Make Work Work For You

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I had an interesting conversation today.

It was more of an introduction that went wrong, however it inspired this post - and I'm going to use it here for the better.

"Hey,  I'm Sean - nice to meet you!"
"Hey, I'm (not going to say his name) nice to meet you too!"

It all started pretty well, but quickly went down hill - at least for me. We started talking about something entirely un-related to work so I'm not sure how it took a hard left turn but basically it came up that I work from home.

"Oh, so when are you going to get a real job?"

I genuinely didn't know how to respond. I was initially very angry. I tempered that because of the setting, and I didn't want to respond out of spite because I wasn't brought up that way but even so it was hard to keep an even-keel. I ended up responding with a bit of a humble-brag.

"I actually own my own internet marketing agency, and have employees and clients all around the world. We don't have a central office because we don't need one - and it would actually be highly inefficient and useless if we did."

Sure, that might seem a bit passive aggressive - but as I said I was a bit angry.

My anger quickly turned into curiosity though.

Why would he say that? Why would that be his knee-jerk reaction to my working environment?

Was it jealousy? Or even deeper, was it fear of what he doesn't understand? I favor the latter.

I think for many people "work" is still a loaded term that means 70% suffering mixed with 30% positive personal outcome. That 30% usually comes on the weekend too, when they're.. you know... home.

Why? Why does work need to be like this? 

I know I was brought up in a technological insurgence, and I'm riding that wave - so maybe it's just that I don't level with that mentality because it isn't logical anymore in my generation. I wanted to use the inspiration this gave me to shift gears and show how I see work, and what we do at SimpleTiger to make work work for us, and not the other way around.

We have a few key pieces of structure that help with this, and they've been heavily encoded in who we are. 

I think anyone who wants to be happy in their work should try to implement at least one of these in their own work:

1. M.A.P.

M.A.P. stands for "Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose" - and it's our "MAP forward" at SimpleTiger.

Mastery: The art of mastering what you are directly responsible for, to be the best of the best and take in all the knowledge necessary to achieve this state.

Autonomy: The freedom and responsibility to own what you're directly responsible for, where you're the final decision maker and the responsibility of those decisions falls solely on you.

Purpose: To have one singular focus within the company. You understand your purpose and others understand your purpose, honing the items or tasks that you're directly responsible for.

Each point is essential, an anchor, and without all three working in tandem it all falls down. You must endeavor to master your purpose or you won't be able to work autonomously and you won't be confident in your decisions.

Though when you master your purpose, you feel invigorated by your autonomy and capability to make decisions for yourself.

This makes every position within SimpleTiger feel like an entrepreneurial endeavor, building many smaller companies within our overall company.

With this methodology, we have seen incredible things happen.

Most of the best processes within our company did not come from Jeremiah or I (the founders) but our employees, who have completely mastered their roles and have a singular drive to make our services world-class.

If you want some more information on this structure, watch this TED talk by Dan Pink and or read "Turn the Ship Around" by David Marquet. Each of these resources go very in-depth on this methodology, which has been an absolute game-changer for our organization and can be for your own personal work environment.

2. R.O.W.E

R.O.W.E stands for "Results Only Work Environment" which means exactly what it sounds like.

We are only accountable for our work getting done, that our work is effective, and that our work is on-time. Everything else is secondary. 

Where you work, when you work, and how you work don't matter if you get your work done and it's exemplary for our clients.

"How do you know if your employees are actually working? Aren't you worried they will be slacking off?"

Actually quite the opposite.

It's a lot easier to tell if people aren't getting their work done when you don't see them at a desk every-day and the only thing you see is if a task is open or checked off in Basecamp (our project management system). 

I was never a fan of showing my work, I was never a fan of being at school if I was going to have homework anyways, I wasn't a fan of waking up early - I liked nights more.

None of these stopped being the case when I became an adult, I just had more responsibility and more control over my decisions - so why would I decide to continue down a path I loathed? Why would anyone?

We embody this work style, and it really shows incredible results.

We do not dictate a regular work-week, people work when they want to. We have employees that get their best work done at 2am on a Saturday, and some that get their best work done at 6am on a Monday. It's your destiny, you control it. 

This, once again, makes people feel more autonomous which I believe we all want to be. Maybe not have the pressure and stress of an entrepreneur, but the benefits that come with it - freedom, autonomy, purpose, and reward.

R.O.W.E plays a big part of this.

If you want a great starting point for R.O.W.E I recommend reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, one of my favorite books ever - and a NYT best seller. 

3. REMOTE

The remote work environment is the most essential part to me. 

Freedom of location - where you work, and how you work.

You do not have managers tapping you on the shoulder (though I might send an email or Slack message every once in a while), you do not have any distractions that you can't control, you don't have to commute.

We believe this is incredibly important for so many reasons.

  • We can recruit the best talent regardless of their location
  • We can provide jobs to areas that don't normally have a booming tech economy
  • We can work from home and be near the ones we love
  • We can completely control our own work environment

I really didn't realize when I was young how special it was to me that my mother worked from home as a freelance accountant.

She would always take a break every once in a while to play with me building blocks on the floor, and make me lunches. Later on she would personally drive me to school in the mornings, and pick me up in the afternoons. This was time that I sort of took for granted, and I want a remote work environment so that I can have that with my own kids later in life.

I also want to provide that experience to as many people as possible, because I think the next generation will need that sort of attention, and the closeness to their parents will build a more caring, relaxed, and enlightened generation.

For a good starting point on this and how to implement it properly in your own business, I recommend reading REMOTE by Jason Fried and DHH from Basecamp (formerly 37signals). 

REMOTE shows how and why Jason and David grew an incredibly effective, wonderful company with an entirely remote team.

You probably have some hesitations

I know the next thing you're likely about to say, either "I'm an employee, I can't just demand these things of my boss." Or "That all sounds lovely, but it wouldn't actually work in the real world." Or maybe even "Those things are all impossible in my industry."

I'll answer these one by one. 

"I'm an employee, I can't just demand these things of my boss." 

Well, there are plenty of employers out there that are actually hiring completely remote positions, so maybe you're at the wrong job. Perhaps you need to browse weworkremotely.com for a job that would give you the freedom you're craving. 

Perhaps you don't even want to be an employee, and should start your own company. There's no reason that you couldn't build out your company to function in the same way I've listed above. I'm 25 at the time of writing this post, I didn't go to college, and I'm making it work really well in an industry that is growing at an incredibly fast clip. It's not impossible, it's only a matter of finding the right way, and the willpower to make it happen.

"That all sounds lovely, but it wouldn't actually work in the real world."

Actually, it does - really well.

The company Basecamp that I mentioned above has just a 50 person team with a very high multi-million dollar annual running rate.

We at SimpleTiger have grown over 100% a year since we started, and have only picked up pace. One of the main beautiful pieces of the remote work environment is it's the easiest to start, because there isn't as much overhead - and you can hire from anywhere which means you can also contract work out until you are comfortable hiring the contractors you're comfortable work with.

Right now we have two employees traveling Europe while getting their work done in-between their travels. We are growing faster than we have ever grown, getting bigger contracts than ever, and we're having better results for our clients than we ever have before. We have 8 full-time employees, and plenty of contractors that we plan on hiring in the future.

You would be surprised at how well it actually does in the "real world" and it's only getting bigger.

"Those things are all impossible in my industry."

Perhaps you're in the wrong industry.

I don't mean to sound like the man I was introduced to at the start of this post, but if these things are really important to you - and you're sold on this way of working - perhaps you should learn a new profession that lends itself better to this direction.

Developers, marketers, and designers make great candidates for these types of remote work environment jobs. Not only do they make good candidates, but they are also all industries that are growing at an insanely fast rate - as software and robotics takes over manual labor and factory jobs, creative and critical thinking is a more sought after commodity.

Even if you don't hit all three of the points I listed above, implementing just one of these can have a massive impact. In Turn the Ship Around they only implemented M.A.P. and it had an incredible effect over morale and productivity - turning the worst performing naval vessel into the best performing in history, in only one year. 

These points do work, they work well, and most important of all - they make work work for you.

They make you excited to work, because you aren't owned by the work.

You own the work, you call the shots, you make the decisions, you decide your destiny. 

Decide yours.