I don’t talk much on this blog. As I’m sure other business owners will know, the best company is when you aren’t in the center of things.
These times are unprecedented. We have been hit with some major events in 2020, and we’ve had to as company owners, employers, employees and just people really look at ourselves and our feelings.
I want to give some personal thoughts on the situation we’re facing at present, and how I’m coping and dealing with this challenge of society/work/life.
When COVID-19 hit I would say it was probably the worst working week of my life. I’d never seen anything like it. I’m a planner, and I had a plan for ShipperHQ in 2020. And suddenly I feel like we are a ship in crazy stormy waters with a deep fog around us. We couldn’t see anything. We went from being in the office one day to scrambling to get staff set up to work from home the next.
The emotional turmoil of that illness was compounded by myself getting ill with COVID. It scared me. Luckily I was one of the many that it was milder and I recovered. I’m not the fittest person in the world (or the youngest) so I was pleased to walk out of that situation.
ShipperHQ is a young team as a whole. And they had never seen anything like this. Its a lot for these people. Life is very different to when I was at university in the early 90s. People now have safe spaces and don’t accept being bullied. And in general life has been easier in the last 10 years with no recession, great pay, greater opportunities for travel, etc. When we look back we had a pretty smooth few years, not all of us, and not all the time, but compared to 2020 life was easier.
My role as a CEO is about caring for my staff, my customers and my partners.
But also to keep driving this train forward, and where necessary to climb the next mountain. As a CEO of a bootstrapped fully self-funded company that started out when I was juggling 2 kids aged 1 and 3 and a husband who wasn’t able to work due to back issues, well I’m kind of used to a rollercoaster, it comes with the territory. My job more than ever is to lead.
The other week it became clear the staff needed more downtime. Especially with all the protests, this was something that came to our city of Austin, and rightly so took our attention. Because Black Lives do Matter, we needed to acknowledge that this situation did take priority over our marketing and sales, and also the staff needed time to digest what was happening in America.
So I acted. We acted.
I looked for how we could provide some more fun for the team, I tweeted and got a lot of ideas back. At 4am on Thursday morning I was sitting there thinking if I’m struggling to cope how are these young staff holding up? I decided there and then to shut the US office for the rest of the week.
I have to shout out the team in the UK, and our CTO out in Australia, they just got behind this and took all the load. The US team I could tell was just so grateful to put down tools and not think about work.
It then became clear to me that as much as we need to drive forwards fast right now, we are not in normal times at all. And we can’t expect everyone to have the same fuel as 6 months ago. Its just not possible.
But we can’t just stop either. And ecommerce is busier than ever. Trials on ShipperHQ are higher than ever before. There is a burning need to get shipping right, and get it right now. Date & Time, Store Pickup, LTL, all have become vital for businesses large and small. We need to keep that moving. We need to keep our customers moving. And keep the product advancing so they have what they need to tackle this massive rise in ecommerce.
I’ve often been an admirer of the Basecamp team and their philosophy. I’d highly recommend their books. They talk about a different way of working in tech, and back in 2010/11 reading their book gave me great insight into how a company could be run.
This isn’t about becoming a ‘unicorn’ or whatever that is.
And it’s not about just chase chase chase. Yes we are hungry, yes we are ambitious, but it’s not at all costs. Work needs to fuel life, it shouldn’t be the sum of life.
I’ve always been a firm believer in work/life balance. Yes there are always exceptions where you need the team to step up out of hours. But these should be exceptional circumstances. And as a leader I think you should be prepared to carry if necessary that load yourself, that’s your job. If that means I need to jump in support on a Sunday, I will.
So this is all a long winded way to say we are moving to a 4 day week until the end of August. This team needs that downtime to be fully functional. And even this week I’ve seen they are much more motivated as a result.
My message to you, whether you are a merchant, a logistics partner, or agency, anyone – is know stuff can wait. You can work differently, and it’s okay right now to just slow down at times. Don’t think that’s going to make you less productive. It’s not. It’s going to give you the necessary fuel to run faster the rest of the time.
If you see our out-of-office on a Friday I’m sorry, but please understand my motives. I need to see my crew through 2020. We do have a rotation in place with our UK side so I’m hoping the disruption is small.
Take care. Lets keep it moving, and keep climbing some mountains.