Yesterday, I braved the drive from the Yarra Valley to Sydney. It’s around 900kms. And I had two fluffy white cats and one fluffy white dog in the car. My (usually black) car is now adorned with the remnants of Rex, Rocky and Rambo. In more ways than one, in fact. Rexy kindly pooped in the backseat. It was his feline equivalent of that ubiquitous plaintive cry heard from children all over the world: “Are we there yet?”
Anyhow, that story is simply my way of sneaking in a gratuitous mention of my furry family in what is otherwise a serious post. Over the past four weeks I have been experimenting with the idea of working remotely. From the Yarra Valley. It’s a scenario considered to be the Holy Grail for many entrepreneurs and that’s what inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
Live anywhere. Work your own hours. And never go into the office.
Sounds like an entrepreneurial Utopia. But can it really work?
Over the past month, I decided to experiment with the idea. Although my business is based in Sydney, I’ve spent the last four weeks in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.
This hasn’t been a holiday. With the exception of Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, I’ve been “at work” every day. Like the retail industry, my business is actually busy at this time of year.
This would not have been possible a mere six months ago. Why? Because the internet speed at the property I stay at in the Yarra Valley was painfully slow. Too slow to conduct business effectively in any way. So slow that I’ve been to remote locations in third world countries with faster internet. So incredibly sluggish that I would rather papercut my eyeballs than watch a single email download. You get the idea.
It’s not as if it’s a property in Birdsville, which is hundreds of kilometres from, well, anywhere. We’re talking about one hour from the metropolis otherwise known as Melbourne.
Whenever I’ve stayed at this property over the past couple of years, I’ve kept my visits brief. Because, despite the universal entrepreneurial dream of being able to “live and work from anywhere”, a fundamental criteria in order to do this is that you need an internet connection that resembles one belonging to a first world country.
Before you ask, yes, I tried mobile broadband, various internet service providers and multiple modems. I exhausted all options. And, after two years of frustration over multiple visits, I came to the sad realisation that my dream of being able to work remotely simply wasn’t going to happen. Well, not from the Yarra Valley anyway – a place which had clearly become the Land that the Internet Gods Forgot.
Let there be internet
However, sometime in the past six months, a miracle took place. Maybe the internet gods were moved by my pleas. Perhaps they read my complaints on Twitter. Maybe the NBN snuck in when no one was looking.
The local rumour mill (otherwise known as Lee the Tiler and his mate Athol, the Guy Who Works With the Tiler) confirmed that some people “dug up the road to lay some internet cables”.
Don’t tease me. Really? Could it be too good to be true? I immediately turned on my computer and watched in amazement as my emails downloaded at normal speed, not in frame-by-frame slow motion. I viewed a Youtube video uninterrupted. I was so overjoyed I felt something akin to Enlightenment.
Although the speed wasn’t good enough to cope with Google Hangouts or Skype Video, this was certainly progress.
A decent internet connection is vital for anyone aspiring to live and work from anywhere. Now, with this in place at the property, my remote-working experiment had a chance for success.
Living the (remote) dream
It’s a scenario that serial entrepreneur Tony Melvin has mastered, as chairman and co-owner of Resicert, a business providing home inspections. He has eight employees, 14 franchisees, and no head office. His entire team works virtually – either from home or while they’re on the road.
You can read more here.