The question I am asked the most is how do I still run a business on the road. Good question! I run one business with two separate elements. Confusing you say? Yep!
Before we made the decision to pack up and explore the great USA, I had to do many things in order to make this work for my business Ottsie. I spent three months planning, organizing and executing my plan. With about 2,000 changes in between!
When we started looking for JUST the right rig, we already knew we wanted/needed a toy hauler – the RV with a garage. For our motorcycles and my office. It is perfect!
I work every single day. Seven days a week. I chose the times that I work based on need. This can be done, but if you are not organized, you will fail. So, get organized!
CERTIFIED VENDOR – STATE OF ILLINOIS:
Since I am an Illinois certified vendor, I needed to continue to have an Illinois business address. I worked with a great and trusted friend of mine to set-up a corporate office to make that happen. This amazing friend takes care of all of Ottsie’s mail, banking, and fields questions. We text or talk daily to keep updated on work-related issues. I pay rent and other charges including State of Illinois tax. I gave her a prepaid credit card to use and keep cash available in it for her services. We did sign an Agreement for two reasons: 1. I insist on signed agreements! 2. We both know what we are responsible for and this will keep us great friends. Never, ever take advantage of a good friend. They won’t be a good friend for long. I trust her.
All the bid documents for the State are located online or via email. Nothing is ever mailed to me. I would still get it, but this is much easier especially when I turn their request to my vendors for pricing. I, in turn, complete the contractual data and re-submit to them via email.
I had to change all my business information with the State Procurement sites, banks, post office for mailing purposes, insurance – both business, truck and work trailer, and on and on. This took THE longest to get done. The State of Illinois is still without a budget, so I am very careful as to what I am bidding at this time. Getting paid is just one thing I really, REALLY like!
I have vendors all over the country so working with them has been the same. Getting the right vendors is really what takes the most amount of time!
I have an awesome CPA who handles my taxes and other accounting issues. I use online QuickBooks for purchase orders, invoices, bank deposits, etc. By using the online version, my accountant can get in to my records and get the information he needs. Worth every penny. All my purchase orders to my vendors are done in-house through QuickBooks. All my invoices to my customers are also done through QuickBooks. Save a tree, for the Love of God!
Ottsie continues to do banking in my hometown. I chose to keep Ottsie’s accounts where I know the people and they know me. Even though they are not linked to QuickBooks (why I just don’t know!), having people who know me and understand my needs was key.
FEDERALLY CERTIFIED WOSB:
I am also a Federally Certified Woman-Owned Small Business so I also had to update all my Federal accounts including SAM (System for Award Management), SBA (Small Business Administration), third-party certifying agent – U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, FEMA accounts and all the other agency vendor accounts that I have. Totaling around 52. That took time!
The Federal payment is much easier than the State of Illinois. They pay via direct deposit within fifteen (15) days. Isn’t that THE way business should be done?!
I have been working with nonprofit organizations for almost 30 years (gulp). I did not want to completely quell my options of continuing to work with them. I have a trusted friend/colleague that has taken on a larger role of in-person training. She accompanied me to several of my trainings to see what I do. She has been a qualified nonprofit management professional for over 15 years so I did not have to teach her very much! I trust her.
What I still do is to assist new nonprofit organizations with all the paperwork to become legal, produce their Bylaws, legal policies (for which I own Federal copyrights on), organizational and financial policy manuals. I will continue to train nonprofits throughout the country, but do so via the internet modems. Works great.
I am also a change-agent for nonprofits. When they are broke, I fix them. I enjoy the opportunity to keep them up-to-date and turn them around if needed. I am not always the most popular person in the room, but I do what is necessary for them to function.
Ottsie is a full-functioning business so figuring out what equipment to bring along was difficult. I had three computers running, copy machine, three calculators, two phones, four file cabinets, etc. This took a lot of time to figure out!
Weight and storage drove my decisions. I purchased a back-up drive for my files so they are still very handy, but not in four file cabinets! I upgraded my computer system to a full-size Mac escaping the PC’s for a computer with better security. Security is a biggie issue when dealing with Federal portals.
The only issue was I HAD NEVER WORKED ON A MAC BEFORE! I challenged myself to learn it and not take a PC with me on the road. After a few months of cursing, I have figured out most of it! I still cannot convert a PDF to a JPEG. Oh, well. I’m working on it!
I purchased a rolling, hanging file system that is lighter and open. I store completed files in plastic tubs that are marked so I don’t lose my mind digging for a specific file!
I took one calculator and enough desk knick knacks to keep me lucid…tape dispenser, paper clips, stamps, pens/pencils, file folders, envelopes, etc.
Purchased a smaller, but more efficient desktop copy machine that has a scanner. After a lot of research, I opted for an EPSON that has liquid ink instead of continually refilling separate colors. Cost more at the beginning, but is a less inexpensive way to go. Wi-Fi compatible and hard line to my computer if I need to. Love this thing.
I am down to only one phone (thank God) and upgraded it in December 2016 to make sure I had the best on the market. Cellphones are just crazy expensive!
As you see, my inventory for Ottsie does not have anything to do with my business other than having a strong Wi-Fi or personal hotspot on my phone when the Wi-Fi fails. We certainly could not have taken Ott Electric on the road!
TRUCK AND RV/WORK TRAILER:
Ottsie is the owner of our Ford F350 Super Duty and the Cyclone RV/Work Trailer. I have insurance on both but also keep business insurance active. Sometimes business people forget about insuring their own work! Being Federally Certified, I have to prove insurance on everything each year during re-certification. I stayed with my hometown insurance agent who is highly qualified in business. He saves me a lot of worrying!
I am fortunate that I have always been disciplined as a home-based business. Don’t fool yourself: if you are not disciplined at home working, there is NO way you will be disciplined while traveling. Nope. I rise early every morning and begin my work. That does not mean that we don’t have fun every, single day. We do! We work around my deadlines or online trainings. I keep a tight calendar and stick to it no matter what. You can truly have the best of both worlds IF you plan and stay disciplined. After all, Mr. Ott retired. Mrs. Ott is still working! I do admit we have “hookie” days, but I always make up for it. I think everyone should have those days! Keeps you sane.
It is possible to run a business from the road. It takes planning, organizing and discipline. But, moreover, it takes people who you trust to make it work. Without the human element, you are setting yourself up to fail. Find your “people” and get organized. No…you cannot have mine!
See you on the road! I have to get back to work!