As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mandy Fransz.
Mandy is a Remote Work Advocate, LinkedIn Expert, and the founder of Make the Leap Digital, a boutique consulting firm helping businesses digitally transform the way they work. In 2019, she was nominated as one of the most ambitious and inspiring female entrepreneurs in The Netherlands and she has been featured in several media including VIVA400, LINDA.nl, and Algemeen Dagblad Rotterdam. She currently manages the fast-growing Remote Workers on LinkedIn group with more than 50,000 members worldwide and she regularly shares tips, resources, and best practices with her community of +15,000 social media followers on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thanks for having me! As a small-town girl, I always knew that I wanted to travel and explore the world and different cultures. I studied International Business Administration at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where I got the opportunity to travel to places such as Beijing (China), Mumbai (India), and I even lived in Bangkok (Thailand) as part of international exchange. I always kept a travel blog to share my experiences abroad and hoped to someday run an online business that would give me the freedom to work from anywhere. During a two-month backpacking trip in South America back in 2015, I was approached by a recruiter on LinkedIn for a job opportunity at one of the world’s largest tech companies in Dublin, Ireland. It was a “red carpet deal” and, of course, I took the opportunity. I worked at undoubtedly one of the best companies in the world with world-class perks and benefits, but, after a while, the office walls started to come down on me and the travel bug started itching again. I decided to quit my comfortable 9-to-5 corporate job and booked a ticket to Bali to explore the world of “remote work”. This is where Make the leap Digital was born.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?
When I quit my corporate job and booked a ticket to Bali I didn’t have a solid back-up plan. I just took the leap of faith and started “working” from co-working spaces to develop my online skills and network with like-minded people around the world. I signed my first remote client within 30 days after I quit my corporate job, without having a website or even a business name. I had no idea what I was doing half of the time! I started from scratch while figuring out how to work remotely effectively, draft legal contracts, international taxes, and more. I lost that client very soon, but it was the little push I needed to start my own online consulting business. I believe that there is no such thing as a “failure” or “mistake” — turn these into opportunities for growth, learn, and move on.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I stumbled upon The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss during one of my travels, and his book changed the course of my career (and life). Although I don’t believe that working only four hours per week is realistic nor a desire for everyone, I think the concept of the “New Rich” — those who pursue wealth and freedom today rather than saving up for retirement — is increasingly popular amongst younger generations. Since then, I’ve had a keen interest in starting an online business that could give me the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere.
Another book that helped me get where I am today is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Back in my corporate job, I worked in a male-dominated environment which can be overwhelming as a businesswoman. Did you know that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women? (Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead 2013). This book has helped me to deal with challenges — such as imposter syndrome — in a male-dominated industry, and embrace my full potential as a female business owner.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
As mentioned before, I started my business without a solid back-up plan. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever I felt the happiest and most productive. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one — as one of the managers of the Remote Workers on LinkedIn group, which increased with more than 50,000 members since 2019, I noticed that there was a huge community out there with a shared desire. This is when I turned my purpose into my company vision: helping businesses digitally transform the way they work so you can work from wherever you feel happiest and most productive. It is now part of my three core pillars (Purpose, Process, and Profit) as I believe having a shared purpose helps you connect with your team and clients — especially when working remotely.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
“If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.”
Starting and scaling an online business can be overwhelming — there will always be ups and downs and you might even work longer hours than before. This quote, which I have written in my journal, reminds me every day to prioritize self-care and take a step back if needed. A few practices that have helped me are starting each day with a morning mindset routine including meditation, gratitude journalism, and positive affirmations. I am currently also doing a 21-day abundance challenge by Deepak Chopra, which has been very helpful especially during this time of uncertainty.
Thank you for all that. Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family-related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I wasn’t able to visit family and friends for six weeks, including my grandmother who is currently in her final stages of breast cancer treatment and my mother, who owns a hairdressing salon and closed down her business due to the impact of the corona virus. Also, being someone who rarely watches the news, I felt overwhelmed with news overload as I was trying to stay up-to-date with what was going on in the world during this pandemic.
To address these challenges, I created a daily schedule, which has helped me tremendously to stay focused, productive, and prioritize well being during this uncertain time. It includes enjoying a healthy breakfast and getting showered before jumping into work, journalism and meditation, regular coffee and lunch breaks, going for a walk outside and doing a yoga or workout session after work. I also limit watching the news to once per day. Plus, I schedule regular virtual coffee chats with friends and family to support each other and avoid feelings of isolation.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I lost about 70% of my monthly income due to frozen company budgets and government measures such as canceled meet-ups and events. Instead of taking actions out of fear, I decided to take a step back, reflect, and leverage this opportunity to pivot my business and focus on the long-term strategy. I spent the past couple of months helping others navigate the world of remote work by sharing my expertise in panel discussions, expert interviews, and webinars while doing extensive research into how companies can make the transition to remote work in a more sustainable way.
In the meantime, I launched a new, more affordable offer to help job seekers, coaches, and consultants build their online professional brand to help them find + attract their next (remote) client or job opportunity on LinkedIn. I am currently helping clients across 10 different countries ranging from chiropractors, yoga teachers, and burn-out coaches via Zoom video meetings — it is truly inspiring to see the creativity that this pandemic sparks as businesses are making the transition online.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Now more than ever having an online community of like-minded people is important to overcome loneliness and feelings of isolation. As I mentioned before, I schedule regular virtual coffee chats with peers, friends, and family around the world to connect and talk about our fears and uncertainties during these difficult times. But also having fun through virtual games, Friday afternoon drinks, and lunch breaks. The Remote Workers on LinkedIn group has also been a great place to learn about best practices, ask for advice, and exchange ideas with a community of like-minded people. But, above all, it is important to be kind to yourself and your loved ones during this difficult time and lead with empathy.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I believe that remote work is no longer the future of work — it is now. Over the past couple of weeks, companies including Google, Salesforce, and Microsoft have already announced extended work-from-home policies until the end of the year in response to COVID-19, and some companies including Facebook and Twitter even announced long-term remote work strategies. Companies need to adopt a sustainable remote work policy if they want to meet the changing demands of the global workforce post-COVID-19. And, if implemented correctly, remote work can be extremely beneficial for both company and employee as many studies have shown benefits such as increased productivity, improved work-life balance, higher employee morale, decreased real estate costs, lower carbon footprint and improved attraction and retention rate of a more diverse and talented workforce.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I sincerely believe that the corona virus pandemic will forever change the way we work. The workforce will demand more flexible work schedules and management and leadership teams will be more tolerant towards remote work as they realize the above-mentioned benefits. I also think the “traditional workplace” will look a lot different in 2021 — it will be more focused around building community through creative and inspiring meeting rooms, onsite events, and real-life collaboration.
The world has just undergone the world’s largest remote work experiment — now it’s time to take those learning and build a sustainable remote work policy post-COVID-19 to build a happier and more productive workforce.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I am currently working on a new consulting program to help companies digitally transform the way they work so more people can enjoy the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they felt the happiest and most productive. I am soon launching a new interview series called the “Rise of Remote Work” featuring remote work companies, leaders, and advocates around the world to share their insights and best practices to help others make the transition into remote work post-COVID-19. And, I am dedicated to building and growing a remote-first business where my team and I should be able to work from anywhere in the world.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
As I mentioned before, remote work is no longer the future of work — it is now. Leverage this opportunity to digitally transform your team or organization so you can build a happier and more productive workforce in the long term. Here are four tips to help you get started:
- Ask feedback from your current employees through a virtual survey to assess their work flexibility needs and identify any gaps and opportunities.
- Consult and collaborate with internal stakeholders (e.g. management, HR, and legal) to assess eligibility, processes, and tools & equipment needed.
- Appoint a Remote Lead or hire an external consultant to help drive remote work adoption through tooling, training, and support.
- Draft your sustainable remote work policy and consider the key components in this remote work policy checklist to help you build a happier and more productive remote workforce post-COVID-19.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A quote that I stumbled upon in a local coffee shop somewhere in the Seychelles islands is “Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion.” I love this quote as it reminds me that there are ups and downs to every situation — rather it’s about choosing what challenges are worth fighting for.
How can our readers further follow your work?