How to run a business while surfing in Costa Rica?
August 11, 2014

Hi! My name is Christian Häfner and I´m a passionate entrepreneur with a focus on making things easier. Together with my Co-Founder René, I´m currently working on FastBill  an easy accounting solution that takes the pain out of paperwork. In particular, small businesses experience a lot of trouble and headaches when it comes to invoicing and accounting.

They all do what they love each day, but none of them really like paperwork. Our mission is to fix that! With FastBill, we created an award-winning interface that enables any small business to work from any place, with any device, on a highly professional level.

When and how did you start to work remotely? 

When we founded the company, we did not have ideal circumstances. René and I lived 500km apart and we knew each other only from a mere handful of phone calls. However, we felt we had a good basis and the same vision: We wanted to make accounting for small businesses less annoying and more enjoyable. In other words: We worked remotely from day one!

Even though we had a small office in Frankfurt, most of my time I was working either from a co-working space (Betahaus) or from home. Today, the company has grown to include more than 20 team members, and I can manage it even better from my mobile office.

How do you manage the team remotely?

Working remotely is a two-sided agreement. As a company, we try to empower every employee to complete what is important for his or her job. The employee, on the other hand, should be highly disciplined and performance oriented. It is important to make this expectation clear and transparent.

The second important step is to provide the right infrastructure. As a team with offices in 3 cities plus home offices, we need to make sure that everybody is connected and receives the information he needs without delay.

I am working with this strategy not only with the FastBill team, but also with my team that is involved in some other projects like my Blogs and Happy Coffee.

Here´s our current setup. We use:

  • Skype – for messaging and video chats
  • Apple calendar
  • Google drive – for real time document collaboration
  • Dropbox – for documents we want to share
  • Teamdrive (encrypted) – for sensitive documents
  • Pipedrive as CRM
  • Sipgate as a phone system
  • Yammer (and currently testing bitrix24) as internal knowledge base
  • Zendesk as ticketing and FAQ system
  • Jira for bug tracking
  • Wunderlist for task management
  • … and of course FastBill for our paperwork and accounting

There are some more tools, but not everyone is using every tool. There are also tools that we don´t require everyone to use. For example apps for the To Do lists and a scan app (Scanbot).

The most important part is to have stable WiFi, no matter where we are. Since all our tools work online, this is the most important crucial part. Therefore, we also include mobile phone plans that work anywhere. At least enough to get the important tasks done.

Tell us more about your passion 😉

It was actually my girlfriend who came up with the idea to try surfing, 4 years ago, when I was 28. It´s maybe too late to become a pro, but I don’t care… surfing is a lifestyle, and it’s never too late to get started.

Since that first experience in Portugal, we´re planning our trips and holidays around good swells and beautiful places close by.

My surfing journey started in Portugal, first in Ericeira and then in Peniche. Both great places, even if I should have started it the other way around. Beach breaks are better if you have no experience 😉

In the last months I’ve surfed in Bali, Costa Rica, Galicia (Spain) and I will hit the waves again this year in Portugal and Sri Lanka. I’m looking forward to it!