The Black Irish — 5 Things To Know About Work Culture

I joined Fannie Mae in March 2008 and left in May of 2016. I consider myself fortunate in that I witnessed the recession from inside the beast, while remaining gainfully employed but also while my friends rolled from under employment to unemployment. Now, six months later from the shores of Derry Ireland and a few grey hairs wiser, I look back and it strikes me…your work culture is more important than your organizational talent.

Here is what I’ve learned over those eight years at Fannie and the past 3 months at CoFunder, a fintech firm out of Northern Ireland who specializes in crowdfunding:

1. If you don’t trust a person to work from home/remotely don’t fucking hire them

2. Lean = Two people. You only need 2 people to run most businesses

3. You need $15k a year, per person for lunch, drinks and entertainment

4. Everyone in your organization is in sales

5. David stalks Goliath

Trust — I’ve no clue what the team in Ireland does on a day to day basis. I see them in person about every 30 days. But in the meantime, they’re on it. They engineer and build solutions at the speed of business. If it feels right, we’re gonna do it. If we fuck up along the way, the work culture is “Acknowledge. Apologize. Fix it.” Then let everyone know what broke, how you fixed it and how to prevent it from breaking again. Tada! Business at the speed of business…not bureaucracy. You should try it. It’s better than Cuban coffee for your business.

Lean — You only need two people to run a business. A CEO to do biz development and a sales person to close the deals. Everything and everyone else can be outsourced.

$15k networking budget — Every person on your team should be out building a network; it doesn’t matter what their “job” is. Making connections with people in your industry, in related industries and who are passionate about your industry, is the most important thing you do in any business. Why? Cause at the end of the day, most of your business and crucial relationships will come from your network. If your network is only 2 people deep, don’t be shocked when your business fails; whether its inside a giant 50k plus organization or a two-person startup. You live and die on your network. Invest in one or fail.

Sales — Ninety-five percent of people may be in denial about this or refuse to even do it, but if you’re not advocating and championing what you do to your network, your clients, and your friends — you’re gonna fail.

David stalks Goliath — If you don’t trust your people, you’re never going to be nimble enough to address tomorrow’s threats. They’re like your relatives you don’t want to come over for Christmas. They’re not only gonna show up early but plan to stay. And now that I know you’re listening cause I used a buzz word (nimble) and made reference to your cousin/uncle/aunt who you’ve been actively evading for the last eight holidays. If you don’t trust your people, you’ll never be lean because you’ll keep hiring people to “manage” people instead of inspiring or leading people. Anyone who is passionate about what they do and gives half a fuck about their personal brand/reputation/work ethic, doesn’t need to be “managed”. But they also won’t stay at your company once you start to “manage” them. Challenge people to be awesome and let them know you expect them not only to fail epically, but to get up and rumble epically. You’ll be amazed at what people will do, not for money, but for pride, the team and the greater good.

Relationships — this is a bonus. If you only go to work. Work and leave. You should break up with your job. If your employer only expects you to come to work. Work and leave. You should dump them. If you want to have a “leadership” position you’ll need to start, grow and nurture relationships at work, within a network and outside of work. Keep in mind that relationship-building is the most dangerous thing you’ll ever do at work and in life. We’ll talk about work politics later. But with great risk comes great reward. Put on some gloves, strap on your seat belt and enjoy the ride.

My name is Samson Williams. In addition to being an honorary Black Irishman, I’m a classically trained anthropologist from Florida State University (Go ‘Noles!) who serves as the Chief Dreamer and Strategy Officer at CoFunder an Ireland based debt crowdfunding company. For more information on CoFunder visit their website: www.cofunder.co.uk and you can find more information about me on LinkedIn.