This afternoon, at my office, I randomly scrolling through my LinkedIn home feed. And stumbled upon this post.
I was quick-read it, and when I reached the end, I read it again. This time, very slowly. And when I finally finished, I took a deep breath. For a moment, I feel nostalgic. I don’t know why do I feel nostalgic, I never been in Jacob’s position, but suddenly I remember the first time I built my company.
Me and my co-founders, Fajar Indra and Febriawan Ariful was only a college student who wanted to add some cash in our wallet by looking for a side job. At that time, none of us thought that it would be our permanent business. Presentation design wasn’t really a thing at that time.
Long story short, we reached a point when we can’t handle the projects ourselves. We talked, and made a decision to make this our main job, and recruiting our first employees. We rented a very small house, with just five workers (me, Fajar, and Fikri plus two new employees)
The thing is, I never imagine to employ other people. I always had this vision of ‘which office I would work with’ when I was still college days. Never came to my mind to build my own business, along with my best friends. That’s why when I got these two young men to work for me, with low wages–I’d be honest–, I always think like this:
These two young men decide to work with me even with small wages. Now, then…
What can I give for them? What should I do to improve their skills? What can I do to make them feel comfortable working with me? How should I build the work environment?
By those thoughts, I got a very overwhelmed result.
From five to eight people. Now more than twenty people. We finally can rent a bigger house (now with kitchen) and slowly stepping our milestones. One person came, we buy our first refrigerator. I provide free coffee and drinks. We don’t even have cleaning service–we wash the dishes ourselves, we make our own office cleaning schedule (and teased the one who late to do their cleaning part). None of them seem forced to do it all. We do it happily, and that what makes us looks like a family rather than coworkers.
I remember when one of my early employee–now my marketing manager– can’t believe that the coffee and drinks in the kitchen are free. She said, “I have to pay for one cup of coffee back in my internship days in a company. I can’t believe you do this every month for us,”
I laughed. I didn’t know that you must pay for coffee in a company(I never worked in an office before, you know?) Everyone drinks coffee, and I think, why they would pay for something that everyone in my office enjoys–coffee? Free coffee is a simple thing, but who knows it may bring something bigger?
I also set them free to explore their own talents. One of the designers has a very popular Dribbble account. My Creative Director, Fajar Indra, is one one the well-known local landscape photographer. One of marketing member is a book illustrator, she has done many popular book covers! My creative manager, he has zero design skills at first, but he has a spirit to learn more–now his presentation design is the best in our company! And there are so much more. I’m proud of their individual achievements, and the value they bring to the company, together
And how this story connected to Jacob’s post? My employees might once in his position (underpaid), but they never give up on me. Because they feel free to explore their skill, free to improve, respected, and they got the feeling that this is their fight too. We’re in this together. When the company is getting bigger, so do they.
Like Jacob said, “Trust me when I say “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”, and even if it may look like it is – the water bill is higher. Life and your career shouldn’t always be about money. Find balance.”
Yup. My grass wasn’t even green. But slowly, by pay ‘the water bill’ by myself, now along with my employees, we eventually make our grass greener each day. By giving all I have to my employees, I make them stand with me, and I’m sure they will give their all to the company too.
With all the things we achieve right now, I dare to say that we find the balance Jacob mentioned.
For you who plan to build your own business, here is my message. Give all you have first. Respect first, and you’ll be respected. Set your team free to explore their passion and talent rather than bind them in such ‘work-policies’. Eventually, you’ll get more than you expected. You’ll have a loyal coworker (family), big business, your own office building, hundreds of clients, etc. Your grass will eventually green.
Now we’re already moving into our very own office building. Another milestone reached, see? A long journey still awaits. What can we achieve together in the future?