Roger Toennis's enthusiasm for virtual entrepreneurs is unmistakable. As CEO of mTusker, a Colorado-based company that offers enterprise-level software to anyone, Toennis offers digital solutions that aren't just sophisticated and customizable, but also affordable for any business.
Toennis's vision of the future, where talent is no longer tethered to place, time or major corporations, came shining through during an interview:
Q: What's driving the growth of virtual entrepreneurialism?
Toennis: Technology is enabling it, but the growing affordability of remote-office technology is also driving more adoption. You no longer need expensive infrastructure when the cloud is readily available. Bandwidth for home offices is getting bigger, and broadband is affordable now. Skype, for instance, allows for high-quality video communication at home.
In the 1990s, only advanced business users had access to this technology. Now, everyone does and it's mainstream to use technologies like FaceTime and Skype. Millennials are now getting older and starting to drive business decisions toward digital technologies. One issue we're seeing as affordability drives adoption is that individuals and small businesses get nervous about whether they can handle all this advanced technology. But younger business leaders are usually more comfortable with the transformation than older ones.
Q: How does MTusker help facilitate virtual entrepreneurialism?
Toennis: We're available in the cloud, so anyone who uses our cloud platforms can work from anywhere, anytime. The upside is clear. A 2013 study from [consultancy] Gartner showed that people working remotely averaged more working hours but also saved 15–20 hours per week in commuting time. That's a huge win-win. People working remotely feel like they have more time, and so they work more. Workers whose commute average about 34 productive hours per week, while 100 percent remote workers average 37–40 productive hours per week. If a remote worker gives four more working hours per week but saves 15–20 hours weekly in commuting, he still has far more free time.
But there can be downsides too, such as never needing to leave the house and put in any "face time" with colleagues — although you can now get an audio- and video-screensharing solution. Still, you don't bump into people in the hallway, which helps build company culture.
Q: What does the growth of virtual entrepreneurialism mean for people with talent?
Toennis: Talented people, millennials especially, want to live a different lifestyle in smaller places like Bozeman, Montana; Gunnison, Colorado; Des Moines, Iowa or wherever there's not a rat-race mentality. The increasing availability and affordability of digital technology is allowing talent to live and work anywhere they choose to live. In the old days, you'd have to move in order to work, but that's no longer the case. You can live and work in small-town America and still thrive. I can hire you and meet with you on video regularly. Our company, for example, is opening remote offices where people can come in when they want in order to get face time and work from home when they need to. This technology is enabling so many big changes in the way people work.
As Toennis sees it, technology is breaking down old paradigms: Where once talented people needed to work for a giant company in a big-city office building, now virtual entrepreneurs can grow their businesses from anywhere, on their own time lines and with digital technology that not only levels the playing field but transforms it as well.
mTusker was a client of ADP, LLC. at the time of this article's publication.
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