Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Travel - Tim Norton, 90 Seconds

This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about travel.
Tim Norton, founder and CEO of 90 Seconds.
Tim Norton, founder and CEO of 90 Seconds.

Tim Norton is the founder and CEO of video production marketplace 90 Seconds.

What kind of travel are you doing in your role?

I'm four-and-a-half years into having no single fixed home as we've been building this business.

At the moment I've got offices in five countries and seven cities, so as a baseline I've got to get around those offices. Three of those countries have started in the last two years from nothing, so I've scoped the market, hired the first people, got the first customers on board, and started building local investment relationships.

Then for the last four months I've been completing a significant capital raise. I've probably gone around 40 investment firms in four countries doing an investor roadshow. And when you start to focus on the investment relationships that are going somewhere, you sometimes have to travel at the drop of a hat because these deals can be so time sensitive.

What challenges does that level of travel present as a business owner?

You can't be everywhere at once, so if I'm focusing on one or two countries because they're new locations for us, the reality is people in our other locations aren't physically getting my time. Our business is all driven through the cloud and the senior management team, which is great, but ultimately it's very different when people connect with you in person because they can start to understand you and your intensity.

There's also the challenge of losing a sense of home, but I've worked pretty hard in the last 18 months to deal with that.

What things have you done to mitigate that challenge?

I have a room in three locations - Singapore, Sydney and Auckland - and the company rents apartments in two of these. It means I can put my herbs, vitamins and clothes there. And if I'm in a place where I don't have a base, then I'm with Airbnb. I think Airbnb is a far superior platform for business travel, because when you can sit down at a kitchen table in the evening it feels more like home, and that's when you can be fully productive.

I also have a bike in three locations, and if I'm somewhere else I'll rent one and cycle everywhere for work. It's incredible because you get to know a city, get your exercise and you instantly feel connected to where you are.

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I do quite a lot of acro yoga, which helps with health and fitness but you also meet lots of new friends; regardless of how busy I am, I'll go to an acro yoga session within 48 hours of being in a new place. I use an app these days called KFit, which gives you access to a whole lot of gyms and outdoor activities that you want to do. It means not only are you not delaying trying a new activity because you're travelling, you've made it a part of your business trip.

What are some other business tools you've found essential for being productive while travelling?

You need to have everything running in the cloud. And that's not just email and documents; you want tools that are designed for live collaboration with your team. I use Slack as our primary communication tool, so we're literally working online together all the time. Also critical is having some project management software running over the whole company so you can still be driving projects home.

I always have the biggest mobile phone you can buy - I currently have the iPhone 6 Plus - because it's not just your mobile phone, it's a computer and you use it extensively. I also have a big bag with 11 sim cards so when I arrive in a country I'll pop in a local sim card, so I'm not constantly breaking my data limits on roaming.

The last thing I'd add is hitting the local coworking spaces. There are hundreds of these spaces around the world now, and they can be a home for you to work from. You make instant connections, will probably pretty easily meet some customers, and you get a real sense of what's going on in a location.

- NZ Herald

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