. Congratulations on the move to becoming a Virtual CEO. I’m wishing you the best. I so agree with us designing the life we truly want to live, because if not who will (society, media, friends and family). But hey thanks for this post. Looking forward to hearing you arrive at your target.

  17. Chris–

    I completely understand the miserable deathtrap that is corporate life! I just got laid off a week ago from my corporate coffin, and I’m doing everything I can to pursue a lifestyle built on passive income.

    I’m a big fan of your podcast, and I want you to know how much your work means to me. Very inspiring… out of this world.

    Keep it up, so the rest of us can!

  18. Joe

    The real question is what do you now do with your free time??? I’ve been lucky enough to have started a business and taken myself out of it to a large extent – not so much because I designed it this way, but because I fell in love and moved to Israel, while my business was in NYC. Now that I’m in Israel and have very flexible work hours, I still find myself spending a lot of time in the office trying to make things more efficient – not because I have to but because I want to. We don’t travel as much as I’d like because my wife is in school and can’t miss class. So how do you spend all that free time?

  19. Hi Chris!

    It is really refreshing to for me to know how a CEO like you plans of designing a life that will give you more time with your family. I believe that you can be a virtual CEO, happy and living the life you want.

    I once worked as a call center agent here in the Philippines for three years. And I have learned a lot from the job. But later on, I come to realize that I have to take charge of my life and make drastic changes.

    I believe that a person can only live the life he wants if he has a vision and can make it come true. The sad part is that only very few people can do this, that is why jobs are still important.

    I appreciate that you chose to work with Filipinos.

    Good luck!

  20. I guess I’m a little late on reading this, but I really love what you have to say, Chris. I’m that dude who read 4HWW in 2007 and has been dreaming of “escaping” ever since. I’m younger (30), married, and kids in a few years, so I’m slowly planning my virtual life so I can “be there” for my kids and wife as much as I want. Sure, I love to travel, but just having the freedom, the option, the be wherever I want is my primary goal for now. Thanks for the inspiration…

  21. On this note, Chris Ducker successful “muser” and outsourcing Guru is holding a webinar this Thursday, it might of interest given the topic of this blog post.

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