Opposites Attract

Having two bosses can sometimes feel like a good cop/bad cop situation if they’re not on the same page or if they employ different styles of leadership. That might be effective in accomplishing their goals, but it’s not always the best approach for keeping employees happy and productive. But having two founders at the top doesn’t always mean chaos or mixed messages. With the right dynamic, it can create a rich, creative environment for employees.

It would be easy to let our founders speak for themselves about the dynamic of a partnership leading the way at Huemor, the UX agency we work at. They have clearly-defined roles (Mike handles new business, Jeff runs creative and production), they make decisions, hires, and investments together, and they’ve got a singular goal for the future of Huemor. All in all, they’re making it work and we keep growing. And most of our 16 person team has been around since almost the beginning (when Mike and Jeff were working out of a family member’s basement), new clients are constantly coming aboard, and projects are getting bigger and sexier.

But that’s the easy way. The better way — the juicer way — is from our perspective as employees who report to Mike and Jeff. That’s where the good stuff is. In fact, sometimes it’s not unlike trying to get Dad to say yes to something Mom already said no to, like when whoever’s going on the beer run is angling to fill the fridge with a specific brew — Jeff likes Sam Adams and Brooklyn, Mike likes Blue Point and Shipyard; they’re both always willing to hand over their company card.

Beyond employee happy hours, their partnership drives the way we work. So it makes sense to show you two benefits of that and, just to be transparent, one challenge.

First, it’s nice to have two bosses because there’s a built-in safety net. Their roles balance the needs of the business, so even at our busiest times, we’re not letting anything slip through the cracks. Two sets of eyes are better than one when keeping watch and they’ve learned to support one another in a way that they can put their full focus into their halves of the business. It leads to better direction for employees, more thorough attention to detail in our work, and peace of mind for our clients.

Second, Mike and Jeff have fairly different personalities. Mike likes to say they’ve been married longer than Jeff and his wife have been, and there are times it shows. They don’t bicker, but they certainly bring different perspectives to the table, drawn both from their instincts and their experience. One of our mantras in the office (which literally hangs on the wall) is “Encourage dissenting opinions: discussion is good.” Different perspectives intersecting make our work more creative and more memorable so having two bosses who challenge us and each other works out surprisingly well.

If I made it sound like it was all glitter and cheer, I’d probably be lying. So I won’t. It’s worth mentioning that there are times they can drive one another crazy (frankly: not always a bad thing, from the perspective of an underling…). Jeff tends to be happiest when the office is focused and, ya know, getting stuff done. Mike’s never happier than when he’s riding around on a scooter distracting everyone and keeping things light. Deadlines are deadlines and they’re certainly a force to be respected, but sometimes a distraction is exactly what’s needed. Other times, when you’re in the zone, you don’t want to be derailed. Putting on headphones and ignoring the boss probably isn’t the best advice for everyone, but it’s ok around here. Like the best relationships, it’s a give-and-take between Mike and Jeff, and between them and everyone else: they challenge us and we challenge them.

As the holidays approach, we’re wrapping up our biggest year yet. Something must be going right.

Written by Pete Shelly, who hopes to still have a job after hitting “publish”

Huemor is a five year old award-winning agency whose work sells, persuades, and inspires. See what we’ve learned and what we’re still learning at huemor.rocks.