Fred Perrotta is a fan of remote work. In fact he built his whole company, Tortuga Backpacks, on the premise of living, working and traveling on your own terms. Tortuga sells backpacks for city travel, and the small but robust team of nine people all work in various parts of the world. The idea to start Tortuga came to him while working at Google, where he was unhappy with the nine-to-five lifestyle and #desklife. We sat down with Fred to discuss what he loves most about his remote work setup, how to be a successful entrepreneur and his sources of inspiration.
So, what are you working on right now?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of Tortuga. Right now, we’re working on our second and third collections of travel backpacks which should all be available this year.
What’s your favorite location to work from?
I work from a variety of settings. Depending on the task at hand, I work from the standing desk in my home office, the Impact Hub Oakland coworking space, or my favorite local cafe.
At the time you were starting Tortuga, you were working full-time at Google. What inspired you to quit and make the leap?
I finally made the leap when we started our first production run. After returning from a work abroad program in Australia, I spent another quarter at Google to save money and get back on my feet in the US. Then I moved to Los Angeles for a year to help expedite our first order of backpacks.
What’s one early career mistake you made as an entrepreneur that you wish you could have avoided?
Most of my mistakes were a necessary part of the learning process. I wish I would have pushed myself to move faster in the early days. I still had a cushy job at Google and too often let factories or other third parties dictate the speed at which we were moving.
What are some of your best and worst work habits?
My best habit is using Google Calendar and Asana to plan my quarters, weeks, and days. Everything goes into one of these two systems so that I don’t miss anything.
My worst habit is probably being signed into Slack. Having a real-time communication channel is helpful for our remote team, but chat can be distracting if you’re undisciplined.
What’s the biggest perk of having your team at Tortuga Backpacks work remotely? What’s the hardest part?
The biggest perk is flexibility in where, when, and how we work. Our team is free to work where and how they are most happy and productive. Without an office to report to, we can only be judged by our work, not by our ass-in-seat time.
The hardest part of being a remote team is communication. Unfortunately, this problem only gets worse as you grow. Keeping the whole team moving together in the same direction is the most important part of my job. Since we don’t share a physical space, everyone can easily drift in different directions preventing us from moving forward as a company.
Where do you look for inspiration? Could be sites, books, shows, podcasts, etc.
What’s one tool or utility that you couldn’t live without?
TextExpander. Whenever I use another computer, I’m lost without all of my time-saving shortcuts.
In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait that one must have to find success as an entrepreneur?
High quality decision making. Grit is important, but you have to know what to stick with and what to bail on. The only way to get better at decision making, especially within your industry and domain, is to make a lot of decisions, validate your assumptions, and be willing to admit when you were wrong. You need reps to get better at making decisions and at knowing your confidence level in each decision.
Where do you see the future of remote work heading? What’s your prediction for 2020?
Remote work is only the first step in creating more human companies. We are at the beginning of a transition from the industrial model to a human-centered one.
I expect the number of remote companies and workers to grow in the next few years. More importantly, I expect some of the remote companies to take further steps in creating more flexible workplaces. Without the right systems and freedoms in place, we will just shift the worst tendencies of the American workplace from the office to your house.
What’s one book that either changed the way you think about self-employment, or particularly shaped the way you think of your professional career?
The 4-Hour Workweek gave my co-founder and I the confidence that we could create and sell a product. We used the 4HWW as our blueprint in starting Tortuga. A lot has changed since then, but Tim Ferriss’s book showed us that it was possible.
Know of an inspirational and interesting “hustler” among us? Send your nomination to [email protected]