Geoarbitrage and the ultimate productivity hacks

Written by Andrew Henderson

Reporting from: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Notorious American industrialist J. Paul Getty once said, “I would rather benefit from 1% of the efforts of 100 people that from 100% of my own.”

As an entrepreneur, it’s often easy to feel like you’re doing things all alone. In the western world, the stress levels of employers and employees alike is through the roof as people cope with the effects of declining economies and increased personal demands.

How many people do you know who have simply run themselves ragged, yet are barely scraping by in life? To thrive in business would seemingly require much more of a struggle.

Yet here in the so-called “third world”, fast-paced entrepreneurs and mere mortals alike have discovered the ultimate productivity hacks that allow them to focus like a laser-beam on the task at hand.

At a “top-secret” business breakfast this weekend, I met with some of the world’s top location independent entrepreneurs who have been following my advice: get out of California and the United States, move abroad, and hire abroad.

There’s really no reason to start a business in California in particular. I won’t argue with Mark Zuckerberg, but for the rest of us, the high-tax, high-regulation police state that is the “Golden State” just isn’t worth the hassle.

Do you really think a state whose legislators get a psychosexual thrill out of banning plastic bags at the grocery store won’t make your life as an entrepreneur miserable, too?

That aside, the cost of living in California is ridiculous. You can cram as many roommates into a $2,500 a month San Francisco studio as you want; it’s still a $2,500 a month studio. Everything is more expensive and, as a fledgling entrepreneur, your cash doesn’t go nearly as far as it could.

Vietnam is just one of an almost innumerable number of places where expat entrepreneurs can get down to business more easily and cut their costs of doing business dramatically. The start-up community here in Ho Chi Minh City is quite strong. People are networking and building businesses left and right.

And they’re using those productivity hacks to help them do it.

In the western world, you’d take your own laundry to the basement of your apartment building and jangle for change to feed the washing machine. Here, you can hire a maid who comes to clean your house and do your laundry three times a week. All for less than $100 a month; some rentals even include such service at no cost.

Don’t feel like cooking, but don’t have time to go to the ubiquitous coffee shops here in Vietnam? (After all, you’re working, right?) For $100 a month, you can hire your own cook. The private breakfast meeting I attended the other day featured fried eggs, half a dozen types of fresh fruits, fresh coconuts, and sausage. All of it cooked by the organizer’s private chef. His cost for the privilege is about $4 a day, part of which is recouped by his cook’s ability to get cheaper prices at non-foreigner grocery stores.

Tired of waiting in line for petty things like a driver’s license or some stupid form? Here in the emerging world, you can hire your own English-speaking assistant and actually be appreciated for providing them a good job that will look good on their resume. I see assistants all over the city running menial tasks with more gusto than I see from some diva assistant in Los Angeles.

I’m actually interviewing several assistant candidates of my own later in the week, with monthly salary requirements in the 5 to 6 million Vietnamese dong (US$236-$282) neighborhood.

Rather than tying up time with busy work and tasks that feel productive but don’t produce any positive output, think about how these productivity hacks could help you earn more money and live a freer life.

The time you’re spending pouring detergent into a wash cycle isn’t helping you make money.

Productivity hacks are just another reason I try and stay out of The Land of the Free. I don’t feel like a get value for my money. Moreover, the ever-growing egalitarian society has demonized those who would hire a maid to clean their clothes for them. “Look at Mr. Trump”, and so on.

To many, suggesting businesses hire overseas is the ultimate slap in the face. But geoarbitrage is your friend. As the Nomad Capitalist, I believe we have to demand the best and look for opportunity wherever it may be. When productivity becomes a luxury in your home country, it’s time to explore greener pastures.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 3:23PM

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  1. Pete Sisco

    Southeast Asia has a way of changing your perspective permanently. When you eat fantastic green curry chicken in Thailand or mouthwatering Indian food in Malaysia and pay one quarter of what it cost in the US or UK you begin to redefine what value is. 

    Same thing with paying over $100 for a professional massage that isn’t as good as a $10 massage in Thailand. Or the way you can fill your home with fresh flowers for a song. These are all quality of life issues and the truth is there are many ways to improve your quality of life when living in so-called third-world countries. 

    I always smile when some bonehead says, ‘Who wants to leave the US and have to live in some sh*thole?’ I picture myself in an infinity pool overlooking an impossibly blue ocean and being waited on by happy people and him sitting in Detroit with his doors bolted waiting to return to a job he hates.

    • nomadcapitalist

      Absolutely. Enjoying life is enjoying life, and you can do it anywhere. But having the tools to do it goes a long way. If you’ve got $10 million, you can have a daily massage anywhere. This is for the guy starting a business who needs more time to get stuff done rather than washing his clothes. And, yes, once he gets some free time and wants to enjoy life, I’m a big fan of spending less money for the same or better service overseas – and pocketing the rest for the next business or investment.