Yes, CEOs can be digital nomads too. Here’s how…
For a little more than a year, Louis Goor’s office has been whatever space he can find to open up his computer and log in to his emails on board his sailing yacht, Irene IV.
He’s checked in with his team at JL Goor, his polymer business in Ireland, from Panama, the Galapagos, Vanuatu, Hamilton Island, Cocos Keeling, Saint Helena and Salvador, among other far-flung destinations.
With family, including his sister, Sabine, and 15-year-old son, George, Goor is taking part in the 2022–2023 edition of the Oyster World Rally (OWR), a fully-supported circumnavigation of the world for owners of the British boatbuilder Oyster Yachts.
Irene IV, Goor’s Oyster 655, is one of 30 yachts that set sail from Antigua on 9 January 2022. When the yacht arrives back in Antigua with the rest of the fleet in April 2023, Goor will have been out of the office for almost 16 months – save for a fortnight back home in January.
"I was somewhat tied to my business life, and at 53, married and with a young family and a small number of health challenges, it was time to make a change and specifically try to reduce stress." – Louis Goor
Even before he took delivery of the yacht in September 2020, Goor had been dreaming about participating in the rally.
"I was somewhat tied to my business life, and at 53, married and with a young family and a small number of health challenges, it was time to make a change and specifically try to reduce stress," he tells The CEO Magazine from Fernando de Noronha, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Brazil.
As Managing Director, with a whole organization depending on him, the question was – how?
There has been an incredible rise in the number of digital nomads since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent data put the number of people traveling while working remotely at 35 million.
Almost 50 countries are reported to now offer some sort of digital nomad visa to facilitate the trend.
Yet, while the typical profile of a remote worker is a young creative who needs little more than a computer and a strong wi-fi signal to do their job, they are not the only category to head out of the office without setting up out-of-office notifications.
C-Suite executives like Goor are taking advantage of technology advances to embark on much-longed-for adventures while still keeping up with the day-to-day of their businesses. For Goor, it was the ability to frame the OWR as research that allowed the idea of his participation to become a reality.
"The OWR is not all about the circumnavigation, but firmly about building a community of new friends with similar minds and from all walks of life." – Louis Goor
"Our business is in an industry that has to become more environmentally aware and responsible," he says.
"So, ultimately, entering the OWR became something in the way of research to see what conditions the oceans were in and how, ultimately, we might use our learnings to improve our company offering, make us more environmentally friendly and, hopefully, do some good along the way."
Creating memories that will stay with them for a lifetime, he talks of the privilege of taking part in such an event. "The OWR is not all about the circumnavigation, but firmly about building a community of new friends with similar minds and from all walks of life," he says.
Then there are the experiences. "Diving with bull sharks in Fiji, meeting village chiefs in Indonesia, sharing Irish music with tribes in the San Blas Islands in Panama and climbing remote active volcanoes in Vanuatu, looking at boiling red lava sparking in the air right in front of us at night. And so much more," he recalls.
A healthier space
Not many work-from-anywhere setups are as extreme as Goor’s arrangement. Many nomadic CEOs are following closely in the footsteps of other remote workers.
Mike Fata, Founder of Manitoba Harvest and Hemp Foods, and CEO of Fata & Associates, talks enthusiastically of finding a shared co-working community at the Ao Kao resort in Koh Mak, one of the islands he based himself in during a three-week trip to Thailand in February.
The Canadian businessman estimates he spends close to 50 percent of his time working away from home. In the past 12 months, he’s been based in Jamaica, Italy and Mexico, as well as Thailand – sometimes with his two homeschooled children in tow.
"I generally prefer to be in warmer places because it’s healthier and I’m a better businessperson and entrepreneur when I’m happier and healthier." – Mike Fata
He says he has no set agenda, apart from good wi-fi and sunshine. "I’m from Winnipeg [Canada] and it’s very cold in the winter," he says. "I generally prefer to be in warmer places because it’s healthier and I’m a better businessperson and entrepreneur when I’m happier and healthier."
He usually prefers to base himself and his children, when they join him, in Airbnbs over hotels. "I like to shop and make my own food as I do at home," he says. "I look for places that have spaces to work, too, whether a nice kitchen counter, an outdoor table or a more formal desk."
His day is broken up into what he describes as "buckets" that include four hours of deep working and spending time with loved ones on adventures in the destinations he finds himself in. Time zones are probably the biggest challenge, he says. "I can have a hefty cell phone bill," he laughs.
Closer than you think
Many CEOs may already have one foot in the nomadic lifestyle without even realizing it.
Jason Kopcak, CEO of Altisource Asset Management Corporation, an asset manager based in Saint Croix on the United States Virgin Islands, feels like he spends as much time working from airports and hotels as he does from his tropical Caribbean home base, as he travels to subsidiary offices in Tampa, United States and Bangalore, India.
"I wasn’t expecting to travel as much in the role," he tells The CEO Magazine. "But it hasn’t been that hard to transition."
He adds that no-one ever really knows if he’s in the United States, Europe, India or the United States Virgin Islands, and it’s now something that’s no longer important to his team or his clients. "It’s just become a way of life" he says.
"I’ve found over the years that that’s what makes my life healthy and my experiences grow and I’ve just become a better person." – Jason Kopcak
But it’s not all work and no play when he is on the road. "For me, it’s so important to go visit local restaurants, work out at local gyms and experience what’s unique about that area," he says.
"I’ve found over the years that that’s what makes my life healthy and my experiences grow and I’ve just become a better person."
It helps that he can bring two very cherished travel companions – his two puppies. "They’ve learned to live the nomadic life, too," he laughs.
For Fata, he wouldn’t change the total freedom that comes from working anywhere for any extended period of time. And he has words of motivation for fellow executives contemplating the nomadic experience.
"It’s a mindset and you can train yourself in it," he says.