One year ago, the BentoSMB team gathered up the last few boxes from our brick and mortar office space in Kingston, Ontario, and set out as a digital team.
After a few months in a new office space, sinking money into rent, we found it had little impact on our ability to collaborate as a team and provide services to our increasingly global client base. Most days during the week our staff preferred to work from home, and so did we. So, we packed up our office and our team members set off a full-time digital staff.
Since we left our office space, our clients have continued to come to us from all over the world and we now provide Shopify based solutions for clients in almost every time zone on the planet.
Being a digital team, we get asked a lot of questions by people wondering how it all works. Here are the questions we have been asked the most, and our answers.
Over the past 12 months, our team of 5 has worked in a variety of locations, both in Canada and abroad. The core of our team is based full time in the surrounding Kingston area, and Ottawa. When we are in Canada, we work from home office and coworking spaces in these cities.
3 of our team members are permanently based in the Kingston area, and travel as they like throughout the year. Our other 2 team members are full-time travellers who move from place to place, working from wherever they happen to be. Sometimes that means they are in Canada too.
When we are all in Canada at the same time, we usually get together for a team building day, have lunch, and get some face time together. It's a great way for us all to connect after time apart from each other.
When it comes to international locations, we travel where we like and work from those locations just like we would at home. Members of our team have worked remotely from Portugal, Costa Rica, Panama, The United States, Switzerland, Italy, England, Scotland, Thailand, China, El Salvador, and The Cayman Islands, with more locations to come in the next 12 months.
Whether we have beach access, find ourselves in secluded mountains, are sitting in a co-working space in a bustling city, we still spend our weekdays working and keep pretty regular hours wherever we are.
No matter the location, our day-to-day schedule remains pretty much the same.
Just like at a "normal job" we have weekends, and we use them to sightsee and spend time with friends and family. Monday to Friday remains pretty much the same; we work at our laptops, get projects done, collaborate as a team, and meet with clients.
No, if anything they help.
We often find ourselves working overtime on evenings and weekends to get things completed, no matter where we are.
Because the majority of our clients are outside of Canda and not in EST, being in a different time zone really doesn't have any major impact on our schedule. We take calls when they need to happen and are happy to jump on in "off" hours to have those essential conversations.
Funnily enough, being in a different time zone from EST is actually an advantage for us as we frequently communicate with our clients in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Since our team is located in different countries at the same time, and often in VERY different time zones, our internal team communication has to be spot on for projects to flow.
We schedule meetings with each other, document processes, and have very open communication to keep things flowing effortlessly.
Apps like Slack are used for daily communication, questions, and checking in. We use channels within Slack so we can all contribute and chime in. If one person doesn't have an answer, another person might. Slack replaces almost all of our internal communication, that would normally go through email. This saves us lots of time and spin.
If you have a team to manage and are looking for a great solution, we highly recommend giving Slack a try!
The simple answer? No!
Don't get us wrong, working digitally definitely has its perks, including amazing flexibility, work-life balance, and the opportunity to work from remote locations and see the world, but there are also challenges.
Just like at a typical 9-5, Mon-Fri job, we have meetings, deadlines, and too many tasks to complete each day. We get stressed, have to manage issues, and navigate challenges. We are also available to our clients who are not "interrupting our vacation" when they need us since we aren't on vacation.
Being a digital worker is NOT the same as being on vacation. We do explore and have adventures, but often save our roaming for the weekends, just like you likely do at your job.
Trust us, most working days are pretty boring and involve the standard work hours, tasks, meetings, and stressors you might encounter in your work at an office.
We obviously can't predict the future, wouldn't that be cool, but for the foreseeable future, Bento will be a digital business.
This business and life model works for us, our team, and our clients.
Our team communication is strong, our work-life balance is optimal, our client base continues to grow and diversify, and we are keeping our overhead low. It's a winning model for our business and our clients any way we have looked at it.
We have an amazing group of fellow small business owners, clients, business mentors, community members, and friends in Kingston, Ottawa, and Toronto who have been so supportive of our shift.
You know who you are!
Thank you for tagging along on this journey with us and providing amazing support. Whether through phone chats, video calls, or a cup of coffee when we are in town, we are grateful to have support from those who've been with us from day 1, in the province where we got our start.
Have More Questions?
Have more questions about how our team runs or thinking of taking your own business digital? Get in touch with us here.
Earlier this year Shopify launched the Shopify App Challenge. The brief, create an app that helps solve a challenge amplified by COVID-19, but that would also have staying power beyond the pandemic crisis. We knew, without a doubt, that we wanted to be a part of this challenge. So, our small team set to work building our second public Shopify application, Recipes.