I’ve been thinking alot about the differences of various businesses I’ve been involved with. I invested the formative years of my business life working in consumers goods companies. Classic fast moving consumer goods companies that thrived through industrial revolution and then boomed during the TV industrial complex.
I’ve since invested most of my time in service based internet businesses, startups and advertising. They both have relative advantages and disadvantages that I only ever realised once I had time to digest the dynamics in each of them. The most interesting observation I’ve made is the difference when the office and the factory are the same thing. This occurs in service / web based business. In consumer goods the office and factory tend to be separated.
The key advantage that the consumer goods scenario has is that the office is not linked to output. It creates time for thinking. The immediate concerns of what needs to ship today are somewhat removed. The urgent, doesn’t get in the way of the important. Yet, the challenge here is that we can become out of touch with how things work.
The key disadvantage of the service scenario (office is the factory), is we don’t have as much time to think and consider. There is always something that needs to be created, done or fixed. Over time our mental flexibility declines as we get absorbed in shipping what we make and meeting deadlines. Yes, we know what is happening, but we get too close to it. We lose vision and creativity via also ‘being’ the production process.
The important thing for startups and marketers alike is to know which environment we are operating in, and to work real hard on the area of disadvantage.
The problem with email is that far too many people let it be the compass of their day. They refer to it religiously, checking it with every spare moment they have at their desk.
Maybe some new information has arrived?
Maybe they should use it to justify a change in direction?
Email tricks us into believing that we should stop on the path we are heading down and change direction, react to micro pieces of data. We often know it is a detour from the desired destination, yet we follow it anyway. When we do this email becomes a self multiplying tool. The more we attend to it, the more it demands. Entrepreneurs time is better invested talking to people.
Email is not a compass, it is more like a shadow. It reflects blockages that other people are creating, and what we need to do is move out of the shadows emails create so we can see our own path, and not theirs.
I once worked in a consumer goods company which went from Individual offices to open plan.
I now work in an advertising agency where we have moved from individual offices to open desks.
What happened at these two firms is interesting. The first office (consumer goods marketing) sent out a mass email banning iPods (and any other brand of personal music device – this is seriously what the email said). Claiming that the idea of open plan was to encourage open communications, and it was rude to listen to music while working. That we couldn’t do our jobs while listening to music as it was distracting. While at the same time the directors had offices with doors.
The second office (advertising) did something much different. Firstly, all the directors have the same size desk and space as every employee. On our first day in the new office we all had a gift on our desk wrapped beautifully with a ribbon. Inside the pack was free coffee vouchers (for the cafe across the road) and a brand new iPod nano. And it had a note which said the following:
“The iPod nano – this is good for a few things. Moving to open will at times be challenging. If you feel it is getting on top of you, then feel free to bung in your iPod and listen to your favourite tunes. We’re also into the idea that we can all play part in creating our new vibe. So we’ll be asking you to supply the music each day. We’ll place a sign at the reception that says “Today’s music thanks to Ant Shannon.” Please make your playlist and get it on the dock. The iPods you’ve received also take video – get in the habit of recording the stuff you like or think about. Keep it, play it, share it.”
A massive difference in attitude, culture and resulting creative output. The culture we create in our startup or any business is a result of what we do, and we can change it at any time with a bit of effort and humanity.
I was fortunate enough to feature in a story on the ABC 7.30 report this week. The topic was on virtual offices and digital offshoring. My business rentoid got a nice little plug which is a bonus on a non-commercial channel. The opportunity arose from this newspaper article I was in on the topic in the Sydney Morning Herald. Which goes to show media exposure also has a compounding effect for your startup as well.
Although the story and offshoring in general has it’s detractors (unions love the status quo, unless it involves profit increases they want a share in). I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve worked with talented people in developing markets.
- My team get paid more than they’d get locally.
- I’ve helped team members get more work, and mentored them in building their own businesses.
- I like investing in developing markets because improves living standards.
It’s our job as entrepreneurs to create positive situations with tech innovations, and there’s no doubt in my mind having an overseas team does this, while building a business with beneficiaries locally (employees, revenue, community) as well.