Write Your Own Rules for Success

Posted: May 18, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, Leadership, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaAs the company that began with three people in a basement scales into the 30-plus person territory, we growing entrepreneurs begin to feel an innate need to implement traditional structures. The people we hire more often come from big company jobs where they expect policies, perks and handbooks. They don’t know the founders personally, and are not used to culture and trust as the bonds that hold workers together. But instead of giving in to the status quo, we entrepreneurs must resist and write the new rules for corporate success.

A few months into our work together, my co-founder, Michael, and I had to deal with an early employee that expected us to adopt many of the “rules” of a big company. He asked us to cover the cost of parking, wanted to select a different health care plan, and was concerned about his title. We hired the person because we thought he was strong, and we needed someone in the position quickly. But we were uneasy, and a few months in we asked him to leave.

Though this mis-hire cost us precious time and money, we decided that we would never again hire people who wanted us to play by traditional corporate rules. Now, we question everything, and we are more likely to reject how companies typically work rather than follow their lead. Some of the things we have rejected include:

No email. This is one of the worst tools of the modern office. Email invites people to throw work over the wall and spread responsibility through the dreaded “cc:”. And there is nothing more demoralizing than a full inbox. Instead, we use an instant message program. With quick, direct communication we are in sync as a team, lean and efficient.

No vacation limits. Why should senior execs get four weeks while junior people get two weeks? Our policy is that you can take as many days as you want, as long as you manage your work. If anything, we worry that people do not take enough time off, which happens when people are working hard and love their jobs. Now we need a way to force people to take time off for their own good.

Great health care benefits. While some of the biggest CEOs in the world blame their poor quarterly results on Obamacare, we decided to over-invest in our people’s health. When you genuinely care about your people you want them to be healthy, and you do not want them worrying about this instead of doing great work.

Our economy clearly needs new models for company culture and processes. We are bringing in a new generation of workers that is used to change for the better and does not accept “the way we’ve always done it.” But the next models for organizational behavior will not come from cost-cutting corporations, Harvard Business Review studies, or McKinsey white papers. Instead, better ways will emerge from the thousands of entrepreneurs like you and I that are fighting to build a successful future business, today.

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