One Friday night, we (Myself and My Husband, who also happen to be the Co-founders of our company) were having a discussion with one of our mutual friends; a strategy brainstorming. At that time only I had stepped into full time business leaving behind my career, and my husband was still full time employed to make sure we do meet our ends.
At one point our friend turned at my husband and said “I do perfectly understand why you still stay in the job; you don’t want to risk your entire family income for this, but once your business starts generating enough money for you to live comfortably, I strongly advise you to come on-board fulltime. Because by coming on board to your own business, your input will be 3 times as you give at your current job, and you can take this to unimaginable heights otherwise”.
And yes, it struck to me at the very moment, that at my “job”, I wouldn’t be engaged in a meeting with so much enthusiasm at 8.30 at night on a Friday without constantly looking at my phone, checking time and wondering what my kid would be up to (never mention the constant acid influx to my tummy indicating it’s the dinner time).
We are not even bad people
I have been late, for most of my morning office meetings. I don’t do it because I consciously care less. I assume that I have enough time once we hit the road. I check on Google maps how long will it take to reach the office in the morning, and leave home keeping exactly that amount of time, or on a worse day, 5 – 10 minutes late. Sounds pretty scientific huh? But I have hardly been able to reach office on time, other than for few days where the traffic had been exceptionally kind to us.
But ever since we started meeting our own business clients, I have subconsciously made sure that we leave at least 15 minute lead time for traffic, so that we won’t be late. Because every day is about making a fresh impression for us, and we know that it is crucial in making or breaking a potential deal.
Not just that, I have found myself working on quick power point presentations on the way, working on a project late at night or in weekends, and sitting on my work seat (which is a beanbag), not breaking for water for hours more frequently than I would have liked to do the same at my Job.
I didn’t do it because I am a bad person, and I gave very less priority for my Job. I was actually been awarded “exceptional” performance rankings more times than I expected and was considered a great contributor at office. But still I do now realize now that I have not worked up to my full potential there.
So what is the Magic which works here?
I will tell you my own experience and how I feel it.
I have my own schedule
When I started my business, I had no fixed working hours. The time I spent on unproductive travelling was less, and every minute of my day was spent according to my priority list. Whilst I worked in odd hours as I’ve mentioned earlier, I also had the liberty to spend some of my precious day time to
Completely rest and lie down when I was sick
To pick my toddler from the pre-school and spend the day him
To run my errands
Grab 30 minutes of physical workout
Which was hardly a possibility if I stuck to my day job, even though I had nothing important to do in a given particular day.
I was not bound by typical 9 – 5 work day, which was worsened by dreaded work commute at peak hours
When you work for a corporate with typical 8 hour work day, 5 days a week you find yourself spending nearly 3 hours a day commuting back and forth to work. For a week, the commute time gets accumulated to 15 hours, which is equivalent to nearly 2 full work days.
Other than being extremely unproductive, commuting also can be socially isolating (if you drive alone).
And on some work days, you find that your schedule is not as stretched as it requires 8 hours commitment and you end up either
Working at a very slow pace, which makes you feel embarrassed of yourself
Taking a very long lunch break
Because, you gotta spend that 8 hours anyway. You have a very limited liberty to make use of those extra 8 hours in a way that will benefit you otherwise.
I had become a hunting wolf from a caged one
Something more important than being able to schedule own work day is that, once you start a business you can no longer be complacent.
180,000 years ago humans developed the ability to chase food and we remained hunter gatherers until we started growing our own food, which is just 10,000 years ago. So, for the majority of our history we have been driven by the adrenaline rush we get when we see a prey and I am not sure our bodies are still able to forget those golden olden days.
When you start a business, and you have no fixed pay check you know that every minute that you put into your business is directly proportionate to how much you are gonna make. Our clients are essentially our preys, and we don’t want to
Let them run
OR make someone else to catch them before I do
In essence I feel (I am no HR qualified person to “recommend”) after few months into my entrepreneurship journey, that modern work places could be benefited via inculcating a culture of entrepreneurship.
What can modern work places do to foster a culture of entrepreneurship?
Creating a sense of ownership – The sense of ownership should go beyond a standard employee share option plan (ESOP). When you hold less than 0.1% of a large company I cannot imagine how you could possibly have a sense of ownership towards the company anyway.
1. Outcome driven performance “celebration”
The sense of ownership can be created via converting lot of office-work into projects where your performance is not just measured but also “celebrated” directly by the project outcome. This can boost the “hunter-gatherer” instinct where your performance is not measured by the “input” (i.e. typically how long you stayed in office/ or how much you showed your face in meetings) but the “outcome” of your work.
2. “Trust” based HR practices
On a more soft aspect, the sense of ownership could be developed via re-looking at the out dated and rigid HR practices and policies which were more relevant in factory environments during industrial revolution (attendance monitoring, salary deductions, limited personal benefits, CCTV surveillance in work spaces).
Instead, work places can focus more on hiring where they recruit best people with the best cultural fit and adapt a more “trust” based HR practices where you start assuming and trusting that the employee will work for the best interest of the company. When you start trusting a person, it starts resonates in his personality and he is emotionally bound to keep your trust unless he is a complete jerk. This is the practice which “Netflix” adapts.
Even I do adapt this practice with our only one employee at the moment. He is free to work from home at any day of the work. I never call and ask what he is doing. But he always makes it a point to update me on the progress of the projects he is assigned to. That is an agreement that he has made with himself even without me requesting to do so.
3. Flexible work hours
Time is indeed the most precious thing that anybody has. In our day we spend one third sleeping. So I believe it should be a basic human right for a grownup man to decide how he should schedule his waking hours to accomplish his daily goals as it best fits. A work structure which is outcome based not working hours based will help fulfill this. The employee could decide at what time he works but as far as he meets his project deadlines.
In deed if every work place starts practicing this, it can indirectly help reducing the road traffic in return saving a lot of money spent on road infrastructure development and scarce fossil fuel, because then there will be no particular "peak hour" on roads.