My company, Adaptiv, is what you might call a life style company. We, the four owners and partners, think of it more as a way of life than some big entrepreneurial ambition. In other words, we’re not trying to conquer the world. It seems to me that many companies seek world domination just because they think that’s what a business should be about. Well, it turns out that’s a pretty modern idea, dating back to the time when armies also started to conquer the world.
It doesn’t have to be like that. You see, there are numerous downsides and sacrifices you need to do in such an enterprise. For some, it might be worth it. For us, well, no. We’re committed to Adaptiv because we feel our lives would be a bit grayer any other way.
In this post and hopefully a few others I want to share some ideas that I think may be a bit original about Adaptiv. If you are starting your own company or if you are in a position to affect the basic thinking in your company, I hope these ideas can provide some inspiration.
Many consultancies struggle with weak employee loyalty. It’s not uncommon to hear consultants mention how they feel more loyalty and togetherness with their customers and their staff. It’s almost like they consider them their real colleagues. That’s no wonder, given the fact they spend almost all their time there. Typically, the only time a consultant visits the home office is to go to a company meeting or event. Perhaps the horrid, yearly performance chat?
That’s not what we wanted. Hence, we needed to spend time together. A bit inspired by Google we set our goal early to spend at least one day a week together. 80% with customers, 20% with ourselves on Fridays. It’s not exactly like Google’s 20% time because our time is not for personal pet projects. It’s for the company, even though there is often time to work on personal projects as well.
Consultants often think it is difficult to get part time assignments. We haven’t experienced much of that. At the outset, all customers agreed to 80-90%. After a while, some agreed to 80%. Now, all of them have agreed to 80%. Why? Because it makes sense to them too. They don’t have to worry about us spending our days with them doing internal stuff. We don’t need to run errands. We don’t arrange travels and we don’t prepare talks for conferences. We work for them. Because we know that on Friday there is time for all that internal stuff. And that’s important when your fees and expectations are high.
This also means Adaptiv does not strive to maximise its profits. Weird, huh? That’s when it’s handy to own your own company. Not to say we underestimate the value of profit. We need it as much as any other company, of course. It’s just that we don’t seek to maximise it, thereby lowering the standard for other things. We believe profits are a result of a hundred things we do. It’s an outcome and settings targets for outcomes is poor management. We settle for just enough profit to lead a good life and also giving us the time to actually do just that. Isn’t that what most of us want, really?
So, what do we spend Fridays doing? Many people have asked me that. We have grown into a form that we all like. One part administration and other necesseties, one part developing the company, and one part fun. Here is a typical agenda: We start with a breakfast together at 9.00. We share war stories from the week. After that, we conduct a Temperature Reading (a group exercise) to dig deeper into what’s going on with everyone. Then we gather at our desks and look over the company board to see what has happened during the week and what tasks to do today. The rest of the time before lunch is usually spent at administration; invoices, salaries etc. Around 11.30 we have lunch together at some local restaurant. Sometimes the indian at the corner, sometimes a bit more upscale. We often invite lunch guests. If we have an invited guest they normally take the stage directly after lunch. Otherwise, we continue with company matters, e.g. business development, marketing events and lead development. We might look at developer conferences during the next six months or so. Then its time for the fun part of the program. That part is often the toughest to come up with, but we have many options to choose from now. It could simply mean hacking on our mobile app. Or we might watch a talk from TED on conducting or analyse an article on organisation together. Another option is to try out some unproven group exercises on each other, before taking them to our clients. As I said earlier, we also invite guests to talk on some subject. For example, we’ve had people talking about lean supply chains and visualization. We have also visited some high-profile companies to see what they’re up to, e.g. Spotify and Cint.
How is it organised? One partner is responsible for the program of the day. He is also the facilitator of the day. Another partner is responsible for the fun part of the program. Hence, it’s a pairing thing. The agenda is created in a few minutes in Google Apps some time during the week and may be amended by anyone of us.
Together we have agreed on the following guiding words for our Fridays: Openness, Inspiration, and Fellowship.
- Openness reminds us to be as transparent as we want our software teams to be. Only by being open do we invite understanding, feedback and collaboration. We want to move beyond the common professional courtesy and deeply understand each other as humans. If we are struggling at our client’s or at home we should be able to share this.
- Inspiration means we want to spend as much time as possible learning and studying – not only our own specialities but broader. We share knowledge and insights with each other. We recommend books, articles, and videos. My colleagues inspire me by telling me what worked great last week.
- Fellowship means we’re in this together. We’re all in the same boat. There’s a reason the famous trilogy isn’t called “The Social Network of the Ring”. What’s good for my colleagues is good for me. As change agents we naturally experience a lot of setbacks and, in a way, my colleagues also function as my therapists and advisors. That means I can get back to work the next week, full of energy and new inspiration, which benefit my clients.
Openness, Inspiration, Fellowship. These words sum up why I gladly sacrifice 20% of our possible income to be able to spend Fridays with my friends. Because Adaptiv is not about making some company group, investors, owners or share holders richer; it’s about making a difference and in the mean time making our lives richer.