Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Global Entrepreneur's Perspective: Calm down. Have a cup of coffee. Relax. It's cool.

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Here's what happened. Ian Mount interviewed me for a special small business (exporting) guide he penned for The New York Times. In talking with him, I found his back story so fascinating that I turned around and asked if I could interview him for The Global Small Business Blog. What follows is the result of our conversation.

Delaney:
What were you doing before you started your free agent writing career/blog?

Mount: I’ve had a pretty roundabout journalism career, to be honest. I’d always been interested in writing, but more from the fiction writing side. Not surprisingly, when I graduated college in 1992, just after the recession we had at the end of Bush I, I couldn’t find a job for the life of me. And so, while working construction in my home town (a small town in Pennsylvania) that summer, I decided that if I was going to have a less than ideal job, I’d have it in a fun place. One twenty-eight hour Amtrak trip later, I ended up in New Orleans.

There, I worked at everything from a factory shipping manager to a museum guard to a party motivator to … a freelance journalist. After returning to Philadelphia in 1995 for a masters degree in creative writing, I decided I had to find a real job and ended up at the Philadelphia Inquirer as an editorial assistant and freelance writer (before the newspaper business disappeared).

Then after two years there and four years in New York and San Francisco as a technology and business staff writer at various publications (Smartmoney.com, Business 2.0), I decided I wanted the freedom to decide what I wanted to write about (and get rich or poor doing so). That was 2003.

Two years later, after writing for everything from New York to The New York Times to Maxim, my wife and I decided that, with a small sum we’d made buying and selling our apartment in New York, we’re try living and working abroad. We decided on Buenos Aires, Argentina. Work and life have gone well, and we haven’t looked back.

Delaney: Why did you move to Argentina (history on where you are from originally).

Mount: It was really a combination of factors:
  • The price—for such a lovely place, it was fabulously cheap in 2005 and still has a good cost/quality of life ratio.
  • Language—if you’re going to learn one other language, Spanish seemed like the one.
  • Class structure—there’s a large middle class here which means you can blend in and not have to decide between gated community and ghetto.
  • Café culture—you can always find a great café with good espresso within two blocks, and see theater/music/etc. seven nights a week.
  • Time zone—one hour ahead of New York: you get to sleep late and still get to work on time.
Delaney: How is your current global entrepreneurial venture working for you?

Mount: I have no complaints at all. Really. The low cost structure allowed me to take risks, so I learned radio journalism and started doing stories for public radio programs, which is amazing fun. Right now I’m working on a book on Argentine wine I recently sold to W.W. Norton. If I were in New York worrying about my next mortgage payment, I don’t know if I would have taken those risks.

Delaney: If we lived in a perfect world, what would you want more of? Less of?

Mount: In terms of what? Ha. The first thing that comes to mind is that my broadband has been out for 10 days. I really want more broadband that works. But seriously, as someone who is self employed I really enjoy living in a country with accessible health care. Argentina has a two-tier system—public for everyone, and private if you want to pay more for more personal care—and while that isn’t totally egalitarian (not that the U.S. system is), it means that everybody can go to the hospital without fearing bankruptcy.

Delaney: What is the single greatest adjustment you have made since you moved to Argentina while working with, I would imagine, a lot of North American folks?

Mount: As in many parts of the world outside the U.S., things sometimes don’t work here. That can either be stressful, or it can calm you down. I’ve learned to calm down. Have a cup of coffee. Relax. It’s cool. It’s amazing (and difficult) to learn that lesson. Of course, explaining to your U.S. colleagues why you’re not able to do everything right away can be difficult, but you deal with it …

Delaney: Any global/technology tips for success you can share with our readers?

Mount:

1. Skype/Vonage/etc. are incredibly useful so that your U.S. clients can call you at a U.S. number and reach you wherever you are. It makes you seem closer, and that’s important.

2. Get a bank account with an international bank, like HSBC. It does make a difference.

3. Don’t gauge your experience by comparing it to the U.S. Nothing is more irritating to a local than hearing someone say, “What a disaster! In the U.S., what we do is …” Usually there’s a reason why things are like they are. Learn it before you try to change it.

4. Learn the language!

Thanks Ian.

To learn more about Ian's work, visit the following:

http://goodairsdocs.appspot.com/ianclips.htm
http://goodairsdocs.appspot.com/ianresume.htm

He can be reached at:

Ian Mount
Thames 2220 "B"
C1425FIF Buenos Aires, Argentina
Arg. (+54 11) 4774-0716 / Arg. Cel. (+54911) 3675-7575
US +1 215-253-3522 / US Fax +1 501-640-6804
http://www.goodairs.com/

3 comments:

Dr William J McKibbin said...

This is a great post -- interesting and useful -- twenty years ago I ran a business for three years in a foreign country and did very well -- maybe it's time to do it again -- thanks for the inpiration...

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

Being a neighbor of Ian's, and an expat from the States with his own business, I have to agree with everything he has said.

I have also been pleasantly surprised by the number of Argentines who are bilingual.

Argento Wine said...

Matt Chesterton also recently did an interview with Ian Mount about his new book "The Vineyard at the End of the World" - and he touched on some of the interesting stories and people behind the Argentina wine industry. http://www.therealargentina.com/argentinian-wine-blog/the-vineyard-at-the-end-of-the-world-an-interview-with-ian-mount/