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Are You Working In The Right Place?
Are you working in the right place? Here’s a quick test.
There are two sorts of businesses.
One exciting and fulfilling to work at.
The other will crush your soul.
One makes you feel like the best is yet to come. The other makes you think: ugh just how much worse can this get?
That dividing line is between ‘increase our revenue’ companies and ‘cut our costs’ places.
Yes, all businesses are a balance between those two forces. It’s hard but not impossible to do both.
The lived reality is that most businesses skew well either side of that line.
I’ve been lucky to only work in places focused on the revenue growth side of things. It’s a fun and rewarding ride.
Working At Growing Places Is So Good For You
It’s so motivating to be constantly adding new clients and staff, working out how to cope with it all. The most profitable companies are the ones a little understaffed to deal with the growth, so everyone’s stretching.
People have no choice but to build their skills. They pitch in when and where it’s needed, rather than nesting safe inside their comfy org chart box. It’s better than training courses and creates a real team feeling.
Exciting career paths pop up in compressed timelines. Things can get stressful as everyone works out how to deliver, but a bit of positive stress is good. People work hard because there’s a point to it and they’re going places.
Growth creates energy clients can feel. It doesn’t have to be the “100x Scale Crushin’ It Growth Hacker” percentages you read about in the startup case studies. Modest double digit growth can be plenty to create the positive vibe.
Others in your industry see you growing, so your own people feel like they picked the right team. That cycle of positivity becomes self-sustaining if you can avoid the moves that kill it, like selling to private equity.
We’ve been going fifteen years this October, and we still get super-excited when we win a new client. We call each other up and share the happiness, and it is the best feeling in business.
Cost-Cuts: Building An Inaction Machine
The alternative is the cost-cut life. The CEO has decided that revenue can stay roughly where it is, and progress will come from a grim focus on every expense.
It’s very much a prison atmosphere, everyone focused on depriving others of what they hold dear. Turf must be defended. The CFO rules the roost via memos.
(This is not about companies bunkered down to survive COVID here, I’m talking businesses that have always been this way)
Sales people come back with exciting prospects and everyone else crushes their spirit with terms, policies and a general ‘no’ vibe that kills the deal.
Because ‘management’ is always saying no, that word permeates the whole organisation.
People find reasons not to do things. Nobody’s going to try something new, because that means being held accountable to finance, who analyse your idea through hindsight goggles. There are no wins, only punishment.
Safer to keep your head down and draw a salary while doing as little as possible.
(I feel like I’m picking on CFOs a bit lately, like in this video. I know plenty of businesses where the CFO is the only voice of objective sanity: cleaning up after the Emperor Caligula stylings of the CEO, curbing the sales team’s urge to hand out credit like Finance Santas, and generally keeping the ship afloat. But you know the sort of CFO I’m talking about here.)
In cost-cut world, you’re last to release new products. Customers see the shame in your salespeople’s eyes. It translates to even less revenue growth, and yes … more cost cuts.
As this downward spiral takes hold, you hear ‘we have to work smarter, not harder’. This is usually said to mothers on a three day week, with the clear expectation that they do five days’ work for three days’ pay.
Here’s what to do if you’re in one of those companies: get the fuck out of there.
Yes, Get The Fuck Out Of There
It’s perverting your whole idea of what work can be. It also focuses your attention on the wrong areas to cut costs.
So you end up making your staff fill out six requisition forms just to get what they need to do their job.
These companies never question the things that would save significant amounts. Like, say, curbing the catastrophic money burner that is holding weekly meetings on every topic, just because you always have.
If you’re thinking about taking a new job, try to talk to someone who works there to get a sense of what it’s actually like.
Don’t take the word of the HR person in the interview. Technically they’re not lying when they say it’s a great, fast-moving company. They actually believe it.
Because they’ve written it in delusional ‘onboarding’ slide decks so many times.
Crap companies are full of HR-type people, rather than people who actually build the business or execute the work.
Ironically, in their quest to cut costs, these businesses employ tons of office manager goblins costing $80K a year each, whose sole contribution is lowering stationery consumption by $3K a year.
Working in cost-cut companies costs you so much: your time, your happiness, your future.
Come on over to the other side while you still can.
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Well written Ian. Very true. We have a private equity owner and a cost cutting ‘Roz style’ CFO. Fun times!