Living overseas while running a business at home

Two years ago. After two spinal operations, Paul was consulting with his surgeon on a third. “You have a 50/50 chance that it will be fixed. Have the surgery or learn to live with it. You need to change your life and lifestyle so we don’t have to fuse your disks.”

Ten years ago. Paul was involved in helping a few of his family members build a home with A1Homes http://www.a1homes.co.nz . He liked the way the company worked. Even though he had not one bit of experience in building, he bought an A1 region franchise. Today Paul is one of 13 with their own territory in the country.

Paul’s business was successful, partially because he was always looking for fresh approaches, improvements. Fast forward after seven years in business, Paul decided to go with a new accounting group, Rightway www.rightway.co.nz

One of the first things they asked him was “what do you want to do in three years” (Isn’t that a cool thing for your accountancy firm to ask you)? Paul replied “My wife and I would love to live and build a home in Bali.” This was their dream in concert with getting his health back on track to avoid that third operation. Righway said “we can help you achieve your goal. We can put the accounting processes in place for you.”

So what steps did Paul and his wife Jeanette take to allow them to divorce themselves from their 100% hands on roles? And what benefits did the entire family accrue?

It took 18 months from the initial ‘okay, we’re going to do it’ to their actual departure. These are the steps Paul and Jeanette took.

  1. First was the belief, the buy in from himself and Jeanette. Trust in the universe and have passion that the business would run well and prosper while they were almost 7000 kilometres away.
  2. Everything was in his head, He had to document all the processes and procedures for running the business.
  3. Got the buy in of his team. Without a great team around him – it was not possible. They had to put processes and systems into place with the team for reporting.
  4. He had to alert everyone that worked with his business such as contractors and suppliers that he was stepping sideways to work on, rather than in business. This took months.
  5. Three months before the move, they went to Bali to buy the land to build on. They set a moving date. This initial separation allowed the team to have eight weeks of running the business on their own.
  6. All the new processes, systems and reporting they put into place were cloud (internet) based, whereas before it was paper based, For example they used Dropbox dropbox.com for document exchange; xero www.xero.com for accounting, business analysis and reporting; email; weekly skype www.skype.com meetings (internet telephone – by the way with Skype you can do simple calls, video calls, conference calls and share screens – all without cost)
  7. Their weekly calls were both conference (with the team) and individual. They would review challenges, celebrate successes, discuss options for problems.
  8. Jeanette does all the marketing for the business. Their original marketing strategy had Paul as the focal point. His voice on the radio. His face on the ads. They changed the marketing strategy to instead use client testimonials.
  9. They put six months of marketing in place before they left and assigned a team member to look after it.
  10. Speaking of six months, they didn’t stay overseas the entire time, rather used an in/out approach of Bali for six months; three months in New Zealand
  11. Their time in Bali wasn’t all work. Paul volunteered and coached cricket in schools. He joined the Bali cricket advisory group. His two girls initially went to an international school. However they struggled. They were small town country girls thrown into the ‘Big bright lights’ of an international school where the kids were quite focused on whom you knew and what you had. Instead Paul and Jeanette home schooled the girls with four other families and also employed local help.
    His girls have now settled back in school in New Zealand and they’re doing great. They all know they are better for the experience of being in an environment surrounded by 51 nationalities. They now are more global, better at handling situations.
  12. It wasn’t all roses and chocolates. Paul hired a sales person which didn’t work out.
  13. On the significant plus side, Paul was blessed to have time with family, to allow his daughters to get to know their dad as before he was working 60-70 hours a week.

Two Years Later

When they returned for good to New Zealand, of course all the systems were in place and the team was running the business better then when Paul originally headed it. They had ownership of the business, and the freedom to put make decisions and put new systems in place. For example they added a new cloud based building project management system Co-construct http://global.co-construct.com/. By the way, this system allows clients to log on anytime to see where the construction is at. They have their builders take photos each day so the clients can see the activity (their clients are often from out of town). Everyone that works for or contracts to Paul has to have at least a smartphone. Plasterers, painters, concrete guys, labourers. They all had to learn to go online. The software helps his construction manager solve problems without having to visit the site. The centralised system means no hunting through Dropbox folders, paperwork and more importantly if any of the team were to leave, there would be no impact on business. –

Paul’s advice

  1. Get good guidance. A Business coach or mentor supporting you. We get stuck in day to day so you need to reach out).
  2. Have a good team around you, especially an accountant that talks to you at your level. )
  3. A lot of business owners don’t talk to each other about problems- look and find someone to share and trust info with – networking. I always believe in networking. To find referrals, new leads, put your business in the public eye – beyond advertising.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  5. Use technology to your advantage. ‘I was absolutely hopeless at technology. I failed school C, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. At 27 something clicked, I went and got a teaching degree. Then the opportunity to buy the business. Paul still classes himself as a below average user. His team help and guide him along the way.