Recently I received a very well thought out comment on the preceding article from long-time reader Ken Lovell. Ken makes some interesting points so I thought I would answer his comment in the main blog rather than perhaps burying it in the comments. Says Ken in reference to my idea on building an online business around roofs, or other things you “see” on Google Maps:
Not knocking the idea at all Dave but I suspect a lot of people would not do business with someone based in Phils, because
(1) it just seems a bit, well, fishy and
(2) how you gonna engage in the national pastime of suing them when something goes wrong? Or in the case of countries like Australia, which government agency can you go and make a complaint to?
There still might be enough demand to make a viable business of course., and the beauty of the internet is that all you have to invest is your labour.
This is how I started writing my answer:
With respect, Ken, how would you know the business is in the Philippines? Here’s an example, first-hand.
Before I started messing about with my blogs this morning, I filled some orders from a little custom mapping site I operate.
My server is in the US (as the server for this site is), Dallas, Texas, actually.
My business address is in the US, my phone number is in the US, and I only do financial transactions via PayPal in the US. (yeah and I even pay taxes in the US :-( )
I’m currently operating that tiny business as a sole proprietorship … I use my real name in all transactions. I could just as easily operate as a LLC, or even a corporation if I chose to do the forms and pay the annual fees. There are plenty of companies who will register a corporation, online, and also serve as your “registered agent” in the state you chose to incorporate in .. and that is all perfectly legal and above-board .. many corporations in the US (and I suspect other countries as well) operate with the legal address of their attorney or their registered representative.
By the way, note to my Filipino readers and other folks from countries where it is difficult to open a business … there are 50 US states as well as the District of Columbia, all with their own incorporation requirements. Most states do not require any physical presence to open a business, and you are not required (at least in the states I am familiar with), to be a US citizen to register a business. There are mailing services in almost every state who can give you a legal address in that state as well, and forward or fax important mail to you anywhere the Internet reaches.
Each state also has their own tax laws, and of course the US IRS governs over all, but that’s a matter for you and your accounting/tax professional to sort through. If your business operates in the US you likely have some US federal tax responsibilities to deal with, but anyone overseas can get as US TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) to keep themselves legal. How countries like Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, etc. treat off-shore businesses is a worthy subject for a whole encyclopedia in itself, but there are plenty of choices and no actual “showstoppers” that I know of.
So the fact I am physically located in the Philippines affects … what? A few clients of mine know I am located here, but most couldn’t care less, they just want their maps … they order (through PayPal), I make the map and email it to them … they are happy, and I’m happy.
If anyone asked me, I’d be happy to tell them where I live … but who asks?
I always send my product satisfaction guaranteed, not happy I refund the money (instantly). Only refunds I have issued in the past few months is to a lady who accidentally ordered the same thing twice … and another case where two different people ordered the same thing for their company without realizing it.
I can work here in Marilao, Bulacan, I can work back in the US (I filled map orders at my sister-in-law’s dining room table when The Unofficial Cook and I were in Florida a few months back), I could take a trip over there to Australia, for that matter. It doesn’t matter, the orders flow in, the product rolls out.
This real-world sample is no different. Someone wants to know the number of squares for a roof at 62 Beech St, Kearny NJ, 07032, they send in the order, the company makes the estimate and emails it back. Where the person who does the estimate is located is immaterial .. maybe the company owner is in the US and the estimator is reading the map in India and the guy who wrote the software is living in the Ukraine … makes no never mind.
The operator of the sample company can work in the US, he could just as easily move to another country and not miss out on his business any longer than the time of his plane flight … and with in-air Wi-Fi being rolled out, soon maybe not even be out of action while flying.
Let me close by laying out another example that just came off the top of my shiny head. There in Australia, aerial application (crop dusting, spraying, seeding and ‘top dressing’ with fertilize) is a big business.
If you owned agricultural property and you wanted me to quote you a price on applying some treatment to your property, how would I know how to estimate the costs? Fly over the land and “guesstimate”? Send someone by car to measure on the ground. Send someone to your State or Shire or wherever the records are kept and spend a couple hours finding your official land survey? Take your word for how many acres needed application (the most common and yet least reliable method in that business).
Or, pay some chap $50 or $100 to measure up the fields on Google maps and in the process also print out a handy little map that you and I can annotate … cooperatively online, no need to meet .. and then hand the agreed upon map to the application pilot to help him find the right field (and mark the overhead wires so he won’t fly into them, and show where the neighbors chicken coop is so you don’t getsued for frightening the chickens to death, etc.)
Seems to me that in a lot of ways the online method wins, hands-down. And, again, what would you, as the farmer or grazer care about where I was physically located as long as I knew the difference between Roundup and Accent ? (and it would help if I could speak and understand ‘Strine , no doubt)
As you noted, my actual investment in trying a business like this would be tiny … mostly my labor in getting it stood up, a few hundred dollars for some basic legal and accounting ‘how to’s’, and then promotion (I’m working on a very neat article on that subject, perhaps for tomorrow).
(Caveat, I am not a lawyer, an accountant or any other form of professional advisor. I don’t know if this business would work, I just genned up the idea in 5 minutes, but I merely wanted another example to prove there is potential all over the world for innovations online)
In short, if I am sitting in my home in the Philippines and decide to try something like this, what have I risked … and how much business do I need to make the venture viable … many people say they only need a few hundred a month to make the idea of living in the Philippines work for them.Your money doesn’t have to come from where you live … a message you might note I tend to harp on.