How Digital Nomadism is Transforming Countries, with Rafael Koudounis

Rafael Koudounis is the president of the Digital Nomads Observatory, a non-profit organization that aims to develop sustainable policies regarding the digital nomad’s movement, and he is the CEO of Dingo Marketing Team.

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Digital Nomads Observatory president

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of The Distant Job podcast. I am your host, Luis, and this is your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. With me today, my guest is Rafael Koudounis. Rafael is the president of the Digital Nomads Observatory, a non-profit organization that aims to develop sustainable policies regarding the digital nomads movement, and he is the CEO of Dingo Marketing Team. Rafael, welcome to the show.

Rafael:

Hello, Luis. I’m very happy to be here. I’m here to answer every question you wish.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure, it’s a pleasure having you. I’m very interested about talking with you about, specifically, about the life, career, and all of that of a digital nomad, because the people I have … I’ve had some digital nomads on the show. I’ve had some people talking about the digital nomad life, but usually we’re talking more about working from home, which is not necessarily … It’s not the same thing, and it’s important that people know the difference. Before we get into that, I want you to tell me, how was remote work and digital nomadism, how did you come to it and how did it impact your career?

Rafael:

Oh, well. You start with a strong question, Luis.

Luis:

Yes.

Rafael:

The whole point with the digital nomadism, let me clarify, that I am not living the life of a digital nomad in terms of the traveling the whole earth. I’m living the life of digital nomad, but traveling in my own country, because I like to be connected with the earth, so I have my own earth and vegetables, as I told you before. Let’s start. The whole point, you mentioned before that I am the CEO of Dingo Marketing Team. We had a big team back in 2019. We were about 13 people, 13 people for the local economy that we are based, the company is based. It is based in the Greek Islands, so 13 people in the Greek Islands, it’s a big company. 13 people in an office, so we were a traditional 9:00 to 5:00 office with very little remote work. All the appointments were in our office with the clients. The normal boring thing, with the coffee on the table with some cookies in some nice cases, and then the COVID came.

In the COVID, we realized that we can have all the tasks done, all the day flowing. Of course, there were some people that they got off the ship. They couldn’t stand the remote work, they couldn’t stand the whole thing of COVID quarantine. Okay? It was a big matter. After this, we decided to switch our relationship with the company and with the people working with the company from time oriented to task oriented. The meaning of this is that we switched totally the way we worked. We didn’t know that it would be a catalyst about the way that we perceive things. Somewhere between 2019 and 2020, it came in our minds, it growed, the idea that we have to create an organization to pursue some policies for the what was growing community of the digital nomads and the remote workers, because we believe that they will combine sometime, and there must be an organization to shape the future and environment for them.

Luis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). All right, so why don’t we start it? I mean, I want to go back a bit to plant the flag, let’s say, and then later come back to the transition from a completely traditional normal company to a fully remote company. Let’s talk about that vision, right? Tell me about the day. Tell me about the day when you had the realization that the Digital Nomads Observatory was something that needed to happen. What event led you to that conclusion, right, and I guess how did you start it? What is currently the main pursuit of the organization?

Rafael:

Okay. Digital Nomads organization, the primary objective of the organization is to develop sustainable local policies for shaping a welcoming environment, okay, for the digital nomad. What that means is that by interviewing hundreds and hundreds of nomads, we developed a framework that a local municipality, for example, can take it and do an assessment to see if they have communities established, if they have coworking places, if they have enough fast and reliable internet, if the transportation infrastructure is in good position to welcome digital nomads in the city. We took what digital nomads needs for a destination to make it a policy development plan for the destination. We work with the community. We work close to the community. We’re not positioned, the Digital Nomads Observatory, as a community. We positioned it as, let’s say, the community of the communities. We embrace … We want the communities to be part of us, to give us big buck. We go simply run researches about what digital nomads need, how they want the laws to be made, the taxation policies, all those. This is our job. We’ve got, in Greece especially, we did all the grassroots lobbying for the creation of the law for digital nomads, and it was a huge success because in less than 12 months, Greece has an established law for digital nomads.

Luis:

Can you give me some details about that law? What kind of policies does it implement, does it demand?

Rafael:

First of all, Greece announced that we speak … The law, as you know, is for digital nomads outside of the European Union, because we’re based in the European Union. We can go wherever we want without any papers and everything, but for foreigners outside of the EU, it is needed about 3000 Euro per month, it needs to have income. Already now, there are more than 3500 applied, for Greece in the last month. I believe that this is a good law and a good standard for other countries in the EU, to adopt those.

Luis:

It’s like a work visa situation. A law that allows people to get a work visa to work, yeah.

Rafael:

Yes, yes. Yeah, yeah, it’s like a work visa, but a lot easier to take it, because you apply through the embassy and you can send digital all your papers and stuff, with Greek system, and you get in.

Luis:

Do you have any idea of what’s the uptake per country? Is it more people from North America, let’s say, doing it? I guess that now you get a lot of people from the UK because it’s a way for them to kind of become Europeans again, right, in a way. What’s the ratio from the west to, let’s say, Asia?

Rafael:

Look, I don’t have any particular stat about this. It will not be a real statistic.

Luis:

Okay, fair enough.

Rafael:

I can say to you from my experience that many Americans, they go to Asia, just Bali, all those countries around Bali, but in the EU, we can count our own EU citizens, and all the countries of the EU, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, all the countries of the EU could get benefits from EU citizens that they were running around, even if they are digital nomads or even if they are just European citizens. That’s the point of the European dream.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. Tell me about, when you’re doing an audit, let’s say. When you’re doing an audit that will help the local governments implement policies for developing that location for digital nomads, right, what are usually the top requirements, right? Let’s say that I’m in a … Let’s say that here in Portugal, I’m a member of my local city hall, right? What are the things that I want to be looking for? What are the major pain points that don’t allow people to be digital nomads in certain locations?

Rafael:

I will give you the eight points of our methodology, the eight layers of our methodology, that you have to consider so you can assess your destination and do it friendly for digital nomads. We begin with the first later that is the cost of living. Cost of living, food, home, all the basic costs to live to the destination, and afterwards we believe that the digital nomads community will be and must be the layer number two. Digital nomads, they are people that they like also to travel a lot, also to see different destinations, but there are lots of people that they need company. They need people to socialize, because often they have loneliness fatigue. Layer three, how can we empower the community if we don’t already have it, through the workspaces? The workspaces, could we have them, the incubators, for the communities to flourish. What we need for the workspaces to work, we need connectivity. We need stable internet lines. Stable internet lines, and good speeds. How we can go to the workspaces, we are already at the layer number five. We go through mobility solutions and stable transportation system of the city.

Luis:

Got it.

Rafael:

All those could create two weaknesses to the destination. The one weakness, which is the layer six, is the environment, because everyone that is a 2021 citizen of the world considers environment as a very serious problem, so we need to live in clean cities and clean environment. Layer seven is the things to do, and this is where digital nomadism and tourism collides together. It’s the only touchpoint between those two grounds. Things to do in a city, yoga classes, zoos, stadiums, running, places to go to run or maybe for with your bicycle. All of them must be cited in the bubble of safety. Safety of COVID, if we are speaking 2021.

Luis:

Of course.

Rafael:

Safety of fearing, no fears. You cannot walk on your own, and a thief will just get your wallet.

Luis:

Yeah, or your laptop, right?

Rafael:

Or your laptop, yeah.

Luis:

The laptop is a very … Exactly. The laptop is a very important component.

Rafael:

Yeah, because you could have your digital wallet in the laptop.

Luis:

Yeah, as well, of course.

Rafael:

Those are the eight layers that we consider, and we see in the destination to do the assessment.

Luis:

Right. Where do you find the biggest challenges in these eight layers? In your experience, where do the authorities, the local government get stuck more often?

Rafael:

In the ninth layer, that it is not eighth layer.

Luis:

Oh, there’s a secret layer, very well. Well played, well played.

Rafael:

Oh, yes. Yes, and the ninth layer is the mentality. The mentality of the people, and now we are beginning to dive into the digital nomad way of life and how it collides with local communities. I say that the ninth layer, the mentality of people, is the biggest difficulty we find because digital nomads are people from different regions, different sexual orientations, different beliefs, different colors, different everything. Okay? It’s a literally multicultural society in the society. This of course, many matters such as discrimination and everything, it is not … If you go with a nomad list, you could see many indexes about discrimination in every country. For example, countries such as Turkey, it’s a non-free country. It promotes freedom but it is not a free country. It has not stable political and sociological … It is not stable.

Luis:

Got it.

Rafael:

This is the biggest difficulty. For example, a small village in Greece. Imagine that we have two old ladies that never in their life have seen a tourist, ever. Never. There are, there are some people.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Portugal too, in Portugal too.

Rafael:

Yes. Imagine those two ladies that are sitting in the middle of the road to suddenly see two people, black people, that they are holding hands and they are gay. We have a shock here. The shock must be, you have to ready the society. We have to ready the local community to accept the digital nomads.

Luis:

Yeah. There’s definitely … I can understand that there would be a cultural shock, right? There will be a cultural shock, though I would imagine that as local governments follow these eight points and modernize progressively, right, the cultural shock will probably be lessened, right? As more and more … As a place becomes a more touristic destination, that should go away, I hope, pretty soon. Right?

Rafael:

Yes. Pretty soon is a good hope, but I believe it will need some years, because the reason that we … Personally, my vision is that through the digital nomads, we are going deeply into the iceberg of social changes, that they will lead, definitely, to the new humanity without racists, without discrimination. Everything united. This is not my vision. This is the vision of the European Union. I was raised with this vision.

Luis:

Of course.

Rafael:

You too, you was raised with this vision and everything.

Luis:

Yes, of course, yeah. I agree as well. I actually think that remote work is the ultimate equalizer. Right?

Rafael:

Yes.

Luis:

I think that remote work is how you put people … More than ever, more than anything that has been tried before, I think it’s the more holistic, the healthier way to put people more on the same level, right, because I mean, we’ve had this thing, right? With mostly successes, some problems along the way, especially … Our countries know very well, Greece and Portugal, are very familiar with the problems of the economic decisions of the European Union.

Rafael:

We were part of the PIGS.

Luis:

Yes, exactly, exactly, and the reality is that even though that was a very … That was an experiment that was very costly to our countries, we still, the vast … At the end of the day, the vast amount of the population still thinks that it was a worthwhile experiment and were happy by being in that environment, right? I think that more than that, now that we really have an opportunity to have real economic change by making jobs flow more than ever. Sure, you can say that the European Union allows for people to move freely, but there are still things that get people stuck in the same place. Friends, family, maybe just love of the place, right, that we were talking before, right? We were talking before recording, that even though I’ve had many opportunities to move to countries where I would make more money and just have more career opportunities, I would really, really not want to live outside of … As people have called us, outside of the PIGS, right? Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Greece, right? That is the place where I feel that I’m the happiest, and it’s fantastic that finally through remote work, I don’t have to compromise my career to live in those places. I do think that the remote work in that sense is revolutionary.

Rafael:

Of course, of course. If you could travel back in time, Greece, before five years, was a total different state than what it is right now. Right now, we are speaking, the whole Greek system, the whole Greek government system runs digitally.

Luis:

Yeah, fantastic.

Rafael:

You can do anything digital. Everything, everything. It’s unbelievable how fast it runs, and it runs because, through this experiment you told before.

Luis:

Yeah, and it’s a fantastic, fantastic experiment that’s gone very well. Even in other senses, right? I first started my journey in remote work evangelizing remote work because I worked with people with disabilities, and I had some people with disabilities in my family, and I felt that they weren’t being given the chances to pursue their careers to the way that justified their abilities, right? A lot of businesses, even though it’s technically illegal, businesses would either find excuses or just not be disability friendly, and remote work is entirely disability friendly. That’s how I started, and I really think that there’s no silver bullets, right? There’s no panaceas. There’s no remedy for all ills, but remote work is pretty close, right? Remote work is the thing that solves a lot of problems at the same time.

Rafael:

Yeah, depends what type of remote work we are speaking. There are remote work … There are types of remote jobs, there are certain remote jobs that probably not harm the body, but they harm the mind. I’m talking about difficult situations that I have faced with bossware technologies, that in my opinion, it is not acceptable, but some companies use it. This is not the way to run your company remotely. The only way to run your company remotely is through trust and through real human relationships.

Luis:

Yeah. I guess that brings me to a point that I marked a flag early on in the interview, when you were telling me about the transition of Dingo Marketing Team. Right? You mentioned that the transition was successful because you switched from a model of time to a model of considering tasks, instead of time. Why don’t you … I would like you, if you can, to tell the listeners and me, how did that transition go about? What were the main challenges, and of course, how you solved them?

Rafael:

Oh, look. When we first went to remote work, we went, it was forced to adapt to remote work because of the quarantine. Okay?

Luis:

Yeah.

Rafael:

The first three weeks was like hell. There was no-

Luis:

Only three weeks? Wow. You were very fast with that.

Rafael:

Okay, but there were three weeks that there was no way to manage the business. Although we were very little people, 13 people, there was no way for me to manage the whole company. I couldn’t, because I knew … For example, I knew that the PPC teams, I knew how much work they could have in one day, by experiencing them. Not because I have counted them before, but because I knew. At the quarantine, I saw a very big, huge loss on the productivity. In the first, I believe that it was normal due to the bad news of the COVID and the quarantine and everything, but afterwards, I realized that it was not like this. It was because many of them … Not many. Certain people found the opportunity to slack. Just, okay?

Luis:

Yeah.

Rafael:

They found the opportunity to play games, they found the opportunity to get paid and just do whatever they want in their business. After this, we realized that the only way to face this problem is the task oriented relationship with the people working, which means that we searched back in the productivity before COVID and we saw the average number of tasks each employee completed in a matter of one month. Give it to him, and we told him that, “Look, this is the amount of work we want to get from you. If you give us more, okay, you are in a good … This is the only way for you to go higher in the position of the company, but this is the lowest acceptable.”

Luis:

Yes, got it.

Rafael:

The lowest acceptable was the average number, and after this, we saw … The months after this, we saw way, way, way, way, way … 30 percentage, increase in the number of tasks completed. We had three daily meetings, for 10 minutes, each meeting, just to announce our work and something we have to work together, for projects. The employees worked, not the same hours. They worked every one of them, the hours that he thought he is more productive. We didn’t saw if he worked eight or nine or 10 or six or two hours per day, and we still work like this. Okay, we have opened the office again, but we are going and leaving.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s a very interesting thing. The other day, an employee of mine came to me and he asked, “There’s this company that they only work four days a week. I would love to have a situation like that.” I’m like, “I don’t care if you work, how many days a week you work. Right? As long as you do your tasks, right? If your tasks are done, right, if it’s Friday and there’s nothing left for you to do … ”

Rafael:

Go.

Luis:

Go ahead, right? Go. Right?

Rafael:

Yes, yeah. Absolutely.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly, what’s the point? We have this thing where we do what we call the weekly scrum, right? The weekly marketing scrum, in my marketing department, where everyone commits to the tasks they hope to achieve the week, right? Of course, we have a pool. We have a bucket of tasks that need to be accomplished, right, and each people takes the ones that they feel they can accomplish, right? We do estimation, and based on that, if you get to Thursday and you’re done, they yeah, well, fantastic. Good on you. Good on you, right? Exactly. Of course, it’s nice … In some cases, in some situations, for example PPC, right? Maybe you want someone to be available to ask a question about what’s happening there, but as long as they have their phone with them, wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they don’t necessarily need to be working properly. They just need to be reachable, right?

Rafael:

Yes, that’s a good point.

Luis:

I do think, yeah, exactly. That’s very … I think that’s the future of doing things, right? The thing about the task is that as you build more and more trust, you talked about … This, for most leaders, this seems to be very micro-managing. Very attention-draining way of working, that, “Oh, now I have to check on all the tasks, if all the employees are doing all the tasks.” The situation is that as you build trust with your people, you’ll see that there are less and less slackers and you need to worry less and less. Then, instead of checking every day, you can check every two days, or maybe you can check … You can have a meeting to begin the week and a meeting to close the week. The intention is definitely not to go to micro-management hell, right? It’s to get away from micro-management hell, right?

Rafael:

Yes. That’s why I told you about the real human relationships. Not the human relationships, as in the HR, the traditional HR, but real human relationships. You gave me a nice pass, by telling the word micro-management, because I have many discussions also with CEOs and managers of companies, Greek companies and from outside of Greece, that they used the bossware. The bossware are softwares for bosses to see what their employee is doing, and Luis, I found that is a huge secretness inside the executives. I didn’t want to be such an executive. I didn’t want to be such a control freak. It is not … I am a control freak in my work, but I am a control freak because I want the result, not … I don’t mind if my people find solutions and find creativity by seeing social media. Believe me, it was a help for me to see how the bossware works. It’s like cameras, but you see multiple desktops. Why? This is not micro-management, to see it, and you see, “Okay, you are the big one where you have studied, you have the master’s or the PhD, and you are doing what? You’re sitting and you’re seeing 100 desktops in your screen? Okay, Mr. Powerful.”

Luis:

Yeah. That doesn’t seem like a great use of your time, right?

Rafael:

Of course. Go firstly make a time management seminar to learn what to do with the PhD, and then come and say yes, that you have the PhD.

Luis:

Exactly. It’s very, very, very … It’s a very weird position, right? It’s not something that … It’s something that people have built a mentality that they need to do, that that’s how their being good, responsible bosses, when in fact it’s just a waste of time for everyone involved. Now, that’s not to say that sometimes when you’re hiring remotely that you don’t get someone that doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Right? Someone that is acting in bad faith and just expects to be paid and then keeps delivering excuses, right? That is a reality. I’ve hired people like that, right, but the way you find these people is not by being spying on everyone. Right? It’s simply to hold them accountable to the tasks, right? It’s simply to say, “Hey, you said you could do this. You’re supposed to do this. What happened?” Right?

Eventually, look, we all have unforeseen situations, right? Sometimes the dog gets sick. I know you love your dogs, right? Dog, cat, something like that, obviously. I personally consider that an emergency. When one of my employees pets get sick, I tell them, “Take the day off.” A pet is like a family member. Whatever. You can make up for lost work in the other time, right? Sometimes life prevents you, and it happens a lot, especially on people working from home. Right? Since they are in home, sometimes they have emergencies with pets or kids or et cetera, that they can’t solve otherwise. Sure, I understand, but when you have emergencies every week, then something is very wrong. Then, that’s the time where the boss needs to pay attention. Not to use boss softwares, right?

Rafael:

Of course.

Luis:

To just see, what is the productivity of this person? Right? How are they at fixing their commitments, right? It’s as you say. It’s not a science. It’s an art. It’s a human relations process.

Rafael:

It’s not only this. In a company, in a physical company, okay, let’s say that remote work never existed, okay? We work in the offices, 9:00 to 5:00, and we have to hire some people. Out of 10 people that we are … Out of 10 people that we hired, how many of them could be scrap? The statistics are saying that the seven of them could be scrap.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly.

Rafael:

We interviewed. We interviewed them, so the way of the interview was wrong.

Luis:

Of course.

Rafael:

We did not interview the right things, so that’s why in terms of remote working and in terms of hiring a digital nomad, for example, first of all, there is a gap between hiring a digital nomad. This is not a very right sentence to say. Digital nomads are basically freelancers, and if they are not freelancers, they are remote workers. You have to have in mind that they are free spirits and the reason that they took the decision to go and be digital nomads or remote workers is this freedom. In my opinion, it is wrong to say to the remote worker, “Okay, you will be on your PC 9:00 to 5:00. I don’t mind if you don’t have tasks to do. I want you to be there, and it’s prohibited to open Facebook and it’s prohibited to read the news.” You will ask him, and he will start the excuses, and then you will say, “Oh, digital nomads or remote workers are lazy.” No. Just give right limits, but the right frame, work-frame. The frame of the work, the description of the work, and everything will go fine.

Luis:

Yeah. It’s like it says in the Dow, right? The less rules you have, the less rules will be broken. Right?

Rafael:

Yes.

Luis:

Exactly, so exactly. That’s an interesting point about freelancers, right? When I’m trying to get people to work remotely for me, right, I always try to figure out … To get away from the freelancer mentality, right? Not that I don’t like freelancers. I’ve been a freelancer for a long time, before my current job, and sometimes I enjoy … On some occasions, I enjoy working with freelancers. They are the best. They are the best option, but when I hire someone to be on the company, I want that commitment, right? That’s very not freelancer. That they feel a part of the company, which freelancers often don’t do, but at the same time I want them to feel like they have the freedom that you say. Right? That this is a work environment, but it’s a healthy and flexible work environment.

Rafael:

Yes, you are … Okay, you are in a special … Not special. You are in the good category of the remote job universe, but this is a difficult category, because you have to grow this to the employer. You have to grow this feeling that the company is his. You have to grow the team spirit, and you have to do it remotely. It’s more difficult. For somewhere to start right now, it’s better to start with freelancers and see how he goes with that.

Luis:

Fair enough.

Rafael:

After this, with a slow pace, to build this remote committed team. This is a nomad, or the remote worker, might have … His expenses might be a lot, being in a certain place.

Luis:

Yes, true, true. I want to go back to something that came up earlier in the conversation. I think actually, you might have been talking to this before starting recording, which is your own travel life, right? You’re a digital nomad in the sense that you like traveling in your country, which I can totally understand because it is a beautiful country. You also said that you were going to talk about your sources of inspiration, your dogs, right?

Rafael:

Yes.

Luis:

This is something that I actually want you to talk a bit about, because I meet a lot of people that tell me that the reason they can’t be digital nomads is their pets. Right? They feel that it’s really hard to travel even within the country with pets. I actually think that pets are fantastic for helping you keep balance while working. In fact, we usually have … I usually ask people, I’m going to ask you as well. I usually ask people about the purchases that have impacted their work life the most, and one of my favorite answers from a past guest is a dog. That is totally true, right? Pets really help you get your mind … In an instant, in the snap of a finger, right, they can get you away from a mindset of being clouded by thoughts and confusion, and bring you back to the moment, and just that little break, that could be only two minutes, can immediately help you refocus on work after that and be more productive. Right? I really recommend people have pets around when working from home, but yeah, I wanted to ask you, right? How do you organize your traveling around Greece with your pets?

Rafael:

Well, I travel around Greece for work, so my travels around Greece are short. Short-term. My pets are staying home. My home is permanent home, so my pets are staying here and my parents, they are living some 10 minutes from here or something like this.

Luis:

Oh, nice.

Rafael:

I live in a small village in Rhodes, so they come and take care of the pets when I leave the house, when I leave home. This is the first answer on the first question, because it was a double question.

Luis:

Exactly. You get the pet-sitters. By the way, I do the same thing. One of the best things about being able to work remotely for me is that instead of having to work in the city, I can live close to my family in a nice town by the beach. That’s absolutely one of the best things.

Rafael:

Yeah, exactly. You described exactly my village. It’s a village 12 kilometers away from Rhodes town, beside the beach, but I am away 40 minutes from Athens, the capital of Greece, because I am beside the airport.

Luis:

Awesome.

Rafael:

It’s very close, everything, for me. About the pets, let me clarify. I know that you are a cat person, you told me before the recording.

Luis:

Yes.

Rafael:

As pets, I only mean dogs. I am a dog person. No, I am also a cat person. We have some stray cats that we feed them, but I’m a dog person. The way that … I never remember a day in my life without being with a dog. Even when I travel, I find stray dogs and give them food.

Luis:

Wow, you are committed.

Rafael:

Yes, yes. This is a commitment. Yes, this is a commitment, and my two dogs, I have two dogs. It’s a source of relaxing, as you mentioned, and a source of inspiration. Relaxation, because when you see in their eyes of an innocent creature, just like dog, just like any animal, that it’s not going to hurt you, that it does not have any source of evil inside it … No animal has any source of evil inside it, even the lions, even the crocodiles. They are not evil because they are killing. They need to eat and they are programmed to do this.

Luis:

Yeah, of course.

Rafael:

When you see that in those eyes, you just forget everything and you can admire nature, and you can admire goat, and you can admire … Admire everything, you believe that it’s divine in this universe. That’s the reason that I believe that they give me relaxation, because every time I just stay and pet the pets, I am a totally different … It’s like I push a reset button on myself. The second word is the word inspiration, that I take from the dogs. I take inspiration because in the field that I am, in the office, I begun my career with sales. My primary goal was to close the sale, and my primary goal was to close the sale, starting from 2011 in the midst of the economic crisis in Greece, and in the environment-

Luis:

Tough time.

Rafael:

What?

Luis:

Tough time to be in sales.

Rafael:

Yes, bad time, tough time. The environment here was that they told you, “Okay, and what are you doing in the office? Okay, we’re a marketing agency, so what is this?” They didn’t know about this. It was something totally new. You told them you were speaking to them about PPC, and they said, “Okay, but Google is free.” It was very tough times, and it was tough times because back then, I didn’t have my own house. My salary was very, very, very low. You are from Portugal, we were in the PIGS. It was very tough times, and the thing that I learned … I still had a dog. Can you believe this? I maybe didn’t have any food on my table, but I had a dog.

Luis:

Of course.

Rafael:

What I learned from the dogs and what I still learn is that the only that matters is to close the deal, when you work. Dogs, my dogs, work when I train them. When I train them, I know that they are doing what I tell them because they want the treats, so they’ll do anything to close the deal. That’s the way you train dogs. This is the primary source of inspiration.

Luis:

Nice.

Rafael:

Work to close the deal. Go the fastest route to close the deal.

Luis:

Nice. That sounds fantastic. Good lesson, very good lesson. All right, so let’s talk a bit. A question for you. If you had … What size is the team now?

Rafael:

Now, the team is nine people.

Luis:

Nine people, okay. Let’s say that you have 100 Euros to spend on each of those nine people, right? Whatever you’re going to buy, you need to buy the same for everyone. You can’t give them the money or a gift card. You need to buy nine things to give to the people in your team.

Rafael:

I did it on Monday.

Luis:

Oh, so what did you get?

Rafael:

Yes. We had a budget. The budget was 800 Euro. 800 Euro for nine people, a little less.

Luis:

A little less. I see.

Rafael:

We bought a very expensive seminar. It was two days, the seminar. The seminar, maybe you know, it’s the singularity seminar.

Luis:

I’ve heard of it, yes.

Rafael:

We bought this subscription. We sat everyone to see the seminar in the office, and it lasted two days, Monday and Tuesday. The two days that the seminar lasted, we had three courses of food for everyone. We started our day with coffee and donuts, then with pizza, and the night with- . We did the two days with very nice team-building around the table, watching a very nice seminar.

Luis:

Fantastic. Yeah, that’s something that’s … If you can get your team, right, if you can get your … Even the team, obviously, all remote team, but if you can get them once or twice a year around the table and have meals, that’s a fantastic experience, right? That’s really …

Rafael:

Oh, yeah. We do it, a meal and the coffees, we do it more often, but we are based in Rhodes. Also, we are remote, so Rhodes is more like-

Luis:

Yeah, it’s easier.

Rafael:

Yes.

Luis:

It’s easier. Like I say, in my case, we have 12 countries, so it needs to be only once a year, right?

Rafael:

Yes. Of course, of course.

Luis:

It’s more inconvenient, but yeah. Yeah, no, that’s great. What about for yourself? What is the thing in the last year or two that you’ve spent a reasonable amount of money, but that has improved your work life immensely?

Rafael:

That I spent money and improved …

Luis:

On yourself, on yourself.

Rafael:

Oh, on my hobbies, or-

Luis:

No, or for your work like, right? For example, in my case, so I’m going to give you my example. The purchase that I’ve made that has made my work life so much better in terms of working but also in terms of health is a second monitor, right? Having a second monitor just allows me to be less bent, to have less eye strain, that type of things.

Rafael:

Okay, I understand. I understand.

Luis:

Yeah, so what is that for you?

Rafael:

It’s a simple thing. You already know it, because you already saw its result. It’s my camera, because I have the lesser camera. It’s not like it is a good or a very expensive camera. It’s about 120 Euros, but the different thing from the other camera is that it highlights my background. You already spoke about my background.

Luis:

Yes, it’s lovely.

Rafael:

Yes, but in the current team, I have many meetings.

Luis:

We probably need to say, just tell the listeners what it is. It’s a replica of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, correct?

Rafael:

Yes, it’s a recreation of –

Luis:

Yes. All right, so let’s go a bit more broad, and let me ask you, what books have you yourself found useful in your career, right? What were some books that helped you become the professional that you are today? Go ahead.

Rafael:

First of all, it is the biography of Nicola Tesla.

Luis:

Oh, that’s a new one. I never read that one, interesting.

Rafael:

Second, it’s another biography. Again, it’s Pablo Escobar’s biography.

Luis:

Okay.

Rafael:

Okay?

Luis:

Yes.

Luis:

Interesting.

Rafael:

Those are books that inspired me. Okay? Way more books, but those are the milestones for me.

Luis:

Of course.

Rafael:

There’s another one, small book. Okay, let’s say another two books. Books, I love them.

Luis:

This is a lot of recommendations. You are into books. I’m glad I asked the question.

Rafael:

Yes. Okay, of course, you have to read The Great Reset, and last one, but you could not find this book in English. You have to translate it. It’s in Greek, Greek management.

Luis:

Greek management.

Rafael:

It’s called The Monk That Became CEO, and it describes how the monasteries are organized and managed by the monks.

Luis:

Interesting. I wonder if that exists in English translation. I don’t think there is an English translation, but maybe it has a Portuguese translation. Maybe I could read it in Portuguese.

Rafael:

I don’t know.

Luis:

It’s possible.

Rafael:

I don’t know. It’s a very small, very nice small book, and it’s unbelievable how monks are organized.

Luis:

The final question and then I want you to tell people about what you’re up to and how people can find you, but for the last question, it’s a bit more elaborate. Let’s imagine that it’s time for an international dinner, right? That COVID is gone and we can all have a nice big dinner together. You are organizing a dinner where there’s going to be a roundtable about the future of remote work and digital nomadism, and attending are people from the biggest tech companies from all around the world. Here is the twist. Even though you have incredible cooking in Greece, you decided to make the dinner in a Chinese restaurant, so you as the host get to choose what comes inside the fortune cookie. When these people, when these bosses open their fortune cookies, what is the message that’s going to be waiting for them?

Rafael:

Okay. I have a lot of fortune cookie messages in my wallet, because I love Chinese.

Luis:

Wow, fantastic.

Rafael:

I love … Yes.

Luis:

You were ready for this question. Well done, very good.

Rafael:

Yeah. I’m not ready, but okay. I can think. Nomads are the pioneers are the new humanity. Without colors, without colors, and discriminations. They are the teachers of practical humanism. That’s it.

Luis:

Okay, so …

Rafael:

Because it’s in a fortune cookie, everyone could translate it how he wants, because that’s the point of the fortune cookies. You read something, you don’t understand, but …

Luis:

Yeah, well, you made it very understandable sir, so congratulations. Congratulations for that. Good. I think it’s a beautiful message. Now, the show comes to an end. I would like you to tell people, right, tell the listeners, where can they continue the conversation with you? How can they reach out to you? How can they learn more about you, about Digital Knowledge Observatory, and about Dingo Marketing?

Rafael:

Okay. About Dingo Marketing, there’s no need to learn more, because except this, we don’t have translated our website. It’s only in Greek, so there is no way to learn.

Luis:

Fair enough.

Rafael:

About Digital Nomads Observatory, the website is digitalnomadsobs.org, so they would reach us from there and they can read everything there. Personally, they can contact me through LinkedIn. Rafael Koudounis, my name, and I can answer everything I know about, conversations and everything. It’s something that I enjoy, and I crave.

Luis:

All right. I’ll have links to all of that in the show notes. In the meantime, it was an absolute pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for coming to the show.

Rafael:

Thank you very much, Luis, for having me.

Luis:

It was my pleasure, so ladies and gentlemen, this was The Distant Job podcast with Luis Magalhães, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams, and my guest today was Rafael Koudounis, the president of the Digital Nomads Observatory. See you next-

Credits:

So we close another episode of The Distant Job podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please. You can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners, and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, any episode, really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally. Not just look to hire in your country, look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. To help with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. With that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of The Distant Job podcast.

More ways to listen:

The pandemic not only proved that people didn’t have to go to an office to be productive. It also proved that they could work from anywhere they wanted to. For many people, the pandemic made them realize that they wanted to change their lifestyles radically. And as a consequence, there has been an increase in digital nomads.

As digital nomadism continues to increase, governments worldwide are implementing policies to protect digital nomads. In many cases, they are providing digital nomad visas and other types of facilities and benefits. Greece is one of the countries looking forward to receiving digital nomads from all over the world. And in today’s episode, Rafael Koudounis shares how is this remote work transformation taking place in the country and how digital nomads are the drivers of a new humanity.

Highlights:

  • Insights about how the Digital Nomads Observatory was created
  • How they implemented new policies to boost digital nomadism in the region
  • The state of remote work and digital nomadism in Greece
  • How do they develop policies when considering locations for digital nomads in Greece
  • Tips to successfully manage remote teams (and avoid micromanagement)
  • Lessons from shifting from a fully office environment to a remote environment

 

Book Recommendations:

 

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