5 essentials to take your office anywhere
If you’re constantly working on the go, follow this checklist to ensure you’re kitted out with everything you need to run your business remotely
Business is on the move. An increasingly digital world is helping entrepreneurs optimise every moment of their working day, whether they’re in transit or catching a coffee break.
Travel is no longer lost time but a vital opportunity to make that all-important business call and any space can become the perfect office by unpacking the contents of your briefcase.
Advances in hardware and software mean a business no longer has to be confined by four walls, borders or limited resources. A sole trader can have the global reach of a multinational corporation from their bedroom in Birmingham.
But before you leave the house to set up your business on a transatlantic flight, here are the absolute essentials you need in order to take your office anywhere:
1. Your smartphone
By far the most versatile tool in the mobile entrepreneur’s kit – if you could only use one item to start a business – the smartphone would be it. While it might not have the word processing capabilities of a laptop, the increasing number of business and communication apps tailored for mobile use means you can perform most essential tasks from the palm of your hand.
“I’ve always got my phone, it’s the one thing that stays with me whatever”, says Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, ‘chief whisk’ at premium marshmallow brand Mallow and Marsh – “Most of my business is done on the phone”.
No matter how advanced your smartphone becomes, its primary purpose will always be communication. Whether it’s with colleagues, clients or customers, keeping in touch is key to running a successful business. “I always have my smartphone with me to keep in touch with everything and everyone,” stresses Amer Hasan, CEO and founder of taxi booking app minicabit.
Amelia Humfress, CEO of coding company Steer, agrees that a smartphone is the best option: “For emails and communication with the team, in taxis or on the bus or if I’m just standing in a queue to pick up a coffee”.
2. A lightweight laptop
A laptop gives you increased functionality on the move, improves processing power and offers a more manageable platform to a mobile for working on more complex tasks.
Go lightweight with your laptop if you want to be able to flick it open and closed at a moment’s notice – advances in technology mean going smaller doesn’t mean sacrificing functionality.
Humfress explains the advantages: “I always have my laptop with me, which is super light so I can throw it in my handbag. If I’m going to sit down for a while I’ll always use my laptop because I just feel that I can type so much faster.”
Darren Litton, ‘chief chocoholic’ at chocolate café Cocoba, uses his laptop when he’s “got to go into software and programmes and go maybe a little more in depth”.
3. Your tablet
“In between the two” (smartphone and laptop) is the tablet says Litton, who prefers its size and portability: “I much prefer writing back to my emails from a tablet, which has a case that converts into a keyboard.” He also finds the tablet useful for “flicking through the different pages” in his online store to check “who’s ordering” and “stock levels”.
For Hasan it depends on what app he’s using: “There are some apps that have a much greater experience on tablet” he says. As a lot of his customers use tablets it also helps to make sure the company offers “a good experience” in that format as well.
Pleydell-Bouverie also prefers using a tablet to send emails: “I find phones far too small; spell check is a nightmare and you end up saying very embarrassing things”. For her, many apps “are easier to use on a tablet, you get to move things around and can see it a bit more clearly”.
4. Decent connectivity
Without internet access your super-advanced devices are all but useless on the move, and a lost connection could result in a lost opportunity at that all-important moment.
4G is key – Humfress sometimes forgets to turn her WiFi on and uses 4G even at home “because it’s so fast”. If you’re going to be using it often it helps to have a plan that’s tailored to your data usage. Humfress comments: “I have a really great plan, so I get lots of 4G which is perfect for me”.
Litton can get quite “strong withdrawal symptoms” if there’s no WiFi as this is his primary source of connectivity. He explains: “Whether I’m in a café or an airport lounge or the lobby of a hotel, most of those now have WiFi.”
However, he takes advantage of his phone as a portable hotspot by tethering his tablet and laptop to it when WiFi is unavailable. While he was “just in Thailand for a week”, he was able to sit at “the pool working” by connecting to the local network on his smartphone and tethering his other devices.
Hasan says “it’s great to have 4G as backup” when travelling round the country and when “WiFi isn’t available. He can measure his data with his tariff so he “can use that data bundle wherever I am without having to log onto a WiFi hotspot”.
Pleydell-Bouverie thinks an unlimited package is the best option for the mobile entrepreneur: “I think it’s one of the most important things and because I’m always on the move it just gives me that ability to connect wherever I need to.” That said, she tethers her tablet to her phone when she “needs that added flexibility”.
5. The essential apps
From productivity to payments, apps are revolutionising the way we do business, saving time and making it easier to do some of the more tedious tasks.
Humfress uses Mailbox for email: “It’s great because you can save messages which then can be pinged back to you at a certain time or date […] which is really helpful if you want to be reminded to follow up with a particular customer.”
Litton takes advantage of back-end apps “which show the daily sales and overs and unders as well as a summary of what happened during the day”. However, he still thinks “one of the most underrated things is just the actual telephone”.
For Hasan, the essential apps for doing business remotely are his “banking app from Barclays” which allows him “to look at statements and payments” and “SignEasy” which enables him to “review and sign contracts on the go”.
Pleydell-Bouverie prefers the term “time organising” to time saving. She does all of her accountancy with Xero which means she “can do it on the go”, while having Dropbox allows her to “get everything opened up” on whatever device she chooses.
For more insights from the founders featured in this article, watch our series of videos on working smarter on the move.
This article was produced in partnership with O2 Business. To be inspired or read more about working anywhere, working smarter, marketing, and for tech advice go to businessblog.o2.co.uk