Glenn McNae is director of Events Direct, an Auckland-based event management company.
Can you tell me about how you use teleworking in your business and why?
We have a combination of core staff, contractors and third-party suppliers who work on each event, and that varies depending on the size and scale of each event or exhibition. We can go from three people needing to be in contact to 30 in a matter of hours, and being in contact is key to a successful experience for both our clients and their guests.
We need to be in contact with our clients and crew during a production and still be working on the next event from wherever we are - whether it's LA, Auckland or Mystery Creek. Our clients rely on us being able to send designs, budgets and presentations for their event, even if we are sitting in a paddock surrounded by cows. Today's technology and telecommunications companies let us work from anywhere as though I was sitting at my desk.
What are some of the different technologies you use?
I have a bag of tricks that is my office. In the bag is a full-sized HP Elitebook, which is designed for heavy graphics software, and a 3D mouse that I use to design events at my desk or in real time with the client in their office. Then I have a Microsoft Surface with Office 365, which is great for working on the go and allows me to work from Excel and Outlook without having to set up my larger notebook; nothing is worse than trying to juggle a large laptop at the airport, so the Surface is ideal.
I have a smartphone, which I use to scan emails, stream music and check my mobile data usage. My mobile is running Vodafone 4G and can be tethered to my notebook and Surface so that everything is online when I need it. I find that the mobile 4G network is fast and great for sending and downloading larger files. We can install an exhibition stand or event while taking photos of the progress, then forward those to the client, allowing them to tweak the stand and make changes from their desk.
The last piece of my technology puzzle is OneDrive cloud storage, where I can store, back up and move files from my devices. My devices are losing storage capacity for other functions and smaller size hardware, so I need somewhere to put everything that I may or may not need.
What are some of the challenges you've come across while teleworking?
While in the US I couldn't work out why my data usage was going through the roof. I was watching what I sent and how big the files were to ensure things didn't get out of hand with my data usage. But my phone was backing up every photo taken to my cloud storage - it was a rookie mistake and I needed to take the time to find out what my gear was going behind my back.
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One of the other biggest challenges is being available 24/7 and when to switch everything off. Now that my office travels with me it's very easy to just keep working, check emails before going to bed or sit up to see what the email was that came in at 2am. I have had to train myself to walk away from being connected.
What are your top tips for other small business owners in terms of making teleworking work?
1. When possible do the research on what technology your company needs for yourself. The salesperson doesn't know your business and how you prefer to work.
2. Spend as much as possible on your technology - it will future-proof your gear for a little longer.
3. Always have plenty of mobile data available, otherwise you run out when you need it most.
4. Most of all, embrace new technologies. You don't know you need it, but can't thrive without it.
Coming up in Small Business: With Easter is on its way, I'll be looking at small business chocolatiers. If you're keen to get in touch, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.