For the next few weeks leading up to my vacation I’ll address some business hacks we’ve done at Own Web Now over the years. Some good, some bad. As for any of my employees reading this – get back to work.
Between 2009 and 2010 we hit a growth pain point that was quite literally crushing. We grew more than 10x in a span of a year and no matter how well prepared or experienced you may be… at a 1000% business growth even the smallest of the small issues tend to blow up into absolute cluster@#%s.
We were not lucky enough to be the exception to that rule: Just about the time of ExchangeDefender 5 launch we had issues with billing, support, “growth planning” (if you can even call it that) and on top of working like crazy and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the game the stress was climbing… constantly.
Somewhere between quitting and working on a time travel machine to find more than 24 hours in the day things had to change. We were either going to have to stop growing or find a way to work without stress.
Now I cannot take the credit for this but the actual solution came from one of my friends and partners (David Wertz, PC Works Plus) who told me about his beer & wing Friday afternoons: Every Friday he would buy wings, beer and throw a party at work… giving staff a chance to connect and chill together.
This is an incredibly important thing for a couple of reasons – giving people time off isn’t going to make them any more productive at work. Forcing them to go through team building exercises on the other hand just gives already jaded people a plausibly deniable way to explain an accidental injury (which is why I will never play paintball). To top it all off, your staff likely had diametrically opposing key performance indicators (they all care about different shit): support is judged on how quickly it addresses support requests but if a sale doesn’t happen because the potential client is asking a highly technical question that only support side can answer then it makes sense to have some flexibility. The best and easiest way to handle this is to just get them all together over some cold beverages and let them figure out what makes them tick.
It’s like DISC, sans the useless bullshit that any 5th grader can game. Jager and Redbull is a great equalizer.
Try it, I guarantee great results or your money back.
Hacking the Hack
Holding forced/paid for social events will get your staff working together in ways that you cannot even imagine.
But you can take it one step further – hold it outside of the business hours.
Wanna know who is going to be there for the company no matter what? Those who hang around even if they are not contractually obligated to.
So if you’re curious if you have a loyal workforce – invite them for drinks after 5PM. Not once or twice – everyone is going to have some kind of a conflict from time to time. Do it for months – you’ll see a pattern of who is a part of your organization just for a paycheck and who actually cares about it and the people that are a part of it.
It goes even beyond that – once people see who is a part of the team (even if they may despise them) it’s hard to hate (or think someone hates you) when you’re lighting up shots with them and going through appetizers.
Furthermore, the people that show up a lot more often will be your feedback to how the company is actually doing and where you have ways to go. You’ll find out more about the challenges they face and since they already clearly care you can throw more on them and delegate the fix for them. People that care tend to do a better job of following through with solutions to difficult problems than the folks who just try to cross problems of the list in an effort to be present 20 or 40 hours of the week.
I’ve read more books than I’d like to admit about managing, motivating and dealing with people – be it regarding performance or “millenials” or lazy or stupid – and I’ve come down to a very simple common undeniable thing: You cannot make people care. All you can do is give them the vision, the means to connect with one another and a path to success. Then it’s up to them.
Now I know there are excuses.. Doesn’t it cost a lot? I don’t have the time? I just don’t like the people I work with! Why do I have to do more than what I already do? Why can’t someone else do it? Hiring new personnel is more expensive than keeping the existing one happy. Time spent with your employees is infinitely more valuable than trying to find the next one – and hate to break it to you but there are as many perfect employees as there are perfect bosses (zero). You have to do more than your bare minimum because without pushing for more you will never advance and get more. And if someone else is supposed to set the example then someone else should actually run the business. Business ownership (and even down to group or team leadership) is a mirror of the person that leads it – so either do it or leave it up to someone else.
In the interest of full disclosure..
Last week we had our last McBeefy.
Well, after years of doing this I have a very good team and a very good idea of who is here for more than a 9-5. So as far as I’m concerned, we have our teams figured out for the next few years. They know each other very well.
As far as a hack or experiment goes, this one has served it’s purpose. It got my business through some ridiculously stressful times, it established long term careers for a lot of my staff and it’s given all of them an insight into how and why we run our business. It’s one thing to say stuff and do it in meetings – and quite another to be able to say the same stuff after flaming Dr Peppers.
There are other little annoyances – such as Orlando office having full 3 shifts and not being able to have everyone out at the same time, people get used to the event and not finding it special enough (to attend consistently) and so on but mostly it’s just the realization that as this company grows both in size and sophistication, the level of networking and communication has to step up as well.
Judging by our employee retention rate (and their subsequent raises), I have to say that it’s worked quite great. It really is the easiest management effort ever – allow people to volunteer to show up at events they don’t have to be at, allow them to take on more work they are actually passionate about and then give them perks and/or raises they are interested in and just let the good times roll.
What is next for how we motivate and drive one another at ExchangeDefender I can’t discuss right now but if you just combine the basic principles behind what makes for driven people and give them the opportunity to prove it. The rest of it will kind of take care of itself.