by Adii Pienaar, Founder of WooThemes
I’m a firm believer in being able to live & work wherever you want, especially when you’re working in an online startup of any kind. Various technologies and tools have made this possible — and profitable.
That said, I often suffer from a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) in not being able to hop onto a short 2- or 3-hour flight to attend a tech conference or hack day. (It’d take me 10x that.) And it’s not an irrational FOMO either; I just miss the stimulating and challenging conversations that you generally have with like-minded people (something which is easier to do when you are close to a tech or startup hub).
I have, however, overcome this challenge by travelling as much and as regularly as possible. I also believe that this has contributed greatly to my personal growth as founder and CEO, which in turn has helped keep WooThemes on the right path.
Having Friends In High Places
I’m also a firm believer that whilst it’s lonely at the top as a Founder and CEO, it’s absolutely crucial to surround yourself with great people (a phrase I’ve borrowed from ex-New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani). To this extent, I’ve joined my local EO chapter and traveled extensively to meet new, like-minded people.
In the process, I’ve managed to surround myself with some incredible people, who I regard as mentors and advisors. I count myself very lucky to be able to call on some amazing entrepreneurs when I need help — many of whom I now regard as personal friends.
Having access to this kind of knowledge and experience has given me and my business such immense thrust, along with extreme peace of mind because I can always count on my mentors and friends to help me figure out even the most challenging of problems.
I’ve found that the easiest way to meet new people on my travels is to attend industry-specific conferences. I normally choose high-fidelity conferences (like MicroConf or Business of Software), where I know that I’m likely to be able to network and interact with the people with whom I can have stimulating conversations.
As a bonus tip, I’ve found that speaking at conferences takes this interaction to the next level. Heck, being able to attend the Speaker’s Dinner (which most conferences have) has probably been one of the best ways I could have ever spent time growing my business. 🙂
For those that don’t necessarily have the means to travel (I understand, because WooThemes is still bootstrapped five years down the line), I’ve found Clarity to be a fantastic resource. Whilst nothing can ever replace a live, in-person conversation, Clarity does a great job to get as close as possible to that experience.
It’s About Getting Out Of Your Box
Traveling means you’re physically changing your environment and thus getting yourself out of the box or comfort zone that you have at home. This exercise changes your perception of everything about your startup already, since you are physically seeing it from another angle.
Whilst I’ve found that travelling is most definitely the easiest way for me to gain that insight (via a changed perception), the benefit is not only limited to travelling. Before I had the means to travel, I spent a lot of time connecting with people who I admired, and I still have contact with them today.
So whilst it is possible for you to live and work wherever, you’ll need to get out of that comfort zone every now and again, because that’s the only sustainable way to go from good to great.
And there’s no reason why you couldn’t do a quick, Caribbean pit stop when traveling to or from a conference. As entrepreneurs and founders, we too deserve a break… 🙂
Adii Pienaar is an entrepreneur, husband and very new father, based in South Africa; the combination of these roles results in an epic & challenging journey. Unlike the bios of most “serial” entrepreneurs, Adii is (at the time of this going to press) a one-hit wonder with his role as co-founder & CEO of WooThemes. That status isn’t for a lack of trying either; it’s just that the other attempts lost more money than they made…