Imagine that your daily commute is the distance between your bedroom and your living room. The kitchen is your lunch space, and your partner – your favourite barista. In 2020, work-from-home jobs are no longer a revolution, but a reality. TEDxSydney chatted to Jo Palmer, the founder of Pointer Remote Roles, which is helping Australians find sustainable jobs regardless of where they live.
Alex Reszelska: You are a successful entrepreneur running a job matching company. Last year, you won the prestigious NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, as well as the St.George Kick Start grant. Have you always been a business trailblazer?
Jo Palmer: I have a degree in Education, so I started my career as a teacher and used to travel all around the world. This experience formed the foundation for my first business, a comprehensive learning centre that operated in 3 towns, running tutoring and school holiday programs. Then I was contracted to work remotely for a Sydney company and I realised that remote work is not only a possibility but a viable option.
Is this how you came up with an idea for a remote workforce solutions company?
As I always say, my heart lies in the country. When I moved to live in the rural community, I noticed that I have a network of highly educated and underemployed friends who had married farmers and were living rurally, unable to work in the industries that they were trained in. It served as an inspiration for creating Pointer.
What are the biggest challenges for a small business owner? And similarly, what are the biggest gains of being your own boss?
I’d have to say: cash flow! It is by far my biggest challenge. Winning the St.George Kick Start competition $40,000 grant, allowed me to scale up my business and as a result generate more profit. But as an entrepreneur, there are challenges more subtle than money. Like being ultimately responsible for all the decisions made within the business, especially the difficult ones. On the flip side, I run my company flexibly. I work when I am the most productive. Having your own business also allows for managing the private side of life and the work simultaneously. I am most proud of creating a workplace not only for myself but also for my team and other highly skilled people who benefit from remote roles.
In 2019, you won the St.George Kick Start program as an entrepreneur “shaking up how people find jobs”. I feel that remote work is the most ‘natural’ working state for workers as it helps them to weave their personal lives and employment organically.
I agree, but only partially. Remote work is a fantastic way to combine work and life, as work is an important part of life. But I still believe that whether done remotely or not, work still needs to be treated as work. You have to front up, be engaged and get the job done. It takes focus, good time management and knowing how to set boundaries.
What other benefits of remote work do you see?
Remote work levels the playing field for professionals in most industries. Your physical location doesn’t matter, neither does your gender, age, ethnicity, physical ability or sexuality. So it promotes diversity and inclusion. Flexible employment also enhances people’s economic development. When workers are geographically dispersed, so is their impact on communities, industry innovation, and the global economy.
Much less is being spoken about the benefits of flexible work for employers. What do they gain from having a network of remote workers?
A ton! For companies, it is not only a way to get the best talent into their business but it’s an amazing way to hold onto them. If your employees have flexibility, they work hard for you and are far less likely to jump ship for your competitor. It also helps the businesses to earn their ‘sustainability badge’, as remote jobs create less waste and shorter commutes, which mean lighter carbon footprints.
What is needed so that more companies and employers started to see the value of flexible working conditions?
All of the above!
Who is your biggest inspiration in the world of female entrepreneurs or leaders of opinion?
To be honest, I can’t choose an individual. I find that the most inspirational entrepreneurs are those setting up their businesses from the kitchen tables across rural Australia. Technology has opened up amazing opportunities for many people who may have felt that the idea of being an entrepreneur is not for them. They get to innovate and solve problems in their communities, creating a huge impact for their customers. It proves that your physical location no longer restricts you from running a globally successful business.
Applications are still open for the 2020 St.George Kick Start program. If you have a cracking business idea, make sure you enter before 23 March 2020 for your chance to win a share of the $100,000 up for grabs. Visit stgeorge.com.au/business/kickstart to find out more.