Have laptop, will travel: how one B.C. company encourages staff to work from anywhere

Forget working from home. Leading by example, Igor Trninic wants his employees to make the world their desk

Credit: Supplied by Igor Trninic

Laptop of luxury: Trninic, co-founder of Breakthrough Academy, working in Medellín, Colombia

Forget working from home. Leading by example, Igor Trninic wants his employees to make the world their desk

One morning in early March, Igor Trninic was setting up interviews for a position in his fast-growing startup, Breakthrough Academy. A key benefit to joining the company, he told applicants, is the ability to work from anywhere.

Case in point: while making those calls, the 28-year-old was lying in a hammock at a guest house on the lush, rolling grounds of a coffee plantation in southwestern Colombia while his girlfriend read by the pool. As he scrolled around on his laptop, a peacock wandered by.

“For a long time I’ve loved travel and enjoying different cultures,” says Vancouver-based Trninic, who was born in the former Yugoslavia. “When you think of a job with two or three weeks of vacation a year, and you think about the number of years of life you have, you’re like, ‘Wow, it could be very difficult to see everything that there is to see in one lifetime.'”

This spring Trninic spent five weeks in Colombia away from his colleagues, renting an affordable luxury apartment in the city of Medellín and socializing with a group of North Americans. It’s exactly the life he imagined in 2015 when he and Danny Kerr founded Breakthrough Academy, which offers business training to home-services companies. They designed the startup to be location independent. Coaches, whose job is to help entrepreneurs in industries such as landscaping and renovations improve in areas including planning, budgeting, sales and marketing, consult with clients via the web. Staff use tools like Slack and GoToMeeting to keep in touch.

Of Breakthrough Academy’s 10 current employees, two work out of Calgary, one is in Victoria and another recently spent three months working in the southern French city of Montpellier. “When you’re not geographically bound, you’re not limited in the talent pool that you’re hiring from,” Trninic says, adding that location freedom is a big perk for potential hires, particularly millennials.

Temporary relocations—Trninic hopes to visit another Central or South American city in 2018 with a group of his employees—goes a step further than telecommuting, a trend embraced by many North American companies, including Telus Communications Inc. and even the BC Public Service Agency.

However, some organizations have pushed back: IBM Corp.’s new chief marketing officer recently ordered work-at-homers to report to the office. Trninic says no technology can replace face-to-face connection, and his company plans events for all employees four times a year. He’s also building a “proper” Vancouver head office.

There’s a downside to working in exotic locales, he admits. In Medellín, which offered an abundance of cheap, high-quality food and a culture that is “known for fun,” it was hard to think about work. “You’re in this incredibly beautiful place, and there are historic things to be seen. You’re in 12 hours of meetings and you’re like, ‘What the hell am I doing?'”

Perked Up

To attract talent, employers are getting more inventive with the benefits. Here’s a few you wish you had:
• Unlimited vacation: construction e-tailer BuildDirect Technologies Inc., Vancouver
• Free trip to Las Vegas for all employees to celebrate meeting annual profitability target: manufacturer Great Little Box Company Ltd., Burnaby
• Daily platter of fresh fruit and vegetables: health care software developer QHR Technologies Inc., Kelowna
• Lunchtime yoga: auditing software maker ACL Services Ltd., Vancouver