TAP INTERNATIONAL travel programs are designed to provide you with opportunities that enable you to travel the world and enhance your skills, while working remotely for your current employer. With TAP, participants will travel together as a cohort on a 3 month journey around the world. You can join us for a month in your dream destination or for the full incredible 3 month journey. 3 cities ? on 3 continents ? in 3 months – Join for a month at a time or for all 3!
Subscribe to the Collaboration Superpowers Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
His tips for working remotely:
- Experiencing new cultures helps us become more open and curious with each other.
- Offering travel opportunities will help your company attract and retain millennial talent.
- To succeed, focus on your professional development and international networking opportunities.
- Be flexible and willing to adjust to your circumstances.
- When traveling, set clear expectations with your employer and colleagues.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lissette and I am interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Hello everybody, welcome to episode one hundred and eighty five. It’s the first episode live back after a three month hiatus where I took some time off in order to finish my book. So you should be able to find the book at collaborationsuperpwers.com/book. Today I am interviewing a group called Tap International. They designed three months travel programs where you go around the world while you work all facilitated by them. We will get to that in a second but before that let us do this week’s one minute tip. We know that email is not always the best form of communicating or text messages are not always the best way of communicating because the emotion does not get across, there is lots of misunderstanding. So this week tip is consider sending a video message. It is pretty easy to record a video message, you just use Zoom or Catch or Blue Jeans or whatever video conferencing tool you want to use and you hit record and you record your message and this lets a person see the new ounces, your facial expressions, what you really mean, what you want to convey much better than an email and it is pretty quick to send. So that is this week’s one minute tip. Try minute videos over text messages, okay but let us get on with the interview. This week I am speaking with Mike Jones from Tap International it stands for time and place international and Mike is the CEO and co-founder and basically what Tap is travel programmes that are designed to provide opportunities enabling you to travel the world and enhance your skills while working remotely for your current employer. It is an interesting concept. I love that this is now something that’s available and working. I just love seeing the co-living and co-working and digital nomad opportunities out there. It makes for some very happy remote workers. Okay but I will let Mike explain the whole thing to you. He does it much better than I can, without further ado here is Mike Jones of Tap international. What does your virtual office look like, what do you need to get your work done?
Mike Jones: Sure so, our virtual office at Tap kind of changes every day, given the nature of our work really all we need to get our work done a phone, an IPad or a computer. So, if we are in a place where we are setting up a co-working space for the day we might bring both the computer, the phone, the IPad, everything but really given what we are trying to do and connecting people is much more about spending time face to face. What do I need to get my work done? Really just a phone with Slack with email, with Project Five that gives us data everywhere. It is really kind of easy to keep in touch. So to answer your question kind of singly, it varies but what is the absolute essential is really just a phone and having people around.
Lisette: So you have people around also? Okay so, you’ve got like part working in person and part working out of, I was going to say out of person but that is not the right thing so, in person and remote. So, let us dive into that a bit. So you tell us about Tap International then we get into the styles of working.
Mike Jones: Sure so Tap is kind of the brain child of myself and my co-founder Ryan. I used to be a cooperate attorney and I noticed this one… I was working on this billion dollar project, so this billion dollar deal and I was at home on Christmas eve literally in my childhood bed at my mother’s house like doing work, everyone is downstairs having a good old festive time and I was on the phone, I was emailing, I was on our Insta messenger and I noticed there is legitimately no difference between being in the office and being here. I mean half the time people in the office would just ping me from the other side of the office because they didn’t feel like walking over there. So I noticed if I am in DC and my office was in Boston at that time, I can probably be anywhere in the world to do this and both Ryan and I had been fortunate to travel quite extensively and worked in Hong Kong and worked in London and knew there was so much out there for people to experience. So we really wanted to design a way for people to be able to kind of experience all the different cultures that we had and obviously stay kind of connected and working effectively for their current employer. So we designed Tap and what Tap is, is a remote work travel program designed specifically for rising town. The big differentiator between us and other remote travel programmes is that we have a heavy focus on professional development and International networking. Because what is the point of kind of travelling the world and getting out there and not connecting with new people and absorbing new knowledge and new skills. So what we do is we take people around the globe, we take them to different countries a month at a time and we provide for accommodation, co-working space, professional development events that includes speakers, we have embassies that host us for briefings, we have CEO’s that come in if we are in Paris we might find the CEO of a hedge fund in Switzerland. We have different speakers who include domestic speakers, it could be a successful restaurant tour, it could be essentially we try to tailor our speakers to our audience. So if we have a legal heavy class then we will try to bring in some top attorneys from each of the jurisdictions that we visit and the obviously no good child program would be any fun without some social events. So obviously we have worked with a lot of bars and restaurants to make sure that you kind of get the inside scoop and the insider knowledge and then kind of a VIP experience as you travel with us.
Lisette: So, why is it so important that rising talent experiences different cultures? Why do you think it is important?
Mike Jones: Sure, so I mean as much as you can look at geopolitics like the reality is with the internet the world is becoming small. People are trading in different areas and I remembered it’s always just like the simplest of things and having kind of a knowledge of what cultures are like can really help you to connect. And the example I always give is when I was in Hong Kong I was doing consulting at the time and I walked in and I was working for the CEO of the company and he said “Hi I am Jerry it is great to meet you, [inaudible 06:34] let us have a chat”, and at the end of the meeting he gave me his business card and what did I do as an American. I took the business card looked at it and said “thanks so much,” and tucked in my pocket. It is like lesson one of doing business in Asia, it’s a very, very different process when you exchange business cards. You take it with two hands, you bow off as you accept it and to do anything less is a sign of dis respect. So I mean there is a culture influence and then there is also just the way that travel and kind of exposure to different cultures can really shape your mind. Alright so maybe you would have thought of addressing something like a different problem, like let’s say your marketing, your trying to figure out a new way to engage with an audience. Well I am sure that they’ve experienced other things in other parts of the word that really would help you to come up with a new and creative solutions. So why is it important? It is not only important because I mean if you look at the statistics seventy five percent millennials want to travel abroad as much as possible because extensively we are the most globally curious generation to be. I mean I don’t want to say on the planet but I guess that’s kind of what it is but we are one of the most probably globally curious generations, so it is important for our employers to kind of retain millennial talent, you have to engage them in a way that actually speaks to their interest but then it is also important for your own kind of personal development. You do not want to kind of wake up on day and say “I wish I had done this or I wish I had done that,” and really miss out on a lot of opportunities. Since as you travel you make new connections, it is just a part of human nature and that’s what we really find so incredible about remote work is that it can be just as effective form everywhere and arguably more effective because you have more knowledge, you have more experiences to draw from and your able to analyze each of your situations in kind of new and interesting way.
Lisette: What I like about what you guys do is teaching people to work remotely sort of on the road while they are doing it. And, I mean I know from experience I used to go on these work holidays. So we’d rent an Arabian and be in a different country and just go there a month and stay there. But you never know if the internet is going to be great or you know if the Airbnb in a different country and just go there for a month and just stay there but you never know if the internet’s going to be great or you know if the Airbnb is going to be okay, I mean you get better and better at it but what I like is you guys really provide the infrastructure for our people to travel. So like you do not have to worry about the intent because the co-working space is going to be a good place and you have got all the supplies. So I mean that sounds really good. How do you convince an employer to let their employees go?
Mike Jones: So it is really a three folds kind of tactic right. So we do three things, we help employers attract top millennial talent, retain that millennial talent and then we help them enhance the value of that millennial talent. So for different employers they are struggling with different things. Let’s say, let’s look at like the big banks for example I mean obviously they all have attractive offers and they are all qualified in different ways but for a lot of people and I know just speaking from experience with a lot of friends is like the offers kind of become fungible after a certain point. They all pay about the same amount, they have about the same prestige once you get to a certain level, it is really about what is that differentiating factor and let’s say you are looking at bank X versus bank Y. Salaries are the same, everything is about the same but bank X says after two years of working with me we are going to send you on this incredible global adventure where you are going to meet and network with some of the top talents from around the world. You are going to be able to experience these incredible cultures and we will send you on. That offer just became that much more interesting right? And then other employers have kind of used our programs to say “well you know what we’re struggling to retain our millennial talent, they’re leaving around the second year and a lot of they’re either leaving to travel or they’re leaving because they don’t feel they’re getting the right work life balance or something of that sort.” Well we’re a great way for employers to kind of tap into that global curiosity of the millennial population and say “look we value you, we want to invest in you as an individual,” right and that’s where our kind of professional development really sets us apart from just simple travel programs because it’s not just about like going and experiencing the present culture. Experiencing the culture in Cape Town or in Bangkok, it’s about really developing and networking each of these places and developing a knowledge of what the real like the business kind of culture of the place is right? So usually like if you travel with Tap by the time you leave Paris you should be able to:-
- Say that you’ve seen the city.
- You should have some solid business connections here and we go to great expenses to make sure that we get you in touch with the people that are relevant to what you’re doing.
- You should know where they good places are like if you’re someone in sales and you need to take clients to meetings and such or entertain them, take them to restaurants, and take them to bars you shouldn’t have to go to a trip advisor to figure it out. You should have these places that have been pre-vetted, that you’ve experienced and then know someone there or say “go talk to Jimmy at Bar X down the place,” because that just kind of institutional knowledge that you wouldn’t get any other way.
Lisette: And why did you pick the cities that you did? So there’s Paris, there’s Cape Town South Africa and Bangkok Thailand why those three cities?
Mike Jones: So we went with Paris because we were looking at Europe and where things kind of moving and shaking and with kind of uncertainty of what’s going on in London, with Brexit and everything, Paris is kind of begun to emerge as one of not only that entrepreneurial hubs but really one of the business centers. It’s not only that it’s literally the most tourist traffic city in the world but there’s just a lot going on here in terms of business and commerce and the current administration here is really invested in kind of developing their economic standpoint.
Lisette: It is true Macron has invited Americans to come over and technologies to come over so yeah indeed okay I get it.
Mike Jones: Exactly and then for Cape Town it’s one of the most beautiful picturesque kind of great places in the world. It’s actually one of my favorite cities personally but beyond that it’s a great place for business throughout Africa. So it’s quite easy for a lot of… for example we have a good friend that runs a company in Nairobi and he’s like “yeah I can jet down, we can see or I can come speak to your populations, to your participants and we can have a great time,” but it’s very much just a good central meeting place in Africa and it’s and I mean to speak quite bluntly it’s a good way to kind of ease into the African culture as someone who isn’t necessarily overly travelled right? It’s not like you going straight into like bush Safari like out there it’s like a develop city, they have a lot going on, there’s a lot of kind of common creature comforts that wouldn’t necessarily make you feel uncomfortable. It’s like if you don’t want necessarily a traditional African meal you can go get a hamburger, there are plenty of places to do that. So we really picked South African obviously because South Africa itself is just a phenomenal, phenomenal business hub of Africa. Then Thailand because of Bangkok Thailand because it’s actually one of the emerging business hubs of South East Asia. So you have a bunch of things going on in Hong Kong and Singapore and everything but it’s a bit more developed. We really wanted to break into an emerging market and help our participants get a foothold and an understanding of kind of a new burgeoning market. So we bring in business executives from Hong Kong, from Singapore from all the big markets but when you’re there we really want you to develop a network and in a burgeoning new market.
Lisette: Oh interesting so the first question that comes up when I look at all these different cities is how do you advise people on time zone differences? So and actually we should maybe take a step back and talk about the groups that come with you and let’s start with how big are the groups that you have that are going on these tips and then maybe we go into time zones and where are people normally from?
Mike Jones: Sure so we generally target a size between thirty and fifty depending on the time of year, depending on what we’re doing, depending on if we’re going to have an actual focus to it, where flirting with the idea of exploring industry specific trips. Right now we just kind of take a diverse group and we really are excited to just get as many people on the trips as possible. We find that there’s a lot like lawyers can learn from bankers, bankers can learn from marketers kind of that diversity makes for an interesting population. So people really come from all over it’s primarily US based right now just given that we go to Europe it’s not as necessarily interesting for a European from London to come to Paris. So when we wind up introduced in US cities we anticipate will wind up getting a lot more Europeans traveling with us and such but kind of shifting to the time zone thing we posed two different things for employers and for employees so we say that before you first of all before you come on the trip you have to sign kind of a cut… it’s not a formal legal contract but just something of knowledge in the expectations for you while you’re on the trip and kind of making sure that there’s no miscommunication between you and the employee or the employer. So you understand what you have to do, you understand what’s going on and you understand that if you don’t perform like you still are working you’re still responsible for getting a job done and if I mean you aren’t getting your job done at home you would either be subject to some kind of reprimand or you could be fired. So we just want to make sure everyone understands that this isn’t a vacation, that you’re still working, you’re not using your vacation days like you are doing what you have to do and in that we often advise people to say “okay you either going to maintain your home office hours or for some people, for some organizations it’s good to switch to kind of a task based system. It’s like get me these things by the state. So it really varies from company to company and that’s something that we can’t make blanket statements about but what we’ve seen work is that if you just have kind of a willingness to adjust for example we were at having lunch yesterday with two great remote workers who just decided we’re just going to keep normal California hours. So we’re speaking with them and one of the ladies said “I have seen all of Paris in like a week and a half because I had my whole day free,” it’s just it’s a different kind of think so if you can figure out a system that kind of works for you but it’s very good to specifically lay out what the expectation is are before you get started and that means sometimes it means you keep weird hours but honestly there is a lot of opportunity in keeping weird hours for example if you’re in New York or if you’re working New York hours from Paris, you have your whole morning free. You can wake up, go to the gym, get all the work done that you try to get done when everyone’s pestering you during the day.
Mike Jones: Sometimes it’s just good to have that little bit of time.
Lisette: It’s true I have to say I work late at night because I have clients in California and I’m located in the Netherlands, so I’m usually up until ten PM. It’s a great time to be working, everybody else is like watching TV and not doing anything, and it’s very quiet.
Mike Jones: Exactly.
Lisette: Thirty to fifty people that’s quite a lot of people to be hosting, what are the biggest challenges that… we’ll what do people struggle with when they go on these trips? What do you see most often?
Mike Jones: Sure so the struggles in terms of work or kind of in terms of adjusting to culture? Because we see a lot of different things for a different people.
Lisette: Interesting, okay I was thinking more like how do you how do people adjust to remote working? I’m assuming you have people there that are new to remote working but I’m making assumptions here. I mean how many are new to remote working? How many are just trying it out?
Mike Jones: So the interesting thing is the vast majority of the working population in the United States does some form of remote work already. If you take an email from home, if you have just kind of signed on from vacation to take care of whatever task was needed technically you are a remote worker already. So a lot of people have a lot kind of more intuition about it and doing it full time we do see that people can kind of struggle with getting the communication down but that really just comes from and having an understanding of how you’re going to do it. It’s really about a willingness, so where you might have walked down the hall just ask your question, maybe are picking up the phone. I’ve seen plenty of people that literally just will sit on Skype or on a call or something with their coworkers if they’re in a group project and they might not even be talking to them but it’s just like “hey,” and it’s virtually the same thing as being in the same room so it’s very much about kind of finding your rhythm and your balance right? Some people prefer the email, some people prefer talking by phone and some people prefer Skype but once everyone kind of settles in to that communication, that communication mode then we very rarely see issues with it.
Lisette: And with the cultural issues?
Mike Jones: Sure that can be quite interesting, so the best example out of the three cities that we go to is Bangkok because Bangkok if you come from Ohio like the Midwest or something there are a billion people everywhere like literally you take these little scooters down the streets that we’re even between the cars, it is just different. Like it’s just everything’s on top of it, like its super-fast paced. So to some people it can feel kind of stuffy and polluted but that’s why we try to pick accommodation venues where you can kind of get a reprieve from it, it feels kind of similar to home and then obviously language right? Like that can be quite a transition whether you’re going from the US to Paris the US to Bangkok, South Africa they’re generally pretty good in English. It can just… It just takes some time and it takes maybe you have to learn when you get to France the phrase [inaudible 20:49] like “sorry do you speak English?” And it’s just like that little kind of cultural adjustment or figuring out in France that the waiters aren’t going to come pester you for the check or try to turn that table over because generally in France like people meet at restaurants and it would be considered rude to bother you before you are ready to go. So it’s just little things like that and we try to provide some kind of social acclimation as soon as you land in each country on prior and we’ve actually begun flirting with the idea of offering language classes before you get to each of the places that we go. So you can at least have an elementary understanding.
Lisette: Oops! Great idea I would have to say and I recommend the program do a lingo, awesome language program yeah man I’ve been learning Dutch on and my Dutch isn’t great but it’s sure is better than it was I’ve got to say. Yes supper interesting so I guess some of the last question, were reaching time. I have so many questions but I guess I’ll have to say what advice do you have for people who are just starting out? That are looking into this program, what advice do you give them? What do they need to know before they sign up for Tap?
Mike Jones: Sure so what should you know? I mean we travel for a month at a time and everyone’s kind of different, you have to know that you’re someone who’s willing to leave home for an extended period right? So we’ve seen that maybe our program isn’t perfect for people who have kids and everything of the sort because if you come with us for the full global trip, that’s three months away. So it’s really having an awareness of kind of who you are and where you are at your stage in life. It’s also having awareness of your of your job, it’s very interesting because during that conversation with that couple yesterday the remote workers, the quintessential example of the person that we always use to say like ‘oh maybe they couldn’t come is a doctor,’ because you think doctors have to be there, they have to touch you, they have to like examine but they were telling us about this great technology that they are using in Africa to kind of have doctors consult virtually for people in remote areas. So that’s an area that’s changing already but you have to know both yourself and your organization. So there are managers that are still all about face time and if that’s kind of where you are, you either have to have a hard conversation with them and say “hey like look I’m going to be here, I’m going to be present,” but you have to kind of understand that like if that’s not where they are we don’t want to be a hindrance. We want to be an accelerant for your career, we don’t want to be a hindrance and if you’re planning on staying kind of in your existing framework, you have to operate within your framework. So it’s really about taking a good hard look at yourself and where you are and having an honest conversation with yourself about “can I do this?’ If you can, we absolutely love to have you and we’d love to introduce you to all the fantastic people and different cultures from around the world but we never… the last thing that we want is for someone to come with us and then get back and say “man I would have gotten that promotion three months ago if I hadn’t gone.” We want you to be like the next global business leader, that’s what we’re looking for.
Lisette: Sounds amazing, so I guess the last question is how do people get in touch? How do they sign up? What should best way to do that?
Mike Jones: Yeah absolutely you can find us at tapinternational.co. You can just sign on, there is a lot of information about us, what we do, kind of how the program works, how you get in touch, how you sign up and then you can apply straight through the website we generally have Skype interviews. It’s kind of some of the things we’ve talked about to make sure you’re a good candidate for it and you’re really kind of looking to get the most possible out of the program. Then once you’re accepted it’s kind of pack your bag, sort your visa and then let’s go.
Lisette: Oh sounds exciting, one other question is could it also be for a company that wants to send thirty to fifty of their employees on such a trip at a time? I mean could it be…?
Mike Jones: Sure, we begun kind of having early conversations with a few companies to do things like that and it’s definitely something we’re looking into in the near future. So hopefully within the next kind of sixty nine months the answer will be absolutely yes.
Lisette: Seems like it would be a very progressive company that would take thirty to fifty of their employees to send them on a…
Mike Jones: It would be a pretty awesome company.
Lisette: It would be a great company to work for indeed, indeed, let me know who those companies are when you them in. I’d like to promote them indeed, thank you so much today for your time and your program sounds really interesting, it’s great to see these kind of things developing. Thank you.
Mike Jones: Well thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate and I absolutely love what you’re doing here.
Lisette: Thanks for listening everyone, if you like what you hear then please leave us a review, where on iTunes and Stitcher or even easier share the love, send this episode to somebody you think it would help. If you want to get more stories and best practices and tips then sign up on the Collaboration Superpower’s newsletter. Every other week we send you lots of great information straight to the inbox of wherever you are. So that’s collaborationsuperpowers.com/newsletter. A huge thanks to our amazing and awesome podcast producer Nick Jaworski, he kept my podcast up and running while I sat at home writing my book, so thanks Nick I appreciate all your work and I have loved working with you for the last four years. You can hire Nick to make you as star at podcastmonster.com and another big thanks to my dazzling designer Alfred Boland who has made the Collaboration Superpower’s brand so bright and powerful, I feel lucky to be working with him. You can hire him to make you look cool at the thelondon.nl. Alright everybody until next week why not work on the go and be powerful.