A few months ago, you wouldn't catch me at my desk until 9AM or later. It's not that I worked late… it's just that my job was working me more than I was working it. Quite possibly, it was the best job a person could find here in the mid-west. In the software industry, I would really challenge folks to find better. I was a Product Manager with one of the fastest growing companies – not just in the region – but in the country. Rapid growth brings a lot of challenge with it, though.
I come from a Production background, so much of my impression of modern work still returns to my engineering core. A product is designed, built, sold and supported. It's pretty simple… until you start growing at a rapid rate. Instead of starting the new assembly line, you keep adding people to it. Imagine the sled dog pulling the sleigh. Add a couple more dogs and a couple more riders and now you need a great musher and a dog leader. Add too many, though, and the dogs don't know which direction to move and the musher is lost somewhere in the mix.
The irony, of course, is that massive growth is one of the core characteristics of business success. I'm not knocking big business at all – I'm just knocking working in a big business. With my last transition, I've moved from a company of over 200 to a company of 5.
At my new job, there's probably two to three times the work than there is people. The difference is no one is waiting on another person, though… we're all sprinting as quickly as we can to knock out the work. No one is upset, no one is yelling… we're all helping each other move the product and our clients forward. Some of our clients are incredibly large, but they are extremely forgiving as long as we maintain communication with them and let them know our progress.
Last week I installed a PBX phone system, a network, a wireless network, designed our first newsletter, sent out our first campaign, wrote requirements for several enhancements to our system for two teams of developers, worked to get us unblocked with the AOL Postmasters, moved the office from our old to new locations, helped to implement a few new clients, and all the while dealt with phone company issues.
That may be more than I achieved in the last year at the larger company! My point here isn't to knock the company I worked for – I still am a customer and would recommend them as the best in the industry, bar none. My point is only to bring attention to the fact that small, autonomous teams can move at lightning speed. If you want to see progress, then remove the bureaucracy and empower your employees to succeed.
Gore is named among the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” by FORTUNE magazine, and our culture is a model for contemporary organizations seeking growth by unleashing creativity and fostering team-work.
The leaders at Gore found growing a location beyond a certain number of employees minimized creativity and reduced overall productivity. Instead of growing the company, Gore would simply start a ‘new' company, mirroring the product lines and the organizational structure of each location. Now they have over 8,000 employees in 45 locations. If you do the math, that's about 177 employees per location – a very manageable employee count.
Software today lends itself to this structure. There's no need to have a massive development team tripping over themselves to develop an enormous application with deeply-hidden bugs and layers and layers of complexity. Instead, SOA fosters small, autonomous teams. Each team can build complex solutions… the only commonality is how the portions of the application speak to one another.
Life is good at our small company. We're taking on investment funding right now (feel free to contact me if you're a serious investor) and the industry is wide open. Some might disagree, but I don't believe we have a single, capable competitor. We're aligned and integrated with the best solutions in the industry… leveraging email, SMS, Voiceshot, Fax, Web and POS technologies to maximize engagement and profitability for the restaurant industry.
Luckily, we're lean, mean, and moving at an astonishing rate of speed. We have established relationships with the most well-respected companies in the Restaurant, Web, Search and Marketing industries. The industry is ours for the taking and we have a strategy and the leadership to get it done. And we're not planning on hiring any time soon.
Today, I'm working my job – not letting it work me. I'm in the office at 8AM and I work a good 10 to 20 hours more per week than I did a year ago. Because I'm getting an exponential amount of work done, I'm happy and productive. I hope we don't get to 177 employees any time soon… unless we decide to roll out a new location!