exec RyanHolmes 0915 001
Forget the laptop, says Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes,
pictured.

Courtesy of Ryan
Holmes.


I took a two-week work trip to Europe last month, and I didn’t
bring a laptop.

And that’s the rule, not the
exception for me. For the past year, I’ve been steadily weaning
myself off of my MacBook and relying more and more on my iPhone
for work.

With the iPhone currently
celebrating its
10-year anniversary
,
and having hundreds of millions of users around the world, this
may not sound like a huge accomplishment. In fact, lots of
people
live on their phones.

But, for context, I’m the CEO of
a growing tech
company
of nearly
1,000 employees. Each day, I get hundreds of emails, go to a
dozen or so meetings, and review countless reports. I couldn’t
imagine doing my job without a laptop. 

But it turns out — it’s possible.
 

To be fair, going “mobile-only”
has led to a few hiccups, but since taking the plunge, I’ve
noticed that my productivity — and overall happiness — has gone
up noticeably.

For any other leaders out there
considering leaving their laptops behind, here’s what I learned
from running a business on mobile.

But first, a few
disclaimers:

  • Occasionally I cheat. I
    still have to use my laptop to look at spreadsheets and
    PowerPoints.
  • This mobile-only strategy isn’t
    for everyone. If you’re an engineer writing code, it makes
    sense to have a proper screen.
  • Yes, being a CEO makes this
    much, much easier: I don’t have a boss hassling me about being
    on my phone all day, I have an EA who handles my calendar,
    etc.

It’s possible with a few existing tools

It was Siri that helped me first
make the switch. Voice dictation has gone from a fantasy to a
viable technology almost overnight, and the inevitable Siri-isms
are growing fewer with each iOS update.

Once I realized I could
essentially just talk to respond to emails or write memos, I
found myself spending a lot less time with my laptop. I felt a
little weird at first mumbling into my phone all day, but that
wears off fast (it seems as if it’s becoming more culturally
accepted
), and I can
speak a lot faster than I write.

Google Drive was also a huge
help. The interface is mobile-friendly, and changes are tracked
automatically; everything is immediately accessible in the cloud.
When you don’t have to worry about uploading or downloading and
all you do is click on a link, document management on your phone
becomes doable.

It forces you to look at the big picture

Early on, I was surprised by
unexpected benefits of leaving my laptop at home.

Laptops inevitably form a kind of
wall, physically separating you from the person you’re meeting
with. Once I left my laptop behind, I found I actually absorbed —
and retained — a lot more in meetings and in
conversations.

To be honest, at first I also
felt kind of powerless without my MacBook. If a colleague sent a
report while I had my laptop, I’d open up the doc and pore over
every page, making tons of edits. But you just can’t do that kind
of thing on a phone. Reading and editing more than a few pages at
a time is a recipe for a bad migraine.

Eventually, though, this was as
much an advantage as a liability. Going mobile-only turns out to
be a pretty neat hack for fighting the temptation to
micromanage.

Hootsuite grew from a few dozen to a few hundred employees
almost overnight — learning when to delegate and when to step
away had been a challenge. 
The beauty of being a mobile-only CEO,
however, is that it
forces you to get out of the weeds and focus on the
big picture.
 

As an executive, your role is to
execute: to quickly weigh options and reach conclusions based on
experience and intuition. Ditching my laptop has made me much
better at that core function of my job.

Mobile is the future, and we need to be ready for
it

Globally, people now spend
nearly


four times as much
time


accessing the
Internet from mobile devices as they do from desktops.
“Computers” are on their way to becoming an anachronism rarely
seen outside of the office.

I’d argue that even the way
we


think

is increasingly mobile in nature:
for better or worse, small visual bites have replaced big chunks
of text as the language of the 21st century.

But —

as businesses

— we’re still coming up with tools,
strategies and products on laptops and with a corresponding
mindset. This kind of “laptop tunnel vision” creates an
artificial distance from consumers. Going “mobile-only” as a
leader — and maybe one day as a company — is a way to help bridge
that gulf.  

We’re not quite there yet, of
course. Some things are just immeasurably easier to do on a
keyboard, with a big screen in front of you. But app developers
and designers are finding increasingly creative ways to
streamline complex tasks — and smartwatches and glasses are
pushing the usability envelope even further. Meanwhile,


neural lace

might not be too far off,
promising a direct brain-device link that does away with UIs
altogether.

For now, going mobile-only as a
leader can be a powerful way to put your employees and customers
at the forefront and refocus your energies on leading … not
“computing.”
 

At the least, it’s a fun
experiment to see if you can actually run a company from your
phone — just remember to keep your battery charged.