I was tempted to start this off with a heading, “A Love letter from our CEO,” because that is really what this is. In order to share with you what Onpreneur is really about, I need to provide some background information as well as share what I’m passionate about.
I hope you’ll discover in the process that Onpreneur is not just a business and a way for you to get things done within your own business, but it’s about something much bigger than that.
I think back to the year 1998. At the time, I was working out of offices in downtown Montreal. I was living a short walk away. My business at that point was entirely online.
My husband at the time and I had wanted to move from a condo to a detached house. We ended up buying a house an hour out of the city. It was a quality of life issue. We had a huge house for a fraction of the price and the cost of living overall was much less than living downtown in a major city.
Although he continued to commute into the city with his business, I quickly gave up my office to work from home. With my business being online, there was zero reason for me to work out of a physical office.
There were some huge benefits. I was able to lower expenses and get more tax deductions. I had always loved travel and as long as I had a reliable Internet connection, I could still get work done anywhere in the world. Then the man who raised me became ill, needing more care. Rather than have him go into a home, he was able to move in with us.
I started building my first remote team with everyone working from home. Most of those in the first team were local to me. Most of us got together every Friday for an informal lunch meeting.
Building my first remote team was probably easier for me than for many people. A few years prior, I read Michael Gerber’s book “The E-Myth.” That book helped me see clearly the importance of creating systems and procedures. My first team handbook was about 80 pages long.
Most team members loved working remotely. There was definite flexibility over regular office work, especially for those who had families. They were able to save a lot of money by avoiding many expenses. They were also able to deduct expenses from taxes relating to working from home in many cases.
There were certainly bumps on the business side. For one, I’d have to book a hotel room and get the bed removed to have somewhere every time we did a round of hiring interviews (which was almost weekly at one point!). My bank suddenly didn’t like that I didn’t have a physical office. I had merchant account issues since Canadian financial institutions weren’t getting the Internet.
But the biggest challenge was on the people side. Hiring was tough because many people didn’t understand remote work to even apply. Friends and family – that was a whole other ballgame! It was hard for them to understand that I was building a real business all from the comfort of my home office (or wherever in the world I may have been).
I really had no idea that what I was doing was so novel at the time. It just felt right.
I wasn’t alone.
Around the world, online businesses with remote teams started cropping up. This was especially true with startups who are forced to be as lean as possible.
While this was happening, the regular workplace was starting to see shifts. It was no longer enough to go to college to get a degree and find a great lifelong job.
A second trend started happening: the rise of the gig economy. More and more people started shifting to contractor type work and freelancing.
For workers, the benefits were many. They often were able to work remotely. They often were able to get higher compensation. There was often more flexibility with working hours. There was freedom to take extended periods of time off.
As the Internet continued to grow and shrink the apparent size of the globe, the rise of the digital nomad started to happen too. These are people who essentially live by the idea that work can be done from anywhere so why not explore the world? I would consider this a subset of the gig economy but for one thing: many digital nomads also include entrepreneurs.
The bad things for workers were also many. There was a lack of income security. Benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation leave and others were non-existent.
For businesses, the gig economy was a boon. They were able to have an on-demand workforce allowing them to minimize overhead. They saved money on not having to pay for benefits.
Meanwhile, we saw the middle class in the Western world start to erode. The former dream of – get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and take 2 weeks vacation somewhere every year – started to vaporize for millions of people.
While all this was developing, I was continuing to build my own businesses utilizing remote teams. More and more people wanted the benefits of remote work without really understanding what remote work was. I was able to pick up so many awesome team members who had been part of the gig economy but who had wanted that stability.
At the end of February, 2020, I went to Mexico with Leigh Venice (one of our team). I was telling people I met how I envisioned the pandemic rolling out. I made three big claims: 1) That we’d see the biggest transfer of wealth in recent history; 2) That COVID-19 would be blamed for disappearing jobs that were going to happen in any event; and 3) That companies would suddenly discover remote work for their employees was possible when it became a matter of survival.
We’re now at this super interesting point in time where not only is remote work a possibility, but surveys of workers are showing that remote work is a preference.
Prior to the pandemic, we put in a lot of work within our company around the idea of what we could do to help people navigate and thrive through the current economic shifts.
To be clear: all of these shifts were already happening. The pandemic has just accelerated it.
I’m sure you’ve heard reference to the concept of us living in a “new normal,” and perhaps have even used that term yourself.
While many eschew the idea of a “new normal,” others, myself included, espouse the idea.
Again, it’s not so much that the pandemic is the reason for the shifts, but that it allowed what was already happening to be accelerated.
Added to everything else is the fact that we’re living in a time where access to anything and everything is staggering. Whether it means having proximity like never before to the famous and infamous or being able to learn from some of the brightest minds from the convenience of our homes – it’s all possible now.
So while the career landscape and prospects will continue to evolve at a spectacular rate, so will the possibilities for remote entrepreneurism.
But it’s not without its own set of challenges. On top of mastering the core area of business – what you offer to the marketplace – there’s also needing to know so much else. It can be complicated and overwhelming.
About midway through 2020, it became clear to us that we needed to direct our focus on supporting prospective and current entrepreneurs through the stages of starting, building and, in some cases, exiting a remote business. We set up Remote Entrepreneur Incorporated to do just that. When we surveyed remote entrepreneurs about the struggles they had in their businesses, the top 3 responses were a) Dealing with revenue rollercoaster b) Working too many hours and c) Not being able to scale. Some people claimed all 3 were significant issues for them. We felt that, rather than starting with training or other methods of support, removing the bottleneck of getting allll the things done within the business needed to be prioritized.
We were already masters, or as much as anyone can be, at building our own remote teams, so we could help fill this gap for other entrepreneurs.
There are a ton of sites out there to help with recruiting – whether you’re looking for employees or gig workers. But I honestly feel that for most solo entrepreneurs, using them adds an extra layer of stress and complexity that just detracts from building their business.
You see, in order to use those sites efficiently, you need to know specifically what work you need done, what experience and qualifications to look for, what site or sites are best to use, how much is fair compensation, and how to pre-screen candidates. Then once you’ve hired someone, there’s how to deal with payment, managing the person, making sure that work is being done properly and countless other tasks.
Plus, there’s the issue that entrepreneurs often only need a specialist to handle small jobs or pieces of work. Having to recruit a handful of people a month just to get basic things done within a business really isn’t possible for most solo entrepreneurs.
I also had a big ethical issue. I see in entrepreneurial communities discussions about capitalizing on workers all the time. Although I’m (obviously) a huge proponent of remote work, I’m also not a fan of many of the aspects of the gig economy. I believe that workers who contribute to the success of a business, should have greater security than they do in today’s economy. I believe that people are healthier, happier and more productive when they are able to take paid time off and have benefits. So while I have no issues with using freelancers in some areas, I don’t want to contribute to a flawed system.
One day, Steve Jones, our COO, came to me with the idea of Onpreneur. I was initially resistant. I mean – how the heck could we do this and do it in a sustainable way?
But it checked the boxes of what I/we wanted to do.
With Onpreneur, our customers can get unlimited design, development, audio/video editing and administrative support for one monthly fee. It doesn’t matter if a customer needs only one service in one month or 20 services the next month. The fee is the same.
It relieves the burden for entrepreneurs on the recruiting and managing side while making expenses predictable. Plus, we offer reasonable turnaround times so no customers have to chase down work.
From our team’s point of view, we also do the best we can to provide stability. This means everyone is on a set number of weekly hours. Most of our team is full-time. Whether or not there is work for them to do, they get paid. They work remotely. We offer paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid COVID leave. For those who have been with us over a year, we offer additional leave like bereavement, family & medical leave, maternity leave and more. We provide paid training time so people can continue to improve their skills. Most of our team has paid medical coverage and our aim is for all team members to have coverage by January, 2022.
We also believe in giving back to the community. For us, this has meant providing loans to entrepreneurs in areas that we have team members. We’ve also dedicated team resources to various non-profit initiatives. We’ll be working on our own non-profit initiative in 2022.
If you are an Onpreneur customer, you can feel good about where your money goes.
We’re going to continue to build on our starting base with Onpreneur. Onpreneur customers are already seeing perks rolled out. For example, after one month as a customer, you’ll receive access to blueprints to help simplify performing routine tasks within your business. After two months as a customer, you’ll receive access to our playbooks which are designed to help guide you through mindset and strategy.
We’ll continue to improve upon our customer portal to make it even easier to create and manage tasks.
In fall of 2021, we’ll be rolling out RemoteEntrepreneur.com which will provide both structured and unstructured resources to help you better start, build and exit a remote business.
We’ve got so much more planned!
I hope you’ll join us at Onpreneur.