Accelerate Your Growth by Working Less

October 23, 2007

I just returned from a nice long four day weekend. Nope, it wasn’t a holiday that you weren’t aware or. It wasn’t a planned vacation either. In fact, I have a four day weekend twice every month at Mindscape! You are probably thinking … “Must be nice to own a company and get to schedule a bunch of time off.” I’d love to say, “heck yeah, ownership does have it’s privledges,” but I can’t. EVERY team member gets a four day weekend and they absolutely love it!

It seems the norm in business is to milk more and more billable hours from each employee by increasing efficiencies, utilizing technology, and dropping huge numbers to the bottom line. At Mindscape we have a different view of things. Yes we definitely utilize technology to increase our efficiencies, but we don’t take those savings and use them to penalize the people that helped develop the processes, by milking even more billable time from them. We actually reward them for their innovative ideas and give them incentive to come up with more efficient processes.

I guess I should back up a bit and let you know how we came to this point. My business partner (Paul Ferrier) and I were finding ourselves chasing our tails working more and more hours each week to grow the company. We often found ourselves so consumed by working “in the business” that we couldn’t find any time to work “on the business” except if we burned the midnight oil. I often had discussions with Paul telling me how he had worked until 5:00am only to wake up and arrive at work by 8:00am the same morning.

While away on vacation(a vacation he badly needed), Paul read an article from a brilliant guy who seemingly found the answer! He eloquently related how he had recently switched from working seven days a week to a schedule of Monday through Thursday. He actually lengthened his days during the time he worked, but spent the additional time off with his family and friends. The most important piece of the article was him pointing out how when he was on his death bed, he couldn’t see himself saying, “I wish I would have worked a little more on this or that project,” or “I wish I could have spent more time in the office.”

I believe this type of “awakening” will happen to almost every hard working business person. I also believe when it does, it will typically be too late to correct it. We were determined NOT to find ourselves in the same position. Like with everything else, we also wanted to make sure our team members had the same benefits and lack of regrets. We took out a pad of paper and sketched out the possible scenarios. We found a few very surprising things.

Increased Focus Time

When looking at a typical 8am – 5pm day we found these interesting facts. Typically the first 20 – 30 minutes were spent chit chatting with co-workers and finding out what happened the previous night. Once this ended, each person typically checked email and could possibly get routed to different fires for the next 30 minutes to an hour. This would keep us consumed until approximately 9:30am which was when the focus could begin on the normal billable projects. If by some miracle nothing popped up, the team member would have two uninterrupted hours until lunch time. Once lunch happened and we returned to the office it was 12:30pm and another “ramp up” period with email checking would carry us over until around 1:30. Now another miraculous segment of the day with zero interruptions and we had a whopping 4 hours of uninterrupted time. That would take into consideration that we didn’t receive any email which would be constantly distracting us by the endless “ding” of the email notification.

Once we looked at our typical day, we were actually quite surprised how we ever got anything done! I am quite sure any business owner would find him self in a similar situation if they took the time to analyze their operations. We looked at the possibility of taking our current work day of 8am-5pm and expanding it to 7am-6pm. Previously we required each team member to complete a minimum of six billable hours each day. We believed that everybody needed a minimum of two hours each day to handle email, and other non-billable work and that was fine with us. When we looked at expanding the day we realized this number of two hours to handle non-billable items would still hold true. If that were the case … each team member would be completing 32 billable hours a week instead of 30! This was surprising and very exciting.

When looking deeper into the expansion we also realized the ramp up time would negatively impact our schedule less by allowing us two additional focus hours each day. We were quickly realizing by working less … we could complete more by giving our team more time to focus on their income producing tasks. This made the switch an easy choice.

Client Focus

“Oops … what’s going to happen if a client needs something on Friday and we aren’t there?” This question popped up and forced us to be creative with the scheduling. We didn’t want our clients to think we were slackers or all of a sudden adopted an attitude that it was all about us and our comfort. We determined it would be best if we didn’t all take a three day weekend every week. We figured if we split up the team and flip flopped the weekly schedule, we could each have a four day weekend twice each month. This was MUCH better and everybody loved it. Paul and I decided it was a great move for the guys, but since we owned the company we’d  work all five days each week to assure everything went well.

Great Summer Weather = Jealousy

The feedback from the team was amazing! It seemed as though every business owner I was talking with was asking me NOT to tell their employees since they would be jealous. The guys were constantly telling us how long their weekend seemed. They also made strange statements like, “I was actually happy to be coming back to work.” WOW!!! We were experiencing an incredibly beautiful summer, and we had a company full of happy team members whose families were very grateful to be enjoying the summer with them. Then the jealousy crept in. The strange thing is the jealousy came from Paul and me! We decided it was unfair for everyone to get a four day weekend twice a month, except us. We then decided to make the same move. 🙂

Incredible Life

Paul and I will both testify that we have just experienced the most incredible summer we’ve had since we were kids. Cutting back the amount of days we spend focusing on building the business, and giving ourselves more days to focus on our friends and families was the answer. Instead of focusing on work, who the next client was going to be, or how the bills were going to be paid, we got to focus on enjoying life! And what an incredible life it is!

Increased Energy and Excitement

The new schedule added an incredible amount of energy and excitement within Mindscape. Every day it seems as if team members are knocking on my door with another idea that could assist us in making our jobs easier and more efficient. We have implemented a great deal of these ideas right on the spot, and watched our efficiency soar through the roof. We have grown from a company of six team members to twelve in less than five months and it is all a result of working less!

I’ll share more of the steps we’ve taken to raise our efficiency in upcoming blog entries. The most important message in this entry is this. As a business owner, take your focus on the “bottom line” and change it to “quality of life” for you and your team. Once you sincerely and passionately make this change, the sky will be the limit. You’ll find yourself enjoying your life, your company, and your team. It may sound strange, but it works!

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