Business Spotlight: Fresh Off The Plane

Fresh Off The Plane

As someone who has moved to new cities in new countries a number of times now under all sorts of circumstances I always find that moving to a new place comes with a host of tasks that are hard to truly enumerate until you’ve gone through the experience.  Whether you are moving for a few short months or plan on staying for good, there are a lot of things that you take for granted as a local that can become harder in a new place, especially if you are using a new language. From finding accommodations to things as seemingly simple as finding a local dry cleaner, a new city in a new country poses a host of challenges that otherwise might go unnoticed in a more familiar place. Without a local willing to help you find the neighborhood and the things in that neighborhood to make the most out of your time in a new city you risk feeling that you might be wasting your precious time as an expat in a new land.

Those at Fresh Off The Plane know this struggle all to well. The founder arrived in Hong kong a number of years back without the intimate knowledge of a local and saw that expats from all over must be feeling how they did when they first arrived. While their real estate agents settled them into a fine home it became apparent that they had found a place to sleep, but none of the other things that make a place home. Things like organizing utilities, a new bank account, and which grocery store or market you are going to frequent are all things that have a cultural or linguistic component to them, one that often goes unnoticed until you are stuck with the prospect of doing them in an entirely new environment.

The people at Fresh Off The Plane have taken their experiences as strangers in a foreign land to help others make the most out of their time in Hong Kong by helping them set up their new life with the intimate knowledge of those who have gone through all the same experiences before. The company strives to be more than your average real estate agency by helping you find all the creature comforts that you are used to in a new place, leaving you to explore the exciting parts of your new city.

Living in a new place you quickly realize that in order to make the most out of the experience you need to keep going after new experiences in your new home. This can be hard to keep up when you have obstacles like, not knowing any locals or expats to travel with, or having to continually research each new thing about your new city. A company like this will definitely let you make the most out of an opportunity like living in Hong Kong for 2 years. A company like this is great for expats and long stay travelers alike who are hoping to make the most out of their stay in a new and exciting place.

The Faces of the Business

Tristan-WallPortrait_opt

The CEO/Founder: Tristan is a working airline pilot from France and South Africa. He speaks both French and English in his everyday life and also enjoys learning conversational Cantonese as well as it culture. From a young age, flying was his main passion. He earned his pilot’s commercial license at 18 and was soon after working full-time as a pilot in West Africa. Tristan was promoted to Captain at the age of 23 whilst flying with DHL throughout Africa. He joined Cathay Pacific in 2012 and moved to Hong Kong.  Having a keen interest in business management, he is completing a Masters of Science in Airline Management in London during his downtime from flying. Tristan also loves to travel and knows the region well, having travelled numerous times on his motorbike or 4×4 all over Asia. He now calls Hong Kong his home and is also always keen to return to it after flying or travelling. When he first moved to Hong Kong, Tristan saw a gap in the real estate industry and over the years grew the idea and concept of his company.

Mary-WallPortrait_optCustomer Services Manager: Mary Yu

If you’d like to learn more about this sort of business or are maybe even moving to Hong Kong in the near future, head to www.fresh-off-the-plane.com

Tippin Ain’t Easy

In the news recently there have been restaurants in the U.S. that have started moving away from tipping, along with the sad stories of waitresses getting no tip at all for not doing their job to the customer’s liking. In all honesty I think it is surprising in many ways that the U.S. has kept gratuity the way it is for this long. As minimum wage has become one of the focuses of the country’s political attention it seems that the U.S. may be ready to experiment with the system used by most other countries in the world, or at the very least start thinking about tipping better.

In a perfect world tipping in the U.S. works where something like 10-15% of the meal’s prices work out to, along with the meager dollar or two they are guaranteed, a livable wage. This then allows for anything above that to work as an incentive for the waiter or waitress to provide exceptional service so as to make more money. On the whole it sounds like a great deal, waiters make more money by being better at their job and get instant feedback on how they are doing.

Somehow things haven’t worked out like this though… We all have a friend or relative or two that might think that a dollar a head or something like 10% gratuity is more than adequate for exceptional service, and they won’t be told otherwise. The problem is that while not all waiters and waitresses work in 50’s themed diners, their guaranteed wages are pretty much stuck there. When people hear about the 2 dollars and thirty cents or a similar figure that waiters make before tips they are usually pretty thrown and can’t understand how its really legal, but then somebody mentions tipping and the math gets complicated but it seems fine enough. The thing is waiters are often at the whim of the supply of customers provided to them without any way to really affect that, aside from slowly building a cult following of customers that will only come in while they’re working.

The number that most people are familiar with as being a customary tip is 15%. As the cost of living and inflation increase however minimum wage hasn’t quite kept up. The minimum wage for tipped workers has done even less to stay competitive and so things like 18% standard gratuity on certain checks or the number of 20% for quality service have popped up.

When these same sorts of figures are told to travelers, or vice versa when Americans are told they don’t have to tip when abroad there is definitely some disbelief. So from this phenomenon it seems that American’s lack of progress away from tipping is probably just cultural sticker shock from the prices that we would see on a menu if restaurants were forced to pay their employees all a standard wage. We have yet to adopt the inclusion of tax into our advertised prices and so adding a service charge to many would seem to be met with similar disapproval.

So far the main focus of the article has been on waiters and waitresses, those who get very little pay and so depend on tips in order to not live off of things like ramen and canned tuna. However, most people in the service industry in America accept tips. The people cutting your hair, moving your furniture and making your coffee all work hard in hopes of earning a little bit extra at the end of their interaction with you.

In the end I’ve lived in countries where tipping is nearly mandatory, in countries where a dollar’s tip is more than generous and in places where tipping isn’t even really thought about. In all honesty I think that tipping helps customers more than it does workers and those that rely on tips have probably been getting taken advantage of for a long time now in many respects. Tipping should definitely be an option but I hope that things like a dollar or two for good service become the trend in America and that I can pay for my food without thinking that my server wouldn’t be able to buy lunch at the restaurant they work at without me tipping generously. What are your experiences with tipping in America and Abroad? Do you think it’s time for the custom to stop or does it need an overhaul?

Navigating Freelancing

Maybe it’s because I’m now almost exactly 1 year out of college, maybe it’s the amount of time I spend learning about other freelancers, or maybe it is just the time period we live in but it seems like just about every fifth person is trying to work for themselves, start their own business on the side, or become a freelancer. It makes sense that in this day and age I can work with someone who is thousands of miles and a few time zones away and perfectly fit the criteria they have for their dream copywriter. We can be in pretty much constant contact if need be without ever hearing each other’s voice, a project can be completed, invoice paid and we both go on our ways happy with the relationship having never truly met other than through a few emails. If you are just starting your own company and don’t want to hire somebody but still need the skills of a profession you aren’t in hiring a freelancer is a no-brainer. That way you can choose when you want to spend the money to get the job done right the first time or take the time learn a trade yourself that might be helpful as your business grows. Business owners and entrepreneurs make these decisions all the time and as everyone seems to be trying to make a living with their own business idea many people are in essence trying to sell themselves. If you’re an artist, web developer, marketer, writer, app developer, whatever, you are selling more than your skills you are selling yourself as a person who possesses those skills. And this is where things can get confusing.

When you are essentially selling yourself when does your “pitch” start or stop? Do you put up boundaries as to when you are “courting new business” and when you are just out having drinks with friends? Do you have a twitter account for you as a person and then a separate one for you as a business? If you find yourself doing tasks for your regular life as well as your business life can you really say you were working the whole time? These are the things that can quickly take a toll on you if you are self-employed, working from home, or if you just have a less than traditional revenue stream you might ask these questions of yourself every now and again. Honestly I haven’t got any of the answers either, I think this is certainly one of those questions we just need to ask ourselves every so often. And that question can be simply put as, “How long can I keep this up?”

Creating your own startup, running your own business, working as a freelancer is all about getting to that point where you are paying the bills and will be able to for the foreseeable future. Often getting to that point means working or thinking about work for far more than 40 hours a week between 9 and 5 on weekdays. The lack of a real time clock on when you’re working can make you feel like somedays you got a ton done and others like you didn’t make a dent in your progress despite having worked the same amount. You may start to lose a feel for when your “workday” is or if there are any days that really aren’t “workdays”, you may even start to think of small things that you do for yourself as work projects because in a sense they do help your business because they help you.

From learning about the pitfalls of passed freelancers and those who have delved into the world of starting their own business before withdrawing I think there are certainly some things you can take away as successful tips or best practices for your new business or life as a self employed person, and they are as follows:

Number 1: If you can, try and be financially stable if not wealthy before you start.

If you don’t need to worry about your business making money you have got a great advantage over those scrubs who have to pay rent or buy food with their income. If you aren’t already rich try and treat it as a second job and don’t rely on it for income until you can positively assure that even with a few months of bad business you can still stay afloat.

Number 2: If you aren’t wealthy try to be a little famous or at least well connected in your industry.

If you can sell your product or service to your immediate circle of friends and family that’s pretty nice for you but you will probably have to buy their kid’s girl scout cookies and whatnot so it really only can keep you going for a short while. On the other hand if you are already famous through something like your pinterest profile, or you have the ear of a large network of local yacht owners you will pretty easily be able to leverage that into sales for something like your children’s ascot company.

Number 3: Sit down and seriously think about how long you can work the way you are.

If you have made the switch to this being your sole source of income eventually you will need a vacation or a few days off or even a few hours off. Set some boundaries for what is your professional life and what is your personal life and try to stick to them so you don’t wear yourself out. Try and spend a few hours where you are doing something for yourself that doesn’t immediately effect the business.

So that’s about all I’ve got, it can certainly be tough to try and shut off that part of your brain and put your business out of your mind but every once and a while you will need to do it. As your business grows you may find that you are able to do it more often as you delegate responsibilities to employees, other businesses, or freelancers. Good luck to all you people trying to make a name for yourselves and remember to work smarter not harder.