Before I escaped, I was a member of the rat race. Long commutes, too many hours on airplanes, and not enough time with my family. I was like a hamster on a treadmill. Frustrated by the lack of balance, I broke out on my own and built a business on a simple idea: People should be free.
I launched my consulting firm 15 years ago. Since then, I have been resolute in making sure my employees are free and that our clients are on a path to their own freedom in the form of financial success.
A recent Werk Research study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that about 80 percent of workers want flexibility in work location and schedule. About half would work part-time if they could, and only about 25 percent of employees feel their employers meet their needs for flexibility. While flexible work environments are certainly in vogue, employers seem to be missing the point.
Most companies have arbitrary rules, rigid work schedules and arcane policies that constrain their own customers and vendors. Whether it be employees or customers, people want freedom of choice. We live in a world where consumers can select a product online in any variety and have it delivered within 48 hours. Choice isn't something we want; it's something we expect.
Freedom is more than an idea--it's a business model.
Here's one example. About eight years ago, we took on a financial services firm as a client. A second-generation family business, the founder's son made decisions that impacted the company's competitiveness and cost structure. He made it a virtual company, and now most of the company's 80 employees work from home.
The company saved money on rent and parking but also realized a return on investment in the form of higher revenue per employee. It turns out freedom is profitable.
Here are four ways to make that happen for your own business:
1. Freedom for yourself.
As an entrepreneur, I enjoy certain advantages. But through my coaching of other entrepreneurs, I know you might feel trapped in your own business. That's because you're wearing too many hats and not delegating appropriately.
Creating freedom includes tweaking processes and ensuring you have the right people responsible for executing the work. As a recovering workaholic, my experience has been that you have to create guardrails so you have time for yourself. Pay yourself first by blocking out time for the gym and your kids' sporting events.
2. Freedom for employees.
As Inc. reported in its Best Workplaces edition this past June, software developer EvoText allows employees to choose the benefits they value, such as a cafeteria plan. Co-founder Johanna Wetmore said, "I don't have a lot of respect for the practice of creating very expensive, elaborate office space, but not giving employees the benefits they need."
Offering freedom extends beyond flexspace or benefits. It means providing employees the opportunity for freedom of expression in their clothing and design of their workspace. One of our clients who recently experienced an industry downturn purged Christmas parties and other stodgy events in favor of employee-planned social gatherings.
3. Freedom for customers.
An emerging trend is value propositions that provide scalability with the illusion of choice. This is common in mass-customized offers. In your local Tex-Mex eatery, you can pick your protein (chicken, pork, or cane asada), but there is no crab on the menu. You can even do this as a business-to-business company--use "good-better-best" offers to provide three options.
By providing options, you appear to better understand the needs of your customers. Give them options they can configure to their liking in a way that still ensures profitability.
4. Freedom from the status quo.
There's a reason for the big gap between employees' need for flexibility and their employers' ability to deliver it. A shocking number of managers simply don't trust their employees.
If your managers don't trust employees enough to decide when to come to work, you may need different managers.
Providing freedoms like a flexible work schedule requires that employers adopt alternative systems. Collaboration tools such as Slack and Wrike give employees opportunities to organize online conversations in a way that can be highly productive, and even liberating.
Companies that execute excellently on virtual work understand the need to provide a level of connectivity to their employees through regularly planned meetings, often in the middle of the week and middle of the day. Just because people are remote doesn't mean they need to be isolated.
As Americans, we should embrace freedom. It's just a better way to live.