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Transitioning out of Corporate Life?

  • Broadcast in Technology
Jim Blue

Jim Blue


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Today's guest is Alan Flyer, who has successfully transitioned out of corporate life and established several new businesses.  Join Alan and Jim Blue in a discussion on how Alan selected the right equipment for his home office and is using technology to market his new ventures.


0:12 Introduction

Welcome to the Keeping Technology Simple radio program. Jim Blue, your host, is a corporate executive and takes the mystery out of tech. And now present in bluetutor.com, Jim Blue.

0:37 Jim Blue

And this is Jim Blue and this is the program that keeps technology simple. My goal is to take the fear out of technology. The call-in number today is 347-202-0004 and you can feel free to email me at jblue@bluetutor.com. We have a very special guest scheduled for today, he is on the line, he is waiting, he is Alan Flyer, who has successfully transitioned out of corporate life and has become a successful entrepreneur and we're gonna talk about how he actually accomplished that with the use of technology. Last week, we spoke about what you really needed to do in terms of setting up a home office and how it could help you in marketing your business, and Alan has done that. Alan who is a former corporate executive, he was a chief financial officer, he has got a master's degree in Business, very successful in the business world and made a decision that he wanted to really get out of corporate life and start his own business and he has in the past year done it a couple of times. Alan, welcome to the program. I'm glad you are able to join us. And my first question to you is what did you first go through in your mind when you made this decision? I mean how did this process really evolved?

2:00 Alan Flyer

Well, you know when you -- and thanks Jim for having me, I appreciate being here. You know, when you moved out of a corporate environment and you set up a home office to start, it cold be a little daunting because you don't have a support staff, you don't have the same sort of resources that you do when you work in a business, a big business, and you kinda have to do it yourself unless you want to bring someone on to help you, but generally, most people have to do it themselves and there is a couple of things, as you probably mentioned last week in your show, it's more of getting things going and setting it up and you just have to kind of focus and just start one step at a time.

2:38 Jim Blue

Now, I know you have a technology background. We've known each other for a while and I believe -- because we did talk last year on another radio show that I had about the fact that you've already had the basics of a home office set up prior to even leaving corporate life because as we both know that a lot of people, especially when in a senior management position, they don't close the door at 5 o'clock. They got home and they continue to do things at home, so it wasn't a matter of starting from scratch. I believe you already had some things going on at home.

3:12 Alan Flyer

Certainly. I mean one of the first things you have to do is have a computer of your own because in a corporate environment, you may not have a computer that's really yours. You have to make sure that you have a computer and the one thing we've talked about last time was that you want to make sure it's a dedicated computer. You don't wanna share with your spouse or your kids because the last thing you need on your work computer is the kids games and CDs and bookmarks and a lot sort of things. So, you wanna make sure you go out, if you don't already have a computer that's your own that you go out and get something. They are inexpensive. There a lot of different things you can do, whether it is a desktop or a laptop, depending upon what your situation is. But you just don't want to have your own computer. You want to have that set up with the proper programs. It's a good start.

3:58 Jim Blue

Now, when you made this decision to leave, obviously, having a home office which becomes a second office for you because you have everything pretty much setting in your office, what were the differences? What did you really have to do to make this transition at home in your home office from being a satellite situation as opposed to the main operating place that you're gonna be working with? What were the differences in terms of what did you have to do to really make this conversion over to be your primary location?

4:30 Alan Flyer

Well, I really have to kinda get serious with the space. I kinda used up a little bit of my wife's home office space for a dedicated space of my own. Typically, I was -- prior to that, I was working _4:42_ on a laptop or I had a computer that I had hooked up to the family room monitor that I was able to use enough hours, but once I was really there and it wasn't my second office, it was my first office, I had to carve out a space, a desk, a computer that was really my own which was a little different than what I had before and that's the first thing, is really have to carve out your space. You can't just say, well, I have a laptop so I'll seat on the couch and work here or I'll seat in the kitchen and work here. You kinda have to have a real desk. You can get away with it as a second office, but as your primary office, you really have to have your own space.

5:18 Jim Blue

Now, my recollection is you're working out of a house so you probably have significantly more room to work with than someone like myself who lives in an apartment. You set up in basic, in an isolated place where you can just close the door and I'm with my office type of situation or are you in a shared environment were people are working through.

5:42 Alan Flyer

I'm in a shared environment but that's just the way my home is set up. We actually have a large room that years ago my wife turns into her home office if she worked at home and it's not a close off room, but its to the side of house, but it's the area where you can work but you can also kind of keep an eye on things and know what's going on in the rest of the house. So, ideally, she wanted to have a room that you can close off that can be your own, but sometimes you don't have that, whether it's because you live in an apartment or because you have a house and you just don't have the right set up for that, but you can make it work. I mean it doesn't have to be strictly a closed door type of thing. We happen to have a descent set up where there is no close door but it's a big room, but it works well and it actually allows me to work in the same room as my wife, which most of the time works out fine, I mean, yes, occasionally we have to take turns if we have a phone call to make and it's important that we need quiet, but we worked that out and that works out well for us. I can't say that everyone can do that, but you do need to make sure that you have some ground rules so that you can get your privacy when you need it, but the interesting thing is originally, when I kind of to build a part of my life's work space, she wasn't happy about it, thought it's gonna be a problem, but she really got used to it pretty quickly, and then when I'm not there, she kind of wishes I was across the room, so it's worked out quite well.

7:00 Jim Blue

Well, that's pretty interesting because most of us, even in the corporate world, I know when I first started before, I was able to get the luxury of my own office. We were in cubicles, we were sharing offices. So, in that respect, it's not new to us to be able to share an area with somebody pretty much at home. Let's talk, Alan, about the type of equipment. This is a question that I get all the time. I've left corporate life, I have a computer at home, I know I need to now change in terms of what I'm gonna need from a business standpoint, but I try to encourage people to be as economical as they can because most of them have a limited budget to work with and I keep telling them that it's not necessary to get the fastest processor. A lot of it have to do with how -- what type of business they are in. Obviously, people that are lawyers accountants, that are writers at gonna be using more text material than people that the designers that need obviously much more powerful equipment. So, I know you've got a tech background. Maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about what they should be looking for in terms of the type of computer they really need to get going.

8:15 Alan Flyer

Well, one of the great things about to being out on your own is that you don't have to worry about a certain corporate standard. A lot of people when they are in a corporation, they have to worry about certain provider or a software that they need to install and therefore they are limited on either platform, whether it's McIntosh or whether it's a Windows systems. You have more options. What I like to do -- what I like to recommend to people is first is to sit down and get a sense of what it is you think you're gonna need. For most people, regardless of what industry they're in, if they are working from home, it's basically going to be I need an internet access so I need my web browser, I need my office for activity tool, the word processor, the spreadsheet, maybe a PowerPoint type program, and then there might be a few other things. So, make a list of what it is you feel you've gonna need and that may help you, and then of course if you have a preference, a McIntosh or Windows or anything like that, unless the software is precluding you from doing it, get the computer that you're most comfortable with because you're gonna be spending a lot of time on it and you're gonna be the one with kind of troubleshooting problems so you want to make sure that you're most comfortable with it. So you don't have to worry about what the company says anymore. Now, you just want to use something that you're comfortable with and that will run the appropriate programs that you're gonna need going forward. So definitely, make a list and try to get a sense of what you're gonna need on the computer before you make that determination of what brand of computer to get, whether it should be a laptop or a desktop so that's another consideration, how you're gonna use the computer. So, it's really make sense to sit down and think about it first and maybe make a list before you jump out and go buy something.

9:56 Jim Blue

Well, that's very, very good advice because most people when they go out on their own haven't got a clue and I have always recommended that they sit down and make a technology plan the same way that they make a business plan. The chances are they have talked to a lawyer, they have talked to their accountant, but you really need to sit down and develop a technology plan. We're gonna asked Alan what other type of equipment he had to consider after a short message.

10:46 Jim Blue

We're back and we are with Alan Flyer and we're talking about what is necessary to get yourself set up at home once you have made the discussion to be an entrepreneur or just to start a new business. They are ways of doing it economically. You probably have a tight budget to work on, and there are other things, Alan, that we need to consider besides a computer. We know that getting printing and scanning and faxing and even having the right mobile technology because most of us don't stay in an office all the time, a very, very important things to consider. And we do know that the type of mobile technology you need when you're out in your own is significantly different than what you get in your company or even what they give you. So I know you went through this process, you did make some changes at home, etc. Talk a little bit about what you needed to do to get those up and running.

11:40 Alan Flyer

Oh, certainly. Well again, like I mentioned as opposed to making a list, you need to think about are you gonna have a fax number, for example. I know we kind of moving away from the era of fax machines, but some peoples still use them, so that's one consideration when we are thinking about buying say a printer is whether or not you need one that has the fax capability. You need to think about in whatever you are working on are you gonna have a large volume of printing or is it gonna be a lesser volume. If it's a lesser volume you can probably get away with one of the multi-function printers that are out on the market now which will do a nice job of rolling a basic fax machine, printer, and scanner all together and do a color inkjet or a black and white laser. Those are really great machines that are inexpensive and they can do a lot of things for you. If you're gonna be in a kind of business where you gonna be cranking at a lot of paper, you may wanted to decide either in addition to that or instead of that getting something that functions more as a high volume printer. So really depends upon what you're doing and again, that's why it comes back to making a lot of list and really kind of planning it at the beginning. But basically, a multi-function printer is usually a good thing to have because it ties in a fax capability you might have. And even if you don't have a dedicated fax number, you may find that you need to fax things to people and at least having that available to plug into your phone line allows you to at least make outgoing faxes even if you are not gonna have a dedicated incoming fax. So, things like that are really handy and there are inexpensive and you can get them at any of your local office supply stores.

13:15 Jim Blue

When you are looking at the aspect of your business which you really wanted to keep on top when you were out of your office and going back and forth probably between your home office and even visiting clients, etc., what did you need to do to make yourself more mobile? I have mentioned in one of my shows last year that my wife and I travelled to Barcelona to visit our daughter who was studying aboard. She continued to operate her business, I was operating my business. You can pretty much do this from anywhere. What did you have to do once you left a cocoon of a corporate situation to be able to maintain this type of business from a mobile standpoint?

14:04 Alan Flyer

Well, a couple of things. One thing is you want to look into some of the services that are out there that allow you to remotely access either computers or files. There are some really great ones out there. People have heard of say Go To My PC and that is a really great on call team viewer which I use a lot, which allows you access your home computer from wherever you are. So this way, if you are not settling on a laptop and you actually have a home computer, you have to access to the screen and the programs that you need. I actually found that there is some of these programs have download on your mobile phone like your iPhone or your android phone or your iPad where you can actually control you home computer from you phone or from your iPad which is really pretty cool and the other thing...

14:53 Jim Blue

One thing -- I've like -- I'm sorry, Alan, let me interrupt you, but I don't want to lose sight of the site that you mentioned. Can you mention to our listeners the site that you just brought up about being able to act -- road because the one thing that I'd like to say is that it's an excellent tool but you really need to make sure your computer is still on at home in your home office, wherever it is to be able to access it.

15:14 Alan Flyer

Right. The one I like to use called team viewer, T-E-A-M, viewer V-I-E-W-E-R, and that's at teamviewer.com which just happened to be the one I use. They have a free service if you are using it for personal use. If you decide you are gonna use it for commercial use, you have to pay a small fee for it, but it basically allows you to access you home computer from another computer. So if you are travelling and you have a laptop and you need to access your home computer or if you are somewhere where you can borrow someone's computer, you can very easily connect, or if you have a mobile phone, you can even work that way. So I like that program. There are others, I am not out of count particular one, that just happens to be one I like to use. The other one I mentioned was Go To My PC and that's gotomypc.com and you can read up on that as well. Also, a mobile application as far as being able to remotely control your home computer.

16:15 Jim Blue

We also might need a -- I'm sorry, Alan, go ahead. I was just gonna mention about the iPad, the fact that with the iPad out now and a lot of people are carrying them around with them, you are able to access your computer from your iPad as well with either one of these programs.

16:32 Alan Flyer

Exactly, and I don't want sound like someone who is saying that you need to have an iPad and an iPhone, all of those thing. That's not what I consider the basic needs because you were talking about that before, but as you get more familiar with your home office and you want to add some tools to it, if you have the budget for it, you certainly can take advantage of some of the neat tech toys that are out there and really use them for great business purposes. I just got an iPad 2. I waited until the second one came out. I waited the whole year, it kinda killed me to do that, but I waited the year and I got the iPad 2 and I love it and that I only do either a lot of personal things like reading books and surfing the internet, but I also occasionally use it to remotely connect to my PC if I need to look at a file or something like that, and this also goes into the other thing which is not just connecting to your PC but having access to your files, and there are some great site that allow you to share files like Dropbox is a very popular one that I like to use and I think it's a dropbox.com., I have to look that URL up, but that's one where you can basically share your files, you kind be in the cloud so that if you want to access a spreadsheet that you're working on from another computer, it is very easy to do so and I think those are just some great tools. Some of them are free, some of them have a small feed, but they are great tools to use.

17:56 Jim Blue

Now, before we went on the air, we talked about the fact that you are not in your home office now. You were actually at one of the businesses that you've recently started and I think that touching on this area being able to access files from any place, I think what Alan is really alluding to is the fact that this program Dropbox, when you write it's dropbox.com, gives Alan the ability now that he is in his other office to be able to access in the internet files that he has stored in the Dropbox that he may have worked on at home and vice versa, which means you don't really need to carry a computer back and forth or even back up stuff on one of these little hard drives, the little USB drives and bring them back and forth but you could put documents up there, spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentations, you even put audio and video files up there if you are working on anyone of them and you have more than one location, you are able to do that as well. You might want to talk a little bit about the type of business you've got now and how the technology has really worked for you in terms of the couple of different business that you've got.

19:17 Alan Flyer

Oh sure. Right now, one of the things I am working on now is I own -- I'm the center director of Mathnasium which a franchise and we teach Math to kids. So I have a center here in _19:29_ New York and we worked with kids in all ages, all aptitudes helping them with Math. It's a fairly low tech business because it is not -- it is all pencil and paper as far as how we work with the students, but what is technology driven is the fact that the one computer that I have here in the center, and I only need one which is great, but the one computer I have here is plugged into the franchise systems so all the materials I need can be easily accessed via the internet and can be downloaded on demand so we save paper because we only have to print what we need. As far as my own personal use of the computer in this business, it's very handy to use the tools we are talking about. I use the iPad, I use the multiple computers to be on Dropbox to be able to share files so that if I am working on something while in here in the center, I can do that. I can then save it to the Dropbox and then when I get home or if I am on the road and I want to even take it out on my iPad, I can look at the things that I have worked and this way they are all centrally stored, they are secured, they are out in the cloud, but at least I can work on them when I need them, which is very, very handy.

20:41 Jim Blue

One of the -- I'm sorry. One of the issues that always comes up is now that I'm out of corporate, I don't have a tech support person that I can just call on demand and we're gonna have Alan talk a little bit about how we set that up. We will back in a moment.

21:37 Jim Blue

That's a pretty nice segway into what we're gonna talk about. One of the biggest frustrations that my clients face is my computer froze, I think my hard drive is dead, my computer does not work, etc. We always suggest call up the tech support area and they take care of it immediately and one of the biggest frustrations I get from people is what do I do now, that type of situation, and I know that one of the businesses that you set up was a tech support area. But even people like you and I that at tech savvy run into problems. And I have always encourage people to either have a family member, either have a service such as what you and I have provided, etc. in terms of being able to handle the situations as they come up. What's your advice now that you're out in your own, now that we're all out in our own and we need this type of support?

22:29 Alan Flyer

Well, as you mentioned, for you and I it's a little bit easier because we kind of do this for a living. Well, one of things we do is to help people who need help and don't have a family member, but it's certainly good to when you're out on your own, one of the things you do anyway is your network and you meet with other business owners, small business owners, chances are you join your local chamber of commerce and you are working with a kind of a different community of people than you were when you are on corporate life, and one of things I recommend is to go these types of events and network with people and not only get to know them but get to know the resources that they use. There might be some great folks out there who can help with the variety of things, and when you have a problem, you can start to develop your own list of people to call.

23:13 Jim Blue

You know, it's a very, very important part of this whole process. I know that sometimes it can get frustrating calling a family member, but there are some very, very good resources out there that will help them at technologist standpoint and I also mentioned to people about the fact that maintenance is very, very important. I am sure we all have annual checkups, I am sure we all go to the eye doctor, the ear doctor the throat, whatever happens to be. Your computer really needs that same type of maintenance and it really is not an issue when you're at a company, but when you're on your own, it is, and you just can let this thing go the same way you wouldn't let your car go. What is your thought about this whole issue of maintenance?

23:59 Alan Flyer

Well, maintenance is important. You want to make sure that you keep everything running because the last thing you want is where your computer to crash and to not have a backup and so it's very important to have the right resources. There are some places, for example, I know that Staples has its service that lets you bring your computer in and _24:24_ a low, inexpensive fee or sometimes they do it for free if they want to be able to offer some services and upgrade, they will check your computer and make sure everything is order and make sure everything is working. Using someone like Jim, like your resources that you have, you have people who I'm sure for an hour or an hour and a half's worth of can do a quick check and make sure everything is running smoothly inside and out. So it is important to make sure if the computer is running well or at minimum make sure you have good backups so that you don't have a crisis or suddenly you're without all your work.

25:03 Jim Blue

You know, we've only got a couple of minutes left then we could probably go on for hours and hours talking it. What I'd like you to comment on if you can just briefly and I know this is longer than a couple of minute discussion is that in this new world of marketing, alright, what you have really done in terms of getting the word out there with the new technology that is out there about your business.

25:28 Alan Flyer

Well, it's so wonderful now. Not just LA cliché but with Facebook out there and Twitter and all these places, it's really easily to network with other people and to get a sense of what's going on and to get information out. You don't have to be a major news organization anymore to control information. So I definitely recommend if you have a new business, a small business, you get a page on Facebook. If you got a personal page, you can also get a business page where you can post things and you can tell people about things. The same with Twitter. I don't use that quite as much but a lot of people love using that and that's a good resource. How things are free they may require a little reading on your part to get a sense of how to do it or maybe have to ask a friend or your local technology expert, but definitely they're good resources, they are inexpensive or free and they allow you to kind of spread the word amongst your potential costumer base.

26:24 Jim Blue

And another thing that is important is that in many instances, this can be an overwhelming experience, just keeping up with the Twitting and the Facebooks and you know the linked ins and whatever, and there is no said answer to which one of these strategies works well. It's really marathon, it's not a sprint, and I've tried a bunch of different ways in terms of promoting my business. I know that Alan has as well, but the important thing is that you don't need a big budget to get this thing up and running. It is not really -- it can be time consuming but you can set up an office and you can market your service much less expensively than you did in the past and in some of our future programs, we're gonna be talking about how to do that. Alan, I want to thank you for taking the time. I know you've got a busy schedule with not only the business with the tutoring but several of your other ventures that's going on. I'm sure we're gonna have you on again. And I want to thank you for being a guest. I think our listeners learn quite a bit.

27:28 Alan Flyer

Well, Jim, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure and I'd be happy to be back.

27:35 Jim Blue

Great! We look forward to hearing from you again. In the future, we will be discussing how to operate in the new mobile world, the important websites that would help you when managing your business from home and on the road and we will have more guest that have been through the process of using technology to support their career ambitions. This has been Jim Blue, the blue tutor, and you have listening to the Keeping Technology Simple radio program. If you enjoyed the program, tell your friends. We will be here every week to help you understand the relevant technology issues of the day. To reach me after the show, the phone number is 917-921-4518, or my email is jblue@bluetutor.com. Remember when it comes to technology, there is nothing to fear but -- as JFK said -- but fear itself. We take the fear out of technology. See you next week.