Many years ago my job was to build sundecks. Well actually, my job was to lay the vinyl coating on sundecks. It was hot work in the summer and freezing cold/wet work in the winter.

It was work that took me out dawn till dusk year round. It paid well in the summer when there was plenty of work and lots of hours to do the work in.

It paid less well in the winter when it was wet and the glue wouldn’t work, or you had to build out crazy tarp contraptions to keep the deck dry.

During my career as a deck builder, the one thing that always got me was calling the boss around 3 p.m. when I needed something, only to find out that 4 days out of 5, he was already at home or out for a beer with his buddy.

He was enjoying a cold beer while I still had hours of work left. To make matters worse, I often found his estimates didn’t match the work that actually needed done.

Despite my boss’s generosity, [1] I hated the job.

The only rational way to structure a company is in such a way that you would work well within it. In other words, you should create a company you would want to be the employee of, not merely the boss of. – Growing a Business

Would you be an employee?

Some of you may be thinking that as the owner, you’ve taken all the risks and are therefore entitled to the overwhelming portion of the ‘success’ [2].

Do you have the newest, nicest computer within your company (that perhaps you only use for your email writing)?

Are you sitting on the newest ‘hot’ chair while your employees deal with old, abandoned chairs that have been there since you opened up the office?

Would you want to be treated like you treat the newest employee?

If you’re answering ‘yes’ to the first two questions or ‘no’ to the last one, it’s time to stop and think about the type of business you’re running.

If you wouldn’t work for the business you run, why on earth are people working for you? If you have high employee turnover, it may be due to the fact that you wouldn’t enjoy being treated like you treat your team.

Start taking the time today to build a company that you would actually want to work at.

[1] The deck boss was generous with annual bonuses but a single bonus never quite felt like it made up for many 10 p.m. nights and 5 a.m. mornings when I learned he was out at the movies while we worked, and still making more money than us doing the work.

[2] Success usually defined as profits or vacation time.

photo credit: jys07 cc

3 responses to “Would you work for yourself?”

  1. John Locke Avatar

    Spot on article, Curtis. It’s impossible to grow a company when you can’t attract more or retain good employees. You mention a boss who wanted to outsource all their work to employees, while reaping all the benefits. This is destructive to morale in any organization.

    Business owners who are talented, but cannot hold onto employees should analyze what is lacking in their business philosophy.

    If culture comes from the personality and beliefs of the founder(s), the work environment will follow whatever the owners believe about themselves in relation to other people. You can be humble, fair and generous without sacrificing standards or lowering the bar of excellence.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      I think the biggest thing was when mistakes happened it was almost never the boss that had to help deal with it even if it meant one of the ‘workers’ driving 1 hour to get stuff then 1 hour to get back and then doing the work. Oh and we were paid by the square foot so none of the driving time was paid at all.

      I’ve since met and become friends with a few former employees that generally liked the owner since he was a nice guy but hated the environment he fostered.

      1. John Locke Avatar

        Ah…so much stuff in the Manifesto make sense now. I think the least a boss can do is make things right. In a previous job I had, when I had to drive to get supplies from a local warehouse because we were shorted, that time was paid.

        I believe who you are kind of reflects through every aspect of where you show up. If you’re a nice guy with your buddies, but uncool to work with, then the real you is actually uncool.

        It’s not real to compartmentalize your treatment of others. Just like the man said, doesn’t everyone treat their peers and colleagues with respect? But how do you treat your subordinates or those who serve you? That’s the true you shining through.