I came across this while surfing the web at lunchtime, and realized I wrote it back in 2004. It’s bizarre that my current employer fulfills so many of these qualities, and where they don’t, I’d probably revise the quality if I were to rewrite this today. I didn’t even choose to work here, we got bought and traded and sold until I found myself here one day. I couldn’t have planned it this way if I made it a conscious aim, but apparently God could.
So, a blast from the past…
I suppose the first comment that has to be made is that the title of this commentary is not “My Dream Job”; it is “My Dream Company”. I know that there are some fortunate people out there who don’t really care much where they work as long as their job or their team “doesn’t suck”. There are even some truly blessed individuals who have clearly separated their work life and their real life and can be content even if their job does “suck”. I’m not one of those people. My role is important to me, and my team is very important, but there has to be a balance between my satisfaction with my role, my team, and the organization in which we operate. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was to leave an interesting job with an amazing team because the company I loved had lost too much of its soul. And that is the core attribute of my dream company: it has a soul.
Companies with a soul seem to posses a number of properties. I am certain that I have done a poor job of categorizing these properties, and I’m sure that given time they could be distilled, and that someone wiser than I has probably done so and made millions on their book, but these are my thoughts, overlapping, contradictory, and naïve as they may be. This is my intuitive first stab at what my dream company should look like:
- Balanced between generating revenue and ‘softer’ values. In Built to Last, Collins and Porras identify 18 companies between 1926 and 1990 that achieved success significantly beyond the general market. Their research shows that those companies had a strong core ideology and that maximizing shareholder value was not the dominant motivator for those companies. Making money was only one of the objectives in these companies. Generating revenue as an organization is important, just as earning an income for an individual is important, but wealth doesn’t make an organization successful any more than it does an individual.
- Employee centric, not customer centric. Crazy? I don’t think so. Organizations don’t take care of people, people take care of people. Companies don’t take care of customers, employees of companies do. Ideas, products, markets, and plans are all good and necessary, but my dream company recognizes that excellent people are the key to lasting success. In my dream company, the leadership team is focused on taking care of the employee so that the employee can focus on taking care of the customer. This, in turn, engenders customer loyalty, and those customers take care of the organization. The customer isn’t lost in this process, but found. When employees are customer focused, and leadership is employee focused, the concerns of the customer reach the ears of the leadership frequently and effectively.
- Demanding, but merciful. Hire and retain excellence; if a team member is not excellent, release them so that they can be content with mediocrity somewhere else. In my dream company, everyone is expected to be excellent. That doesn’t mean everyone is the Chief Architect of All Things, it means that if you’re a customer support representative, you’re excellent at it, if you’re an administrative assistant, you’re excellent, if you’re responsible for facilities maintenance, you’re excellent. It also means that if you’re a junior member of a team, you’re excellent at learning and applying information. It doesn’t mean that you’re perfect or that you’ve realized all of your potential, and it doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to be unkind to anyone or to an overly inflated view of your self. High standards are critical, and excellence should be a requirement, but when a teammate stumbles, the team accepts their mistake and helps them back on their feet because the team recognizes that this excellent individual has made an error just like we all do, and teamwork means helping one another over obstacles and through challenges. This encourages the individual to be courageous and take risks, and that is where real excellence is found.
- Transparent and having integrity. From the broad scale, where business operations are transparent to employees, the public, and shareholders, to the narrow, where salary data is public information, transparency is essential in my dream company. Decisions have an owner who isn’t afraid to stand by them. In my dream company, people mean what they say, and say what they mean.
- Far-sighted. Yes, there needs to be due consideration for paying the bills this month (especially when you’re a young company) but even then, there needs to be thought given to next month, next quarter, next year, and beyond. My dream company has a destination, and while it isn’t afraid to seize an opportunity, it also isn’t afraid to pass one up that doesn’t mesh well with long-term goals.
- Part of a community. This is perhaps summed up best by Peter Drucker, who said “Organizations have a responsibility to try to find an approach to basic social problems which fit their competence and which, indeed, makes the social problem into an opportunity for the organization.” In my dream company, this isn’t just a lovely concept; it is a part of every-day life. Employees and leadership are encouraged to contribute several hours a week of “work” time doing community service, and outstanding civic performance is recognized within the company. My dream company will contribute a portion of their profits to worthy causes. My dream company is also part of the local business community and an active participant in the market community by participating in standards bodies, user groups, professional conferences, etc.
- Motivated by relationships, not transactions. Even the most transactional business can and should build strong customer relationships. My dream company will not only build relationships with its customers, it will foster relationships between customers. This applies to the company’s attitude towards employees too.
- A responsible citizen. Encourage employees to participate in the political process and to support worthy causes with time (time off) and money (matching funds). Respect the environment, and strive for balance, diversity, and equality in relationships within and without the organization.
- Globally aware. Pursue international trade and encourage globalization within the target market. Pursue international production where appropriate, but do so with a consciousness of the impact to the local community and to the sense of community within the organization.
- Fun and Rewarding. Work should have an element of fun in it whenever possible, and be rewarding personally and professionally.
- The Great Divorce
- Math Stumper: Multiple unit multipliers