Mixing business with pleasure

Inspiration comes from the darnest places doesn’t it?

I was chatting with one of my closest friends, Pierre, on whatsapp.

Getting feedback about the content of my newly launched blog, which as you can see, I’m pretty serious about.

It is at this juncture that I would like to announce, the launch of the bossming.com loyalty program.

The person with the most likes and comments on my blog posts via NuffnangX will get to redeem this wonderful domestic device (Apologies to pierre, the likely winner, but only one model available).

Haha, anyway, the conclusion went (And I agree somewhat), that I want this blog to be more about thought leadership, than my personal life, and what I ate this morning (For that, you can refer to my instagram feed or twitter ;-p).

Pierre mentioned not mixing business with pleasure, and hence the title for my first business blog post per se!

As far as my businesses go within the Netccentric group, it is ENTIRELY about mixing business with pleasure.

I have always believed this to be the KEY reason why Netccentric has grown so much. And also integral to the future sustained growth of the company.

As such, this is a lesson for the Nuffies, Nomsters, Lollies,  as much as it is to the general reader.

It is not by accident but by design, that the status of friend and colleague takes equal standing within the company.

How do we design it? Let me count the ways.

Number 1: Take the lead

As the co-founder of the company, I try to be as accessible as I can to everybody. I  take great pains first to be their friend, and 2nd, their boss. I always want to know more about how they are doing in their personal lives. I get them to open up, and its a two way street I know, so this takes some work. Eventually they do though.

It surprises even my personal friends, when they see how I treat my staff. I just don’t look at them as staff when I do it. I always leave room for fun in our worktrips for example. And a particularly memorable trip for me was to Tokyo for the Tokyo Gift Fair. This is Maylene, showing off her camwhoring skills, and Elaine, at Disneysea.

Me and the nuffies in moses (my car)

There are of course clear boundaries, and I make it clear that I’m not afraid to have a go at them, and not be fussed about it, if they have done something wrong. Think Alex Ferguson hairdryer. If you’ve crossed that line, I go all the way.

One of the most common lines I’ve heard is that you should never do business with friends. To me, thats a bunch of hogwash, IN FACT, you should ONLY do business with friends!

What is the alternative? Doing business with your enemy!? Or doing business with somebody you are “MEH” about?

Doing business with your friends, will do one of 2 things. Make your friendship ever stronger, because just like in a relationship, you understand each other better, or completely destroy it, and you know why? Because it could not stand the true test of friendship. Life is too short to live with in betweens, and people who are only there for each other during times of leisure.

What I’m saying here is if I have an employee who takes my friendship for granted, and starts walking over me or thinking that they don’t need to deliver because they are my friend, both the friendship and work relationship are dysfunctional, and should not exist in any case.

Friends are of course tolerant to each others mistakes, and weaknesses, but there is and should be line drawn in the sand. Friends don’t take things for granted, and friends don’t let one another down, repeatedly.

If you watch Suits, you’ll know Trevor, and this is the kind of “Friend” we do not like to have in the company.

Wipe that smirk off your face boy! And mike listen to your grandma!

Number 2: Hiring the right friend

Nowadays, with our group numbers burgeoning at 160 staff regionally, we have a proper HR procedure in place. Do check out our careers page while you’re at it!

This is where I’d like to draw the attention of the HR practitioners in the company. They’ve probably heard it before, but I’m going to give it to them again.

We’ve got the standard filters for pulling people in.Things like

1) Your CV
2) Your cover letter
3) An interview questionaire
4) An interview with HR
5) An interview with a Head of Department
6) An interview with Me

Now as we, formalize these procedures, which are entirely necessary in a growing company, the one thing we can never institutionalize is your heart and your feelings.

A candidate could tick all the columns in the area of skill-sets, or experience, but do they tick the correct columns when it comes to integrity, character, and more importantly would you want them as a friend? Would the others want this person as a friend?

This is the MOST important bit of HR. All respect to Bradsmart and his Topgrading formulas, which I guess have extra relevance in an organization that are too big to care, and just needs to churn those A players in, and those B and C players out.

People who have been interviewed by me, find it strange, when I start talking to them about what they do in their free time? Whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, what their political views are, and so on and so forth, but you know what, in those 10 minutes that I’m in with you, I’m trying to suss you out, and figure out, if you’re going to be a great addition to the team socially. You gotta be cool to join the school of rock yo.

Compromise on this and you risk diluting a culture you have taken a long time to build up. Its like adding too much water to your milo …. …. FTS.

Number 3: Conducting health checkups

In line with the point above, whilst it is important to have clear work related KPIs set and monitored, it is equally, if not even more important to have, SOCIAL KPIs checked and monitored.

There are 2 levels to this.

Number 1: Localised checkups
Number 2: Full body checkups

Lets start with number 2 first, which is typically my domain. A full body checkup looks into the sum of parts. Is the team cohesive, are they working well together, do they love one another?

Recently I called for a company BBQ. I called for it on a Friday night, and we got RSVPs in. Call me a hawk, call me a dictator. But I actually do pour over each of these RSVPs seeing who’s coming, who’s not and why not?

We don’t have these things all the time. But when we do,I do hope for a good turnout. Friday night is an important time socially for alot of us, and the fact that we are willing and also WANTING to spend time together says alot. We had a good time, and the laughter that filled the air, and the feelings milling about were genuine and true.

Localised checkups.My staff know I stalk them. And all our HR practitioners better be doing the same. Of course spotting sincerety from fakeness is also part of the job, but whenever I see something like this, I feel a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

The love is not just limited to the girls. The image above, is some true bromance going down with my technical team. Haha.

This is when Louis Armstrong’s, “Its a wonderful world” starts playing in my head, and I get to that bit, “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you.”

Of course health checkups don’t just dig up the good. They also dig up the bad. Somebody who feels they have no personal time for their colleagues for example is simply not going to fit in to our company. We bring them in to counsel them, but eventually they themselves drop out, as they just don’t understand the magic, and as such can never enjoy the benefit.

Anybody who says, “Its JUST a BBQ”, is like Peter here, saying that Porthos is “JUST” a dog in Finding Neverland. Every little initiative, every little action, every little thought goes a long way to building friendships in the workplace that last far beyond it.

What a horrible candle snuffing word! Thats like saying, thats not a diamond, its just a rock … just …”

This post has been all about forging a conducive workplace for friendships in the workplace. But why is that even important? And why do you seem to place so much emphasis on this?

Very simple, because you will fight for the person you love. If you love your colleague, the workplace that provides for you, you will fight with all your heart and soul. And you will win, when you fight for love.

The road ahead, is fraught with many challenges for our young company, but none more so that preserving this belief. As a company grows larger, its philosophy morphs into one that is uncaring, intolerant and exclusive. The baton will have to be passed, and our future leaders will need to carry it forward with equal vigour and conviction. But that is another story for another day.

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