Meet the Nomads – Simon LePine – Mountain Climber/Entrepreneur Extraordinaire!
This week we meet with Simon LePine, a mountain climber/insurance agent/rescue worker/entrepreneur. Yes, he does it all! Simon lives an extraordinary nomadic lifestyle combining his love for outdoor adventure with his career. He has graciously offered lots of advice and tips below on how he makes it happen.
What is your business/profession?
I actually have four professions. They are:
? High Camp Gear – Chief of Operations
? Lions Bay Search and Rescue – Communications Officer (Volunteer)
? Guiding – In training to be a mountain guide
? Insurance Broker
High Camp is the business I enjoy the most, allows me to travel the most, and the one I try to spend the most of my energy on so I will gloss over the other professions. I will say that out of all those professions, I work 15-20 hours a day, 7 days a week so I have to travel while working or I would never have the opportunity. High Camp is a business I started 5 years ago manufacturing and distributing outdoor clothing and equipment. I have set the business up in such a way that we have no employees but many contractors. This way I can travel and work from anywhere without the hassle of having to be in the office or managing employees. It also allows my contractors to work when and where they want. In my company rather than setting a required amount of work or number of hours I set deadlines for work completed and it doesn’t matter how we get to the deadline.
Lions Bay SAR:
My home base is in Lions Bay, B.C., when I’m around home I’m more than happy to volunteer when needed. The team overall participates in 20-50 technical mountain rescues every year.
I have been training for 10 years now to be a mountain guide certified by the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) and this is actually what I went to school for. 7-10 years is the normal amount of time it takes to be ready for certification and I feel I’m ready but it’s been put it on hold while I get High Camp up and running.
What training/experience did you receive in order to be able to have this business/profession?
The training and experience for High Camp, Lions Bay SAR, and Guiding is essentially one and the same. I started skiing around the time I learnt to walk and got into some pretty serious skiing by the age of 10. All that time I needed something to do in the summer so I started rock climbing and that expanded into mountaineering and technical ice climbing. With that experience I started training to be a guide and joined Lions Bay SAR. I then went to the University College of the Cariboo (now called Thompson Rivers University) and took the Adventure Guide Program. While I was at school I had to take business courses designed specifically for outdoor professionals such as business management, marketing, and accounting. In the business course I had to write a business plan and that was the birth of High Camp.
How long have you been doing this?
This is sort of mentioned in all the other questions. I have been skiing my entire life, climbing for 11 years, mountaineering and ice climbing for 6 years, rescuing people for 6 years, and running High Camp for 5 years.
How long were you in your business/profession before you began traveling?
The travel really came before the profession. When I was training to be a guide and going to school it was required that we travel a lot and gain real world experience. The travel has always been the priority and I have developed jobs around that. I’ve found I really can’t go for more than a week or two without going and challenging myself in the outdoors.
What interested you in becoming mobile?
The primary reason I mix work, play, and travel is because I work more than 8 hours a day so a structured office environment really doesn’t suite me. Combine that with a passion for the outdoors and you’re pretty much forced to live the nomad lifestyle if you ever want to enjoy yourself and accomplish anything. Also, by having a flexible schedule I can work on the bad weather days (such as today) and play on the good weather days.
Where do you like to travel?
One of my favorite places to travel is the West Coast of North America. It’s amazing how much terrain is here if you’re willing to leave the beaten path. It also helps to be able to work while traveling in the mountains and come out of the mountains for a day or two for meetings if necessary. For my bigger trips I love to travel in New Zealand, Europe, South America, and anywhere mountainous.
How much of the year do you travel?
The amount of time I spend traveling varies significantly based on the commitments I have at home. In years past I have traveled for 8-9 months total while other years it’s only 2-3 months total. Lately it’s only been 3-4 months but I’m hoping that will increase very soon as High Camp starts to produce more revenue and run itself. My girlfriend is in India right now climbing and the plan was for me to go and meet up with her but commitments won’t allow it. For now we’re planning big trips to the Himalayas and Aconcagua in South America.
Do you travel alone/with a partner/with children?
For the most part I travel with a climbing partner although I have been known to solo certain routes. Lately I have been traveling with my girlfriend a lot because she enjoys climbing and skiing just as much as me. I would definitely recommend traveling with a partner to start, two heads are better than one.
Is there any special equipment or infrastructure you must travel with in order to run your business? (ie laptop, telephony, fax)
I definitely couldn’t live without my Acer tablet PC. Tablets are great because they allow you to work in places were typing isn’t an option.
Also, my Treo cell phone is essential because it tells me were to go and what to do.
I have a Skype phone and that’s great for long distance calls and longer calls. It’s nice that Skype goes anywhere your laptop does and it’s pay as you go. With the Treo it’s possible to have phone calls forwarded to your Skype account so when I’m at the computer working I just ignore my cell phone and wait for Skype to ring.
Are there any services you use while you travel in order to run your business?
? Zoho for online office suite: (www.zoho.com)
o Virtual Office
o To-do list
o RSS feeds
o Yahoo syncs with my Treo so it’s nice to have a web based backup.
o It’s also nice to set up a group calendar for all your business associates to schedule meetings.
Are your clients/customers located at your home base or scattered?
The retailers that buy from High Camp are currently all located in BC and all of my insurance clients are based in Vancouver.
What kind of reaction have you had from your clients/customers about your traveling lifestyle?
All of my clients appreciate my lifestyle and it’s actually a selling feature. Everyone in the outdoor industry appreciates it if you can hold your meetings on the ski hill, in the mountains, or on rock cliffs. At the same time the insurance clients always ask what mountain I just climbed or I’m about to climb. I get the impression that people enjoy dealing with a personality and they like to be able to reach me 24/7.
What would you say are the pros/cons of the nunomadic business and lifestyle?
I would say the pros are:
? Enjoy your work environment
? Less potential for burnout (if it’s done right)
? Accomplish more/More effective time use
? Life experience
? Business experience
? Often a lower cost of living
The cons are:
? If it’s not done right you will burn out sooner and work much harder
? You have to be extremely adaptable and think on your feet
? Some people require a home to go to every night
? Things change on a daily basis which doesn’t work for some people
? You have to be self motivated
Do you have any advice for those people wanting to set up their own mobile business?
I would say, as I have read somewhere else on nunomad.com, prepare ahead of time and take a few small trips first. If you go directly from a 9-5 office job to a nomad lifestyle it will be a shock to your system and you probably will not adapt quickly enough. On the small trips note any problems you have and find a solution on the spot or at home, don’t let the little things build up because they will make bigger trips unpleasant.
I would always recommend traveling with a companion. Aside from the obvious security and safety it preserves your sanity, gives you a sounding board, and will help you find solutions to problems you come across along the way. This companion must be someone you can travel with and not create conflict or stress. Alternatively you can arrange to meet different friends or business associates along the way.
If you work for someone else you will have to either show them you are capable of working remotely or you will have to negotiate that when you’re first hired. To be honest if a mediocre employee came to me and asked to work from home I wouldn’t let them because I wouldn’t have confidence they were going to work hard and/or not make mistakes. If you’re already living the nomad lifestyle when you’re hired that’s great, just be up front and let your employer know where you go and what you do. If you’re going to ask your boss to let you leave you probably should work hard for at least a year to prove you have a strong work ethic that will continue while out of the office. It may help to negotiate less time in the office in exchange for getting a raise.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
P.S. The picture I have included was taken in the Interior of British Columbia. It was a 10 day “business meeting” with an associate while attempting to set up new routes on an unclimbed rock face. We were also product testing, the shirt I’m wearing is a sample of The Shirt, which we designed and manufactured.