Balancing Business and Buddies – What It’s Really Like to Start a Business With Friends
I get asked this question at least once a week, “so how does it work with all of you guys being friends and working together?”
The answer is pretty well actually.
I’ll tell you why.
We’ve done a couple things differently here with regards to our work culture. Input on company objectives, initiatives and strategy are not only accepted, but encouraged. We put a strong emphasis on being ‘straight up’ with each other; if there’s an issue, talk, talk some more, and resolve it. We have structured our business like a team. Seriously, no one is called an employee, instead, everyone is a team member. If you look back through our older blog posts you’ll see this language used at every possible turn.
I am in charge, technically. However, it would be flat out ignorant for me to think that I knew everything and make decisions without consulting team members. Instead, I think about my job similar to playing quarterback. It’s my job to put our team members in the best positions possible to drive us closer to our goal of winning. This means listening to the team, making adjustments on the fly, and understanding that everyone has talents which are valuable to different facets of the business.
Our goal: to tell the best stories possible.
Our team members have bought in, we want the same thing. Once we made the goal clear, egos step to the side and we get to work.
When I was in college playing football, I did everything with teammates. We ran, weight-lifted, practiced, studied, partied and of course, went to battle together.
This mentality has been brought over to our agency. We’re about team, period. We celebrate victories together and take losses together. When you know your team has your back, and vice-versa, it makes ‘working’ with friends easy.
One of the things we have accepted with Cave is remote working. If someone wants to move to Europe, they can (as long as they get their stuff done). In companies we’ve consulted for, we’ve seen this trust backfire more times than not, and employees take advantage of this – doing little or no work. I believe no one intends to rip off a company, but if there is little connection between the remote worker and the cumulative goal of the team, people are bound to lose interest.
In a company we consulted for, who will be called Company Z (to protect their name), we were dealing with a CEO who was quick to draw a line in the sand between him and anyone else in the company. He often referred to his employees, who were working remotely, as ‘junior’ and was quick to tell them about his vast experience in companies. After speaking with the staff members, it was apparent they felt as if (i) their opinions/skills were not valued and (ii) their days at the company were numbered. It didn’t take much for us to realize why these employees were not producing – there was a complete disconnect between management and the staff. Often board rooms were filled with political games, infighting, and constant bickering. It was painful to be a part of. Have you ever seen a professional sports team fighting within themselves on the sideline? It happens, but never on the team that’s winning the game.
We ran several campaigns with Company Z and we learned a ton on what not to do with remote workers.
In our company, everyone knows exactly what everyone else billed weekly. The transparency lets people who have maybe underbilled for a week, feel the need to step up and contribute to the team like others are. This is motivation enough. If the person beside you is working hard, and you see that, it becomes contagious.
This is the type of company we want to be a part of and build further.
We’re not about individual stats per-say, we’re about winning the game.
Tasks aren’t given out as power moves, they’re given out because they advance the team. The understanding that we have this common goal in mind makes working with friends very easy.