Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

July 16, 2011 at 12:32 am

Working remotely means remote communications: trainings, conversations, interviews, sales meetings, presentations, tech support, and so on.  I was using webex at $49/month until freeconferencing came out with their webinar software.

Benefits of freeconferencing:

  • FREE (really, it’s free, and so is the conference call line you use to dial in – I’ve been using this for a couple years and it works great)
  • simple setup
  • browser based
  • recording, screensharing, chat
  • connect to Skype - For an international traveler who is conscious of international roaming, this is a big one!

I’ve been testing it side by side with webex and there’s no downside, even for a newly released product it’s been great.  If anyone has had any other experiences, please let me know.  Otherwise, highly recommended not just for cost savings on the software, but also on phone call costs for the world traveler.

Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

The Virtual LandLord

July 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Today I received a fax with a 12 month lease and deposit for my rental in Seattle. After 2 months of being vacant and going through 30+ inquires and applications, the house is finally rented.  All done from New York City.

This is a topic I’ve always wanted to write about.  I’ve always wanted to have my own place to call ‘home’, a place to rest my stuff when traveling.

Libby's House in Seattle

Here, in Seattle, I bought a house and I’ve been renting it out for the past 6 years.  I had two houses, but sold one as I downgraded to 4 boxes (previous post).

I learned that with the housing market and having refinanced to an interest-only loan that was just at the end of its 3 year pre-payment penalty, that I would have to sell the first house.

The second one, the one in the picture, I remodeled and turned into two full living spaces with separate entrances.  I’ve discovered that you need to have overage of at least 25% in order to break even from maintenance, vacancies, and so on.

Becoming a virtual landlord isn’t easy, but it’s doable – from anywhere in the world.

Before leaving Seattle for NYC, I filmed a video tour of the house and put it on YouTube. When prospective tenants would call, I’d send essentially the same template that would include:

  • more information on house, deposit, neighborhood, etc
  • pet deposit (if applicable)
  • asking the prospective tenant’s current living situation, number of total tenants in consideration, and when they were looking to move, as well as what they did for income
  • a link to the YouTube video
  • setting up a time/day for a viewing
  • a link to my Google Voice number (if I were posting from Chile, I would still have a US number and able to take/return calls (see previous post))

I hid a key before I left.  After qualifying the tenant and arranging a day/time (and after I’d send the video so they were able to see if they liked it before either of us would waste any more time), I would then send them to the house and tell them I had a friend place the key and that they would be by, but not until after their timeframe.

Finally after several potential tenants and one guy falling through not once, but twice, I got the signed lease faxed today to my Ring Central number.  Done!

A few hurdles along the way such as a friend going over to open the house and accidentally locking all doors which locked out the potential tenants when they arrived for their scheduled visit, or my sister and her new husband crashing at the house and locking the key inside – I had to get copies made and overnighted to Seattle in time for a coworker to head over and unlock the house.  But, other than those fun snafus, it all worked out and I’m able to enjoy my time in NYC with the peace of mind of my house being rented.

What Not To Do on Your Death Bed …

July 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

…. let your dreams go unfulfilled.  

Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

From Bonnie Ware’s blog Inspiration and Chai 

I was very inspired after reading that article.

My passion is to travel and live in other countries.  I can’t work in an office for 30 years and be free only to spend a week or two on vacation.  I prefer to focus on vocation.

Working every day means that you miss seeing your family and friends due to your work schedule, but you can’t see much of the world – until you retire.  But by then, you’ll be spending all of your hard-earned savings on an RV and health care.

Retire now!  When you’re in the grave does it matter how much you worked or how much you accumulated?  Stuff is stuff.  We are so lucky to be able to experience life.

Live life now - don't wait to retire when it's too late - AnywhereProfessional.com

Happiness is about living right now.  We are willingly imprisoned by our ‘shoulds’.

“It’s not that easy.”  Yes, it is.  It’s scary but much more rewarding to be laying on your death bed, muttering ‘I did’ versus ‘I wanted to, but…’

We have two choices:  Do or Don’t

The reason there is so much pressure not to follow our wants is because most people aren’t, and we are living in the proverbial crab pot.

I heard a great quote once that basically said – people shrink their dreams to match their income, versus pursuing their dreams and reaching for the income needed to attain them.

It doesn’t have to be income-related but the point is don’t shrink your dreams because you think there are limitations.  Don’t let the kid inside you down!  The only limitations are the ones you put in place.

Sure, there are challenges, and you have to make extreme sacrifices.  Are you willing to make those sacrifices so you’re not lying there, on your death bed, with tubes up your nose and a pocket full of regrets?

I made a decision that, since I was unable to afford just traveling as a lifestyle, that I would work as I traveled.  While still in good health and being able to experience things and absorb languages and try new foods, I decided that I would travel and work simultaneously.

Instead of going to dinner in Seattle every night, I could be working from a cafe in Buenos Aires, enjoying a tango show, speaking Spanish, and having steak and wine for dinner – all while getting my work done that day.  I could visit my family – not for a weekend but for 2 weeks – and not skipping a beat.

My goal is to travel the world and learn about other cultures/ places/ foods/ histories/ people/ languages, etc.  I’ve been told by others that that means a lot of vacation time and a lot of money.

But on Anywhere Entrepreneur I blog about my journey and how it can be done, how you can live out your dreams – not always the way you expected, but with enough desire and guts, anything is possible.

Cell Phone Contracts Are a Thing of the Past

July 11, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Ditch your cell phone!

Your cell phone plan, that is.  Pay attention AT&T, the world is getting more connected.

One of the most challenging things about traveling is international roaming on your cell phone. Why can’t the phone companies all just get along?

As soon as I cross the border from Seattle to Vancouver, I will be forced onto another cell network and forced to pay double the price.

I’ve been starting to use my Google Voice number more often, which is a Seattle-based area code. It’s currently forwarding to my cell phone, but if I’m not available, it takes a message and sends me an email letting me know.

I open the Google Voice app on my phone or via web browser and find the voicemail has been transcribed to text!  It’s not 100% accurate, but I get the gist.  If I want to hear the message, I just hit the play button.

Pretty great stuff – I no longer have to pay an expensive telephone bill.  But, what if I’m out of the country and I can’t forward to my cell phone?

Google Voice only lets you forward to another US number.  How can I talk with anyone on my phone?

The best solution I’ve found, if you want to be ‘in the office’ and not force someone to leave a voicemail is to purchase a Skype online phone number.  For $60 / year and 2 cents / minute, I can be making and receiving phone calls to/from any US number from my own US Skype number.

Even for business lines, at Beer2Buds, we use RingCentral.  RingCentral allows you to get a toll free number and fax for $100/year.  You can forward your number, and/or any extension, to a cell phone or… a Google Voice or Skype number.

My last AT&T phone bill was nearly $200.  For around the same price, even though it’s less convenient (you need wifi, but that’s increasing every day – I even carry around a Clear modem when there’s no wireless but there is 3g/4g), you can still be ‘connected’.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention – SMS is such an integral part of our lives.  WithGoogle Voice, you can also send AND receive text messages!  And you don’t pay $19.99 / month like you will with AT&T.

This is a text message I got today that popped up on my phone from Google Voice.

The world is becoming more connected.  The cell phone giants will have to start playing fair or the growing VoIP services of the world will be the dominant players, which is already starting to happen. 

Traveler vs Tourist

July 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

There’s a difference between traveling and being a tourist.

Scenario: You take a cruise to Turkey with your family. While there, you walk around the capitol city buying expensive trinkets to show your friends at home that you are a world traveler. You hurry back to the boat after shopping to get away from those weird people who dress funny and back to the pre-paid dinner on the boat and relax by the pool.

Pop quiz. This describes:

a. A tourist
b. A traveler

(Answer at end)

The tourist takes a week off work after carefully studying where the Internet says to go and getting advice from their other tourist work friends.

They make a packing list from tips they learned on a Rick Steve’s TV series then they go to REI and other highly recommended travel stores to get:
- 1 pair of pants that unzip at the knee for convenient shorts (2 in 1!)
- A breathable button down that is conveniently also sun resistant (move over sweaty pits, yes!)
- 3 pair socks
- 10 pair of underwear (a few extra)
- 1 shower towel (these are too ‘cute’ and your friend’s sister’s cousin took one on a trip and said they save SO much room, and you are packing light!)
Disclaimer: I DO have one of these.

They travel in groups, packs, or pairs. They eat the foods they know, use guidebooks, and impose their own language and cultures.

As I’m writing this 2 German tourists are sitting next to me on the subway with… wait for it…  giant cameras around their necks (you thought I was gonna say fanny packs). After just having been at Battery Park, feeling like I was at a camera store slash outdoor photo shoot – I should have listed cameras first on the packing list. Then fanny packs.

The tourist plans a trip around his/her work schedule. The traveler plans life around his/her travels.

Travelers often travel alone, avoiding groups and packs. They seek out the local foods.

Instead of asking questions, tourists make assumptions based on what they already know – versus what they could learn.

Travelers see through the trinkets. They collect little bits of conversations with locals, new foods, foreign vocabulary and customs, and non-audio-headset tours of local history – as souvenirs.

For example: collect a non-engraved with-price-tag (translated: real) pebble from the beach at Plymouth Rock in England versus a skewed picture of you in the I heart NY tee (oh you know the one) pretending to squash the statue of liberty with your ‘huuuge’ finger. Or better yet posing in front of the GW (thats g-dub yo) statue with yo’ best gangsta poze so all your homeys on Facebook can give u props.  Word.

The traveler learns about themselves, history, culture, and embraces differences.

The traveler has washed their underwear in the sink and has dried off using their t-shirt.

(Answer to question above: if you don’t know, you are a tourist)

Women 2.0 Startup Lessons Learned: Beer2Buds

July 8, 2011 at 1:39 am

From Women 2.0 article

“If only I could drink that!” Beer2Buds was born after my friend from Sweden sent a virtual beer in an email on a long Friday afternoon while stuck at the office. Not only was the idea of the beer great but also we were able to rediscover great memories we had made years before, while studying abroad together.

Most ideas start with a problem that you personally wish to have solved and you realize there does not exist a good way of solving it now. In this case, I wanted to solve the problem of buying a friend a beer from 4,000 miles away. The second part is determining how many people have that problem (ie. what is your addressable market). If it’s not enough, though you may love your idea, it’s reality-check time -– what is the amount of energy you intend to spend and for what result? Make sure there is a market.

Sure, there are a lot of beer drinkers, but how many actually:

  • Have email/Facebook/iPhone?
  • Will send a friend a beer?
  • Can we reach?
  • And how often will they do it?

Next, how much are they willing to pay for it?

Nobody likes to hear this but your first idea won’t likely be the one that sticks. You will be forced to make iterations until you find a product/market fit in a market large enough to make sense. Getting to the product/market fit as quickly as possible is the goal.

To quote Steve Blank’s “No Plan Survives First Contact with Customers”, there is no replacement for real market validation. Want to know if your product will work? Get real users to test it, as they won’t lie. The true test: will they pay for your product? The next test: will they keep coming back?

Before spending too much time in development or iterations, you absolutely have to scale down to a MVP (minimum viable product). That is, what does it take to get from A to B. No bells and whistles in V.1 or you’ll end up playing pin the tail on the donkey wondering where to focus.

Testing and Traction

Measure and test assumptions! I hate to say “throw it to the wall and see what sticks”, but throw it to the wall and measure the results to see what customers really want. Take an educated guess after you narrow down your target market and try a variety of marketing ideas, generally one at a time, and compare results. We have tried many different tactics and none resulted in what we originally expected. For example, we found that an urban professional is more likely to send a beer to congratulate a friend on a job promotion than a beer aficionado would send his beer-drinking buddy a random beer to say cheers (an incorrect assumption based on the original motivation for creating Beer2Buds).

Pivot to a New Product

After making several product iterations, measuring results, and scaling our team up/down, we realized that Beer2Buds was going to need mass volume and cash to reach desired revenues, and we wouldn’t have enough resources to fully support that in the short term. We decided a pivot was needed.

With limited resources and now a team of two, Tessa and I sat together and asked ourselves what was next. Generally speaking, I am the business side and Tessa is the technical side. Running out of time and money, we analyzed 4 different business models that could work, how long they’d take to implement, and which had the highest income potential, was the most scalable, and would produce the quickest return.

We chose “Promotr” which became PromoBomb a few weeks later. PromoBomb exists as a B2B2C product where we leverage the customer base of our network to help them grow their own customer base and increase our visibility and revenues. Shifting the business model and creating a new product while running on low fuel was scary, but it turned out to be the right decision. The product was created from a large amount of feedback and to address a larger market, but also from instinct. At a certain point, you have to trust your gut.

I created the first wireframes and specs, and graphics, and Tessa took on all of the development and future product mocks and specs. I sought advice from our bar/restaurant network and trusted unofficial advisors in the restaurant and tech industries. We went to the drawing board several times and asked “What is A to B” so that we only created an MVP and not unnecessary features.

With paying clients, we have found a repeatable, scalable, sales model and are planning to methodically build out our product and team. Real customer validation helps us keep a pulse on what’s working and what isn’t.

Lessons learned so far (with many more to come)

A startup feels like you are Harry Houdini and you’re underwater, trying to break free (figure out product/market fit) and make it to the surface (grow revenues) one lock (one challenge) at a time before you run out of air (cash).

  • Tenacity and perseverance are key. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day.
  • Don’t scale too quickly.
  • It’s ok to say “no” to a customer. General rule of thumb: wait until 10 customers.
  • request the same thing before it goes from ‘noise’ to ‘noteworthy’.
  • Be bold but take calculated risks.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket –- you need 20 leads to close 1 sale.
  • Trust your gut and learn from experience.
  • Focus on your core value proposition. Be specific. Don’t be all things to all people.
  • Stay the course; persevere. An idea is only worth the amount of effort you put
    behind it.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure means you’re one step closer to winning.

F ail fast.
A ct.
I terate.
L earn.

Be ready to overcome challenges – daily. Just don’t give up.

About the guest blogger: Libby Tucker is Founder and CEO of Beer2Buds. Prior to Beer2Buds, she was the COO of Seattle startup TalentSpring.com (acquired by TalentTech) and a former Adobe employee. Libby blogs at AnywhereProfessional, focused on traveling whilst pursuing her vocation. Libby speaks fluent Spanish and conversational German. When she’s not creating web products, you’ll find her kayaking, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, playing beach volleyball, or discovering new lands. Follow her on Twitter at @libtuck and her startup at @beer2buds.