Sometimes, it’s all about a good mug shot: A recap of the @MeetingBoy debates

Last week I held debates on which was better or worse– working for The Man or working for yourself. I had three opponents – Lauren from ARoundTuit Organizing & Productivity, Patrick from The Sunshine Initiative and Andy from his own blog, andytraub.com. While they all did well, let’s be honest– they had the easy job. I had to somehow defend the advantages of working for a company and a boss.

They all painted a pretty rosy picture, though Andy was willing to concede that when you start out on your own it isn’t easy. As he said:

Don’t go out on your own….

Without the support of your spouse.

A service you know people want.

A pool of clients.

And some cash reserves.

And a good mug shot.

I think right there– cash reserves and pool of clients— is why most people don’t go out on their own, and may never have the chance to. Something else that came up is that while you may be working for yourself, you may need others to help too, especially to do the tedious chores. Andy mentioned that he had a virtual assistant:

Andy: I have a VIRTUAL ASSISTANT that does a lot of work for me too. He’s in the Phillipines.

MeetingBoy: So you’re his boss! You’ve just passed the hassle down to him. Or by virtual do you mean he’s some sort of robot butler? TO BE CLEAR: MY JOB WOULD BE A LOT BETTER WITH A ROBOT BUTLER!

Andy: No, he’s a great human being. Name is Jeff, speaks great English and loves working for $6.50 an hour.

MeetingBoy: Maggie, tell your engineers at join.me/LogMeIn to get to work on the ROBOT BUTLER. I’ll be in the test group.

All three scored a lot of points in three areas that I can’t possibly best them in:

1. Less meetings. Because they are billing people by the hour, they find that their clients are more productive in meetings and that there are fewer of them. I remain skeptical on this point, because my boss has brought a number of consultants in, and if anything he wastes more time bragging and trying to impress them with how much he doesn’t need their help and knows everything anyways than he does on internal meetings.

2. Not as many fools to suffer. The big point they all made is that they (mostly) get to pick who they want to work with, rather than being stuck with whatever idiot boss or coworkers I’m paired up with. It seemed like the longer they’d been on their own, the more freedom they had to fire a bad client. However, Andy painted quite a rosy picture on this one, to the point where it sounded like he was the boss of his clients, to which I responded: You sound like the really hot girl in high school who can see everyone on her own terms, and they just drop everything for her. Certainly that can’t work for everyone.

3. Less micromanaging. Since most micromanaging occurs because the person can come over and harass you while you’re working, the opportunity for people like my boss to stick their nose into every little detail is greatly reduced.

However, I still think that they lost in a two key areas near and dear to my heart:

1. They are taking client calls at any time, even weekends and vacation. They claim they don’t have to, that they love their job, but the only time I answer my boss’s call on vacation is when he’s left at least 200 messages in a panic, and my calling in makes me the hero and him the fool. Otherwise, “I was in the mountains. No cell service. What did I miss?” People at work think I take really exotic vacations, when really I just refuse to answer the phone.

2. Money magically appears in my account every week, no matter how lazy, sick, surly or distracted I may be. And if my laptop or cellphone breaks, gets a virus, or is lost, well, they just issue me a new one.

In the end, going out on your own is a personal decision, and of course one which I could never do myself. After all, if MeetingBoy ceased to work in an office for a boss and with a bunch of lazy, stupid idiots, then he would cease to exist. Sadly for me, happiness is an existential threat.

If you’d like to read more, check out a few of my favorite excerpts:

And Patrick has already posted his take on our debates in two parts, the great debate 1 and the great debate 2.

And since he had a little fun with it, as did I, you should check it out because there’s some funny parts, as well as frank discussion. A favorite bit is how working from home might be too quiet for him:

“ALL I have is privacy. Like, J.D. Salinger privacy. …We have a new rule that I’m not allowed to talk to my wife for an hour after she gets home because at first I was talking her head off.” – Patrick

Till next time…

         

5 Small-Business Employee Practices Guaranteed to Grow Your Bottom Line – by Mark Harbeke

Are you a small business owner, employee or thinking about starting your own business? Then we’ve got just the solution for you. join.me free screen sharing can help make the most of your time and money. Being in small business, you know it’s your personal touches that are key ingredients to your success. To help support you in whatever stage you’re in your small business, we’ve gathered some experts in the field, right on this blog, to share their stories, lessons and wisdom about small business.

5 Small-Business Employee Practices Guaranteed to Grow Your Bottom Line

– Mark Harbeke

It may be unusual to hear the word “guarantee” when it comes to financially sound employee practices – particularly in small businesses in which the workplaces are typically highly tailored to the owner or leader’s management style and the marketplace in which the company competes.

Yet, based on the organizational development research my organization, Winning Workplaces, has done since 2003 via our national small workplace award, there is such a thing as a set of practices for which investment in them, if fully endorsed and nurtured by leadership and given the time to take hold in the firm, can dramatically increase your top line revenue and bottom line profitability.

Below are five such practices, along with the results they’ve yielded for several 2010 applicants for our Top Small Company Workplaces award. Use these as is, or as templates to improve the existing workplace culture practices of your organization.

Use core values to best manage employees and customers. The most popular core value at a California-based advertising firm founded in 2002 is “100% Jerk Free Environment.” The company reports it has been a powerful tool in maintaining their culture, stability and profitability. In one recent circumstance, their executive team made the decision to stop working with a client whose account made up a significant portion of their revenue because they felt they were violating their “Jerk Free” value. While painful in the short term because of lost revenue, the firm calculated a net gain in the long term because they were able to retain four key employees whom they sensed would have left if they had continued this particular client relationship.

Ask your employees to answer, on a weekly basis, questions that directly influence how your company should proceed. A Maryland-based health and wellness services provider uses questions like: How did I improve myself and add value to my client, my team, and the company? How did I deliver more value to our client base? How did I increase sales while keeping quality consistent? How did I reduce operating expenses by utilizing technology? How did I become more effective personally? Amidst a saturated market, this firm, founded in 2005, linked this practice with outstanding growth of 2000% through 2009.

Give your employees, at all levels, the autonomy to help design your people practices. At a Massachusetts-based consulting business founded in 1994, leadership tasks employees with forming committees to redefine the benefits structure, and administers employee surveys twice a year to gauge effectiveness of current benefits. Leadership claims this practice helped reduced turnover – which is especially costly to small firms – from 40% in the late 1990s to the low single digits in recent years.

Embrace “fast failure.” This means giving employees the freedom to make mistakes, admit them quickly, be proactive in correcting them, and allowing everyone move on. This practice has enabled a Pennsylvania-based Internet and data processing services provider founded in 1981 to refine their development process in an iterative manner across all functional teams. As a result, their project profitability has increased an average of 20% for each of the past two years.

Use technology to remove the “gray areas” of each employee’s role. If you run a small business, you no doubt know how powerful technology can be when it comes to functions like marketing to help level the playing field with big competitors. Technology can do the same for your internal employee processes. At a Michigan-based law firm, founded in 1989, their staff input data into a “hot-doc” system that produces documents quickly and efficiently, greatly reducing human error. As the firm implemented this program they saw a direct decrease in payroll costs, as they reduced data-entry time, and, in turn, increased work volume.

Mark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplaces, a nonprofit based near Chicago whose mission is to help small and midsized businesses create better work environments. In addition to writing content for their website and newsletter, he serves as technology advisor for the online application for Winning Workplaces and Inc. Magazine‘s annual Top Small Company Workplaces award.



         

User Schmoozer – Andrew Lindsay

We heart our users. That’s why every other week, we’ll be schmoozin’ it up and shining the spotlight on you. Customers that leave us great feedback and have interesting reasons for using join.me will be featured right here on this blog. Got something nice to say? Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Name: Andrew Lindsay

Occupation: Lead Business Systems Analyst for Electronic Transaction Consultants

Uses join.me for: Web collaboration at work, ad-hoc tutoring and assistance; scheduling online teaching classes

“I simply can’t say enough good about join.me, especially the free version. I am a Lead Business Systems analyst with a firm in the North Dallas area.  My wife and I are active as community volunteers.  I use join.me at work; the ease and speed in initiating sessions makes it the tool of choice for collaboration, whether it is across the building or across the continent.  But I am most excited in using join.me with my volunteer work.  I teach basic computing at the local senior citizens’ center, I am the webmaster for a club with a lot of older adults, and I am the “designated geek” within my group of family and friends.  Many older adults have just avoided computers, for whatever reason, until computing became so pervasive that it couldn’t be ignored.  Today’s operating systems, web sites, and even collaborative tools rely upon a basic set of conventions and understanding that those who have not been exposed to computing over the last five or 10 years do not possess.  Trying to provide assistance to this group without seeing what they are seeing or doing, and not having a common nomenclature for communication is a huge stumbling block to providing assistance.  It’s just plain aggravating.  But a join.me session is so very easy to launch virtually anyone can initiate a session.  After that, providing effective assistance is easy.  And shortly, I’ll be using my join.me pro account to schedule online classes to reinforce what’s been taught in the classroom.  join.me has really changed how I provide support.  But most importantly, it lets me spend more time with my wife!

Interested in becoming a User Schmoozer? Email me at maggie@join.me.

         

join.me and your small business

Picture this: You are about to massacre your computer because, for the umpteenth time, your Outlook is rejecting your emails/your Internet won’t connect/Word is constantly crashing -along with every other horrible thing that your computer does just to spite you. For some people, the solution is to take a deep breath, dial IT’s extension and hope that you won’t blow your lid before they get there.

But if you work for a small business – or heck, if you’re running your own business – who’s the hero then?

Now picture this: You own a small business, and every day is spent trying to make the most of your time. You’re running in a circle today – you’re on the phone while looking at the clock  (you need to prepare for a webinar), and while you know you need to deliver exceptional customer service, you would love to scream on the phone “what’s wrong with you!” Somehow, you get off the phone and turn to your next thing – presenting a webinar in-between playing IT and sales guy or gal. You’ve got under five minutes till go time and every technical glitch that exists hits you.

Sound like a typical day?

Did you know your client meetings and webinars can be made better and stress-free with free screen sharing and instant online meeting software?

We don’t know, and that’s what we’ll be trying to find out from you. For the next couple of weeks, join.me will be all about you and your small business. We want to know how free screen sharing and online meetings can fit in to your everyday small business life – hopefully in ways we can’t even imagine.

So let’s start simple. Anyone out there work for or started your own small business? How did you decide to take the leap? What, if you can pinpoint it, was the main reason working for a small business was right for you? What passion drove you to live your dream? Let me know in the comments.