Running a Business from the Road

25 July 2019 | 14 Comments

Ever since I started running Stonemaier Games as my full-time job in December 2013, I’ve spent nearly every day (7 days a week) in my home office.

In my 20s, I loved traveling. My goal was to visit somewhere different and exotic every year–I have so many great memories from those trips. But as soon as I felt the weight of my company on my shoulders, I stopped prioritizing travel. Instead, I’d visit family a few times a year, and I went to Seattle last year. That’s it.

The two main challenges for me were (a) my desire to be constantly available for public and private customer service and (b) when I’d return from even a short trip, I felt like I had so much to catch up on that it made me less inclined to leave the office in the first place.

But recently I decided that I wanted to reopen the possibility of exploring the world on a more regular basis without sacrificing my commitment to Stonemaier Games. So I started small: a short road trip and a 4-day stay in Kansas City. Here’s what I tried and learned along the way:

  • I planned the timing of the trip based on a few different factors (mostly internal). Basically, I was able to choose a time that didn’t conflict with any major event (game announcement, a preorder, or an intense fulfillment period) that would require a hands-on approach. External factors didn’t play much of a role in this trip, but for the future, I’ll definitely be targeting certain times of the year.
  • In the week leading up to the trip, I tried to get ahead of schedule as much as possible. Fortunately, both WordPress and YouTube let you schedule posts for the future, so was able to create them in advance and not have to worry about manually publishing them at the right time.
  • I decided in advance that I would work while on vacation. I think there’s value in being intentional either way. I knew there were a few days when I would work very little and other days when I would have longer blocks of time. This foresight impacted my planning, as there were certain tasks I decided to not to cover in advance, and it made the prospect of the trip less stressful for me, as I wasn’t dreading returning to a ton of work.
  • I equipped myself with a few forms of technology. At home, I work on a PC desktop with two large monitors. That’s not very portable. So I bought a top-rated travel-friendly laptop, the Dell XPS 13, which turned out to be great. I’m glad I chose it over a tablet, as I’ve found my iPad to be more of a consumption device than a creation device. Also, I had my iPhone, which I used frequently in non-social situations during the trip to check on social media. As a result, I didn’t even post an “out of office” messages, and I doubt people could even tell I was gone.
  • I brought a limited number of game design supplies. I spend a lot of my game design time on InDesign, which greatly benefits from a big monitor. I didn’t even try to use it on my laptop. Instead, I brought a binder for a game I’m working on and a pencil. This actually turned out to be really nice, as it was nice to resist the lure of my computer for a while.
  • I’m very fortunate that so many fans of our games are willing to answer questions on social media. This takes a ton of pressure off me. It’s also helpful that the various independent contractors with whom we work are–per that title–very independent. They operate on an ongoing basis without oversight from me, so no special procedures were necessary while I was gone.

Granted, this was a short trip to a nearby city; I’m sure a longer, more distant trip will result in a revised approach. So I’d love to hear your tips for running a business from the road. What has worked well for you?

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14 Comments on “Running a Business from the Road

  1. Jamey,

    These are great tips and reminders. I seldom travel alone, because it is usually with my spouse. Something that has helped for both of us is to clearly communicate expectations for the trip as far as work time/play time. And then we make sure we provide space and time for the other person to help them not be distracted. When it is my turn to work for an hour, she is in the other room or on an excursion, and then I return the favor when it is her turn.

    This helps us both stay on schedule without upsetting our vacation or travel plans.

  2. Great post, Jamie. I hope your initial travel experience during your time running Stonemaier has motivated you to do more of it. “All work and no play …”

    It’s good to see what I think is a growing trend of Americans prioritizing travel and other types of personal time instead of the older approach of working excessively throughout our prime years of health. Finding a healthy work-life balance is crucial, and I’m glad you’re sharing your efforts along these lines.

    Also, a very big congratulations on Wingspan’s Kennerspiel das Jahres win! Elizabeth and her talented artists created a wonderful game, and Stonemaier published with its typically high production quality. Well deserved for everyone involved.

  3. I have worked from home for about 5 years and have found that prioritizing my ability to work mobile at ANY time really helps. I work exclusively from a laptop, but when at home have it plugged into a full size keyboard, external monitors and mouse. That way I get the full experience at home, but also have everything I need where I expect it when I am mobile.

    Also I think your intentionality is key to making it work. Planning to work on vacation (if you need) has made it so much more palatable for me and my family as it feels less like and interruption and something we all prepared for beforehand.

    Thanks for giving me more to think about!

  4. Combine a trip to Essen or UKGE. When Tom last came to UKGE. He went via Paris.

    Business and slight seeing.

  5. Glad to hear you’re planning to travel more again. We Brits think you Yanks work far too hard!

    Whilst I realise that when you run your own business its very hard to switch off from work, I would suggest that you do try to do so for as much time as you can when you’re on vacation. I find it can take several days without work before I really start to switch off and stop thinking about my stressful job and get the real creative benefits of relaxation.

    If you decide to visit the UK and want somewhere to stay in Central London, then please let me know as you’d be very welcome to stay (assuming I’m not on holiday myself at the time…)

    1. Thanks Dave! That’s good advice, and I appreciate the invitation as well. I traveled to London and through Wales a few years ago, so it’s not at the top of my list, but we’ll see where my travels take me. :)

  6. From experience as someone who has worked from home and/or remotely for the past 8-ish years, it’s definitely doable, especially if you have a good place that you can work from at your destination.

    I usually take a later flight so that it doesn’t impact my normal work day, crash when I get there, work relatively normal hours during the days, and enjoy my surroundings during the evenings or weekend. If you can be a bit flexible with your schedule you can schedule specific timeslots for putting in some hours and still be able to do a few things while the sun’s out.

    I usually go visit friends who are working traditional hours so I just work from their place (if they’re putting me up) or a coffeeshop or library during the day and spend time with them when they’re free. Ends up having pretty minimal impact on my work performance and it’s always fun to work from new surroundings.

    Gets trickier the more time zones you cross though, but don’t forget that there’s a whole other continent to the south that isn’t too far off Central Time.

    Smart move on the laptop too. It’ll be invaluable as you spread your wings.

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