Six years ago, I was laid off from my second good job in 24 months. Both jobs had shown promise and both had allowed me to work with small businesses–a passion of mine for a long time. After spending a year looking for the “perfect” job, I realized that it would only exist if I created it: my own small business. So in late Spring of 2011 my wife and I rewrote our résumés as a list of everything we were good at. (She had been laid off around the same time I was.) We combined our list with a list of what we thought would be the “perfect” job, and went to work creating ThirdSide.
We opened our doors five years ago this month and have never looked back.
So what was the perfect job for us? Not surprisingly, it’s the same type of job that most people would love to have. But it’s been tweaked for our business. Here are six things from the list we came up with back in 2011. It’s interesting to see how close we’ve come to hitting these goals and making them part of our daily culture.
- A casual work environment – This is something that was surprisingly easy to do. When we started, I grew a ponytail just because I could. I would only put on business clothes when I knew I would be meeting with a client. Even then, if the client was part of a casual business my business attire was usually a “nice” t-shirt. As our client base has grown, I’ve cut my hair and changed my own personal wardrobe to match. But there are plenty of days I show up without pants. (On those days I wear shorts. Let’s not get crazy here!)
- Make our own schedule – Originally I figured I’d just roll in around noon every day. This only lasted for a few weeks though. When a business starts to grow, clients expect you to be in your office (or at least available) during business hours. It wasn’t difficult to adjust this, but we both still take plenty of time away during business hours. If we want to go to one of our kids’ school events or just take a 30 minute walk, we do it. It’s not uncommon to see me doing paperwork, doing research, or designing at 10PM…but I’m usually doing it from my sofa. If I don’t have a morning appointment, I still sleep in (sometimes).
- Pets welcome – Although he’s only been to the office a couple of times, Mulder is welcome anytime.
- No undue stress – One of my biggest pet peeves about the corporate world was the constant feeling that somebody was beating me to get back to work. From the second my butt hit the seat in the morning until I stood up at the end of the day, I always felt like I was being watched. I refused to be the type of business owner that did that to himself or his staff. It’s okay for play to come before work at ThirdSide. In fact, goofing off is often encouraged. (Although for some reason I’m still the only one who regularly dips into the Lego box.) Somehow we manage to exceed our clients’ expectations without excessive beatings.
- No clock watching – Some days we pack up at 5:00. Some days we leave at 3:00. Some evenings we’re here until 7:00. Most days, I have no idea what time it is until I get home.
- Same goes for the staff – We trust the people who work here. They know that and that level of trust runs deep. If somebody isn’t feeling quite right or just needs a brain break, we rarely decline a day-off request. (Actually, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever denied such a request.) The only “requirement” is that deadlines must be met…but we have that requirement for ourselves as well. Having this attitude really improves the quality of our work while making it enjoyable.
For the last five years I’ve found that building the company I’ve always wanted to work for is fun! Are there some stress points? Of course! It’s a small business. But every stress point is worth the knowledge that we’ve built our own company that’s fun, challenging, and rewarding. If you’re a small business owner, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Incidentally…if you’re not a small business owner but you’re looking to have some fun while doing some great work, we might have a spot or two to fill: thirdside.co/jobs