I was at a startup angel session last night and it reminded my why I love the startup mentality so much.
All the participants where not interested in the end, as much as they were the process. Their interest was primarily in baking a pie they could be proud of. Which is the opposite to what we often see in the corporate scene. People whose interest is in getting the largest slice possible of a pie that someone else baked.
The key question we should ask ourselves, corporate executive or entrepreneur, is this: Are we baking or eating?
You probably don’t know this but the office is a weird thing that only turned up when factories did. Sure Lawyers and accountants had them, but not in the corporate form they exist in today. The office was an addendum to where stuff got built. It was there by accident, it was there because the tools of the trade (office machinery) had not been democratized to the point where we could own and have them in our home. The strange thing is that, now we can work from home, the large majority of us still don’t. Not because we don’t want to, but mainly because large corporations lack trust.
Many of us would save time and money if they did not exist (both people & corporations)
I think it’s the last industrial relic. It needs to be radically changed, even the name office is wrong. It sounds ‘official’ and full of rules. Sure we do need to work together sometimes – but personally I’d rather do that in some kind of creative collaboration space.
If offices really add that much value, then why do startups never have them? It’s because entrepreneurs know they are expensive to run, out dated and redundant.
Jason Fried gives us his synopsis on this topic at a recent TED talk. Which I love – it’s 20 minutes worth investing:
I heard a great new (old?) terminology the other day called “Seagull Management”
Fly in, shit over everything, steal any hot chips or good food and fly away.
Of course all the other seagulls fight over the food that was stolen in the first instance. It’s an intersting idea we see in many corporate scenarios, less often in start ups.
Here’s an alternative idea “Koala Management”
Give birth to new things, put them on your back while you teach them to navigate the world, nurture them until they are strong enough to stand on their own two feet (four claws?).
No wonder seagulls have such a bad name, where Koalas are so loveable.
Why we still have so many of them is beyond me. We know they waste a lot of time. We know they probably cost us more revenue than they generate. So what if we actually tried to quantify the real cost of meetings. Especially those with a cast of thousands, or say 5-10 people. Let me break it down.
Cost of meeting with 10 people in it:
10 people with an average annual salary of $100,000
Total salary of human resources = $1,000,000
Weekly cost of the salaries = $19,231
Cost of $480 an hour. So a 4 hour meeting costs just under $2000 to conduct in pure wages. Not to mention the cost of stuff not getting done while the meeting is happening. Or the cost of another weeks wages while people go away and think about it, before returing next week with the same 10 people to make the final decision.
Here’s an idea. Put the $2000 in the middle of the table (the cost of the meeting in wages). If it finishes in half the time split 50% of the money between the participants. If it finishes in a quarter of that time, split 75% of the funds amonst the participants….
Startupblog says: the best decisions are those that get made. The decisions which have a chance of being wrong so we can cross them off the list. Having expensive meetings just elongates the process. Avoid them where possible.
I was writing a guide for a social startup Abbostford Biscuits on how to approach twitter. Here’s a little snippet I thought was worth sharing for anyone wanting to embrace twitter in their company.
The twitter account should be open to all in the Abbotsford Biscuits organisation. Anyone should be allowed to tweet on behalf of the company. This is important because the aim is to share the company culture and values, so that you can build a following. The reality of any culture is that it is the amalgam of all viewpoints. If the brand twitter account is just maned by one person, then the personality will be too singular to truly display the organisations values. It also adds variety to the output and creates more interest with followers.
The team should be given a set of guidelines and then allowed to tweet as they please. This will also help with frequency of output, without impacting the general responsibility of staff and workers. They can do it on their breaks, or any time in or out of the office. The chaos of this proposed situation must be embraced or it simply wont work. For a true social media engagement control must be relinquished. The voice must be human, overtly honest and omnidirectional.
Greenpeace recently launched a public awareness advertising campaign. The campaign was fairly hard hitting, but it wasn’t generic, it was brand targeted. The campaign aimed at Nestle, who they claim makes their chocolate with Palm Oil. The issue with Palm Oil is that much of it is produced in areas which risk local orangutan populations. The advertisement is below – it comes with a warning for those with queezy stomachs.
It’s interesting not because the advertisement is so hard hitting, but rather that Nestle got it removed from youtube based on a ‘brand copy right’ infringement. They said it infringed the kitkat brand trademark. The beauty of the internet is that nothing can truly be banned. It will just bubble up somewhere else, like Vimeo in this case. In addition Nestles corporate strategy of removing it, only fueled the fire and cause it to be shared around and had the opposite of the desired effect.
Big companies will have to realize that they can’t hide stuff anymore. That we will pay more for ethical products. Now that we all have access to information distribution we have as much power as they do on important issues.
What does this mean for startups? Well it means we can play against the big guys. We have a palce for our voice if our dialogue is important enough. If our startup wants to create positive change. Maybe our launch strategy (gourment fair trade local chocolate company?) can spread the truth on the large corporate evil (enemy competitor) to grow their more earth friendly brand?
I was inspired by a recent article from the Australian Anthill about making our business appear bigger than we are. But in the age of authenticity, do we really want that? Sure, appearing big can be a good thing depending on our audience. Certainly, the key point in the article to me was ‘How to appear professional’. But why should professional be inextricably associated with big? Maybe the strategy should be to appear as small as possible. The current market place is not short of large corporates who are starting to understand the importance of personal service again. An example that comes to mind is the Bank of Queensland moving to a franchised branch model – where local ownership is of strategic importance to customers. Especially in such a tarnished industry as banking.
So why would we want to appear smaller than we are? Here’s a couple of thought starters:
Service – it is implicit that service is better when dealing directly with a small group of people rather than a faceless corporation
Trust – Smaller companies are way more dependent on you as a customer. You matter more, so you can trust the fact that they will do all they can to keep you.
Underdog - People love to support the up and comer. The person having a real go. Being small should be embraced and leveraged. Often this might be the only reason people do business with you.
So in the spirit of small = good, here’s the startup blog top 10 list of how to act small. Regardless of our actual revenue:
- Have personal contact details of team members on your website. Email, Skype cell phone.
- Remove pointless gatekeepers from your office who insulate hierarchy members from real customers
- Use real language in all written forms of communication. Use a human voice not corporate PR brochure parlance.
- Be honest when you stuff up. Admit it openly and quickly. Don’t make decisions based on repercussions, but on what’s right.
- Write terms and conditions (if you must have them) in a language anyone could understand
- Never call your audience your target. Business is is not skeet shooting, it is about delighting. You are performing for an audience, who can get up and leave at any time…. or even throw rotten tomatoes.
- Give responsibility to individuals not committees. Give them decision authority. It’ll get done quicker and better.
- Don’t gag your people. Allow anyone to comment on the company and what’s happening. It’ll be the best research you can ever do to find out what’s really going on in your company. No ships will be sunk.
- Have a policy of common sense. Not written manuals no employee will ever read.
- Say, “Yes we are only a small company…. and here’s why we are better…”