The Future of Work
I wanna start at a very high level here in terms of the philosophy of what we do. I truly believe that we are helping to define the future of work. And how work gets done. And as I said before, there are different rhythms to the way that everybody does what they do. So I wanna sort of take a bit of a higher look at this for a moment, just to understand why we would wanna do this stuff in the first place. For some companies, it may seem obvious why you should allow people the flexibility to work when they want and where they want. But maybe not to others. And actually there's some really good research recently that shows that one of the best ways that any business could be competitive is in workplace flexibility. So making it so that people can be stay at home parents, or so that they can live in a warm climate all year round, and be able to move around and do what they wanna do. That is one of the best ways that we can compete to get the best talent, and what people have to understand ...
nowadays is it's not just good enough to be able to offer employment. There's a lot of ways that people can get employed. But what we need to be able to do is provide an environment where people actually are excited about what they do and they can have impact. When a lot of people tend to complain about the millennial generation and work, the truth is that they're not providing the right environment for what is actually the hardest working generation that we've ever seen. By pretty much every statistic we could look at. And one of the big things there is impact. The millennial generation typically wants to have impact on the work they're doing and have sort of meaning to what they're doing and they don't wanna wait around two years to get to that point. And I don't think that that's unreasonable, and we can do that. And for us, specifically at our business, we follow this track of optimize, automate, outsource, that I mentioned before, which I'll give a sort of a 90 second overview on, but that is the framework that the productivity system I created is used to apply to pretty much any situation, because a lot of times when people try to outsource, they do it as a first step. And that's the mistake that they often make because if you outsource an inefficient problem, not only will you usually make it more efficient, but if you're giving work to a person that a person really shouldn't be doing or that person really shouldn't be doing, they're going to disengage, they're going to make mistakes, they're going to quit or get sick or be bored or just not wanna do it. And that doesn't serve anybody. So by actually delivering work to people that they should be doing, that they can be doing, that they can possibly, that they can properly match with, you're really giving everybody the best opportunity. So as far as the future of work, I really think that this is what we're getting towards. It's sort of the, I hate to almost say it, but it's almost like the Uber for human capital in some ways. Because you should be able to need work done and find somebody who can and wants to do that work and have some way of matching those two up. And because of the wonderful benefits of the technology we have available to us, there's very, very, very, very little that you can't get done remotely nowadays. So one a very sort of high level, philosophical level, I do think that we're helping to shape the future of work. So one of the things is our organization is that we don't have any titles and we don't have a traditional org chart, currently. So, we don't have directors of operations, we don't have HR directors and and that doesn't mean that we lack structure. One of the ways that typical virtual assistant companies, at least, and others that do this sort of, like project based consulting kind of work, where there's like pods, typical way that you'll see them divided up is that you'll have, as the company grows, you'll have people who become pod managers, and then they'll have a group of eight that they manage and maybe then there's a, at some point, there's a leader of the pods that has eight pods under them, and almost takes like a military style structure. And we tried that for about a week. And realized that it was a disaster. We don't want more managers. We want more leaders in what we do. And leadership, in terms of the business that we're in, and honestly, in most industries, in terms of delegation, leadership and delegation, sort of go hand in hand. The difference between delegation and outsourcing is outsourcing is really saying, like, I'm gonna hire, I'm gonna get somebody, I'm gonna tell them what to do and they're gonna go do it. And that's usually where problems come up, because people are inherently bad at communicating their needs and their vision for what they want. It's usually why they end up telling someone one thing and they get back something that they're not happy with. Whereas delegation, to me, is properly communicating your vision and your needs to somebody, to the extent that they can actually take ownership over it so that they can overcome hurdles on their own without having to come back to you to manage them. And so we don't want more managers, we want more leaders. So when we tried this initial experiment, we pretty much overnight asked people with no management experience to become managers, and at the time when we did this, the company was fairly small, so we divided into three pods, and each pod had, I think, six or seven people in it, and it was kind of amazing. It was like a sociology experiment overnight. One pod, the leader was spending all of her time sort of rallying the troops and getting them excited and happy and making sure that everybody had their questions answered and all that stuff, and she wasn't actually doing any work, she was just doing that. One of the other ones was just sorta hands off, like they'll come to me if they need me, and I'm here, and the one in the middle was sort of in the middle, little bit of a mix of the two. And not, all three of them, it was just a disaster. Now, one of the benefits of being a remote and a virtual team is that you can make those kinds of changes very quickly. So we did that for a week, and we were able to realize very quickly that it was bad and reversed it. Whereas if you have infrastructure in a physical location, that kind of change becomes a lot more difficult, because, if you make somebody a manager, they're probably gonna get their own office, and they might have their name on that office, and they might be moving to the other side of the building, and then it's not as simple. You can experiment and test things and that is another really important aspect to how you benefit from this kind of work or this kind of configuration, is that you are able to test and validate ideas so much more quickly. So what we found is that that pod thing didn't work. And part of the reason that it didn't work is because we don't offer a homogenous product, which most, or a homogenous service, rather, which most companies don't. What I mean by that is that if you look at another company that just all does the same thing so you have a bunch of virtual assistants who are generalists, or you have a company that's a bunch of consultants, management consultants and whatever, there's sort of a homogenous offering, it's a little bit easier to say, like, all right, we're gonna break you guys up into these groups and you're gonna have a manager, and that's fine. But when we have a service where we're saying we can do anything, that would mean that every pod would have to have that architect in it, and every pod would have to have a great graphic designer, and we just don't have that kind of talent, necessarily. So people have to be able to be fluid. So what we ended up finding was it was better to divide up into verticals and the verticals in our case were the categories of the kind of work that we do. So again, I wanna make this as general as possible when I give you these examples, and I really want people to have their eyes open to the way that this could work, but some of the specifics here really do apply to a lot of businesses. So, you may look at your business and say, well we don't really have verticals but if you think about the categories of work that you do, you probably do. So you take a law firm, there's probably different categories of law that you're doing. Take a medical practice, same thing, you take an accounting office, take a startup, there are going to be categories. Marketing, accounting, finance, biz dev, whatever it might be. So, in our case, if a task comes in, we could have a marketing task that comes in or maybe it's a research task or a travel task, whatever it is, but it goes under a vertical. So what we have in our team is vertical leaders. They're not vertical managers, they are vertical leaders. And the verbiage that we use, I find this particularly important, when we're working with remote teams, the vocabulary choice is extremely important. Just as we don't refer to clients, in our company, as clients, they are members. And we have a membership fee that we charge them to be members, and we treat them like members, not transactionally like clients. So a vertical leader is truly a leader. Their job is not to necessarily make sure that somebody got their homework done on time. Their job is to make sure that the vision of how we do those things, and how we deliver those things to our members is in line with the vision that we have as an organization. And it's ultimately scalable that way, because what we ended up having, as well, is a second vertical lead for each category. Because, as any remote business will learn, if we can document processes really well, and I'm gonna talk about some tools later how to do that, if we can document our processes properly, then we're really error proofing ourselves and limiting the liability that we might have if some person does get sick. One of the things that I teach people in general, but I think is extremely relevant when you're talking about going rogue, is the idea of making yourself replaceable. While we might never be able to truly make ourselves replaceable, nor would we want to, I think that using that as a bit of a guiding light in terms of the decisions that we make and the things that we do, not only does that remove you as a liability in your business, and a bottleneck, but it also alleviates a lot of pressure so that you're not the only person that can do one thing. So we can have somebody who's managing a vertical, or leading that vertical, and having systems in place and processes that they're sharing, and if they ever need to take a break, or they wanna travel for some reason, their second can take over. And those processes are well designed. So, in looking at how you structure that remote team, whether it's an entire organization or one division, looking at how you can organize by the types of work that people do is really interesting.