Monday, July 18, 2011

Blog the first 7-18-11 Wherein I discuss working vacations


Since this is my first blog, I will offer this disclaimer: I do not expect anyone to even read this, much less attempt to follow my example.  If you choose to do so, it is at your own risk.  One of the reasons I have waited so long to do this is that I am uncomfortable giving advice even when explicitly asked.  My path is my own and what works for me may be a disaster for others.

Whew.  Now that that’s out of the way and I cannot reasonably be accused of grandiosity or didacticism, I can admit to those of you who are still reading that of course I think you should do exactly as I say and do in all your affairs, as well as with your spouse or s.o.

So I’ll start with my response to a recent article about those aforementioned significant others getting irritated by their other checking work emails during personal time.  I said I thought it was a hell of a thing!  That they should 1) be grateful their spouse or whatever is employed and 2) that they are conscientious enough to keep on top of their business.  On a more personal note, I would like to add that since my wife and I have worked together for the past 18 years in our own business that every email she answers is one I don’t have to!  Where’s the downside?

But even if you aren’t lucky enough to be partners in business as well as life, you should at least acknowledge that the success of one partner is inextricably tied to the other.  And if it ever doesn’t work out due to your endless nagging about their good work ethic, you still get to walk away with half.  I hope your conscience hurts you later.

Yes the long promised global village has come to pass and with it the round the clock work schedule.  24/7 ain’t just a platitude anymore baby.  9 to 5 is totally 20th now.  So let go of the past and embrace the possibilities of the future.

Are you going to be tethered to your electronic devices forever more?  Yes, you are so get the hell over it.  Stop moaning about Crackberry addiction and learn to love your android overlords.  It’ll take you a couple of vodka and electronics to get you on your feet again, but you can do it. 

First, stop sounding like somebody’s grandpa in 1947 who doesn’t like that “idiot box” and is choosing instead to stay with radio.  That was a bad bet then, just like preferring a Selectric typewriter to a word processor was a bad move 4 decades after that.  If you don’t remember or never knew what a Selectric was, you have permission to move on.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you prefer the way things “used to be.”  But just so we’re clear, liquid paper was a gross, gloppy, damned inefficient way of correcting your mistakes and nobody was fooled.  And if you couldn’t spell it wasn’t easy to hide.  So stop bitching about Auto Correct’s occasionally hilarious offerings and be thankful people don’t know how little attention you paid in your English classes.  And if you really can’t take the <1% error rate of the world’s most comprehensive open source 100% free online mapping system, turn off Google and go back to the Thomas Guide.

And no, you shouldn’t ever go on a vacation without Internet access.  Sorry Charlie but it doesn’t matter how good of a hold you think you have on your clients, clients want vendors they can get a hold of.  Freedom’s just another word for 10% unemployment.

But seriously, with every sacrifice comes a new way to game the system.  Remember coming into the office to a stack of phone messages all marked urgent and most with time deadlines to return those calls.  And how you’d get caught off guard by bosses and clients with out of left field requests or complaints?  If you were like me, you could feel your temperature rising and your responses getting shorter and snappier.

Why?  Because we want to please others and now we have the time to prepare before responding to an email or even a text.  We have access to our files and calendar no matter where we are and, even if we are facing a tough response, we at least have a moment to breathe and find some perspective before we have to answer any question or request.  I’ll take that over being able to “get away from it all” any day.

OK, so here is the Hollywood Tony Takeaway List (to be featured in every blog so people don’t think this is just some kind of rambling, fatuous stream of consciousness):

1.               Time mapping.  If you’re like me, you now have clients on multiple continents, so it’s not just calling back the East coast first and working your way west.  In LA, Japan’s work day is from late afternoon to late evening (the next day), Europe is from very early morning until late morning.  On vacation, it is further complicated by the time zone change.  For the last two weeks we were on various Hawaiian islands so we had to adjust everything back 3 hours from our usual routine.  That was just enough to move Europe from the first morning priority to the last thing before bed, and flipped Asia to midday and made the East coast our first AM priority.  So other than going to breakfast, our Hawaiian activities were focused on afternoon and evening, back to the “office” at night.  An interruption of our vacation?  Not at all.  A guarantor of future vacations and the ability to relax and enjoy knowing all was well and truly handled before we went on our next adventure.
2.               Cloud computing.  I’m not talking about one of these new music sharing services, although music is always nice to keep you feeling good about working on vacation.  We like Drop Box but are considering Google Docs as a back up.  The ability to share the  document creation process with other team members is a godsend when you are trying to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.  At the very least another set of eyes is good advice between mai tais. 
3.               Redundancy.  Don’t count on one system, device, program or Internet service when you are not in familiar territory and even when you are.  We have both FIOS and cable modem at the office, I use gmail in addition to my .coms for email, as well as Facebook messaging, emails and MMS for personal communication, I carry an iPhone and iPad for 3G or wi-fi access wherever I am, as well as a netbook for wi-fi, use Go To My PC as well as cloud computing, everybody checks each other's .com email wherever we are so as to avoid using those annoying "out of office" auto replies; in addition, I actually pay a real life staff to pick up my phone at the office to avoid the annoying auto-attendant as much as possible.  I expect everyone to help one another avoid missing any calls or even make a client wait more than is absolutely necessary.  When I say 24/7 service, I mean it and expect everyone on my team to help make that happen, as well as being sure there is mobile communication available at all times.
4.               Delegation.  While I keep in the loop on all current and potential projects from bidding to billing, I trust my team to be able to step in at virtually any point in the process other than presenting results.  That's my show.  Otherwise, I have to be able to move around the country and the world without holding anyone up unnecessarily. 
5.               Contingency plans.  Stuff happens.  Plan on it.  A worst case scenario for me is being able to stay at the beach a little longer or have a second glass of wine at lunch with a friend or colleague because everything is handled.  My mom used to say always expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed.  And I never am.  Another glass of Veuve please.
6.               Coffee.  Need I say more?


  1. Loved it, you ramble on as much as I do IRL, LOL Welcome to blogging my friend. =)

  2. My comment got lost. Do you see it?

  3. Always love connecting with new bloggers - looking forward for more to come :D

  4. Fun Picture! Best Wishes on blogging!

  5. My thoughts on vacation and wireless devices, if your business needs you to stay in touch, plenty of places you can go to with internet. That said, wireless time should be limited. Special time not interrupted. Example, proposing to the love of your life and your phone goes off, or hers. Deep into conversation with your teenager about important life issues, for once they are wanting to listen. Again not a time to be interrupted. I'd set time aside to check messages etc if necessary. Even doctors aren't on call 24/7 every day.
    I do like how you plan ahead so things are taken care of by your team, providing you more freedom. And yes, each of us finds our own path. :)