Open-source this: How I came up with a new marketing agency model
Think Wikipedia, Wordpress, Linux, Basecamp, Creative Commons, Buffer. These are just a few examples of organizations and advances possible, because a distributed group of curious people decided to make something cool happen.
My Communicable Inc., marketing and problem-solving agency has no bosses, no office, no employees, and a flexible work week. On most days, all I need to work is fast wifi and a good latte. Here are some of my thoughts on why I feel the time of offices is coming to an end.
- No bosses, no employees. I’ve worked in highly hierarchical structures for most of my career, and had a fantastic boss exactly once in all those years of employment. I’ve also had my share of frustrations that naturally arise when you work the “career ladder”. In this manufactured reality of artificial scarcity, few make it to the top by design. Thankfully, I’ve also worked in flat collaborative teams through my many side-projects, like organizing Toronto Maker Festival and an annual HoHoTO fundraiser, and in editorial roles for local news publications. In flat distributed structures, we all had ownership of our own projects and a shared sense of responsibility to deliver nothing but great work. Titles didn’t matter. Work experience, age and gender didn’t matter, either. We treated each other as adults would: there was no getting to the office by 9, virtually no meetings, and zero time to waste. Just goals we’d all share. This highly collaborative structure and culture is exactly why Communicable Inc. works. We don’t do politics, meetings, commuting.
- No billable hours. We don’t count hours — and don’t charge by the hour. We focus on quality, and only work with the best people. We know exactly what needs to be done when, so we just do it. Moreover, when I worked with agencies in-house, I could never understand why I should be buying time. I’d rather buy and invest into results. I notice more companies doing similar things, and watch people who inspire me, like Floyd Marinescu, who runs a completely virtual team with 46 full-time members out of Toronto, spanning Brazil, US, Canada, Romania, Greece, and China, with franchisees in Japan and France. Even Facebook runs in somewhat similar ways: people pick their own teams and projects, manage their own time, get evaluated on results and work remotely as needed.
- Uncoupling time and money is everything. In the age of personal phones and laptops, I just don’t see why we should stick to a 9–5 work week. Especially when working long hours might not be awesome from a health perspective. As a mother, I really feel I found the ultimate life-hack and solved the existential crisis of balancing family, fun, work, and love for adventure and travel. Believe it or not, running my own business meant having more time for my family and pursuing personal interests. Having such high-degree of control over my time and creating the same opportunities for others meant I could enjoy warm summer days, or a walk in the rain, camp out in San Francisco or Montreal for a month, meet friends for lunch and still get all that work done.
“By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.”
― Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek.
Two years in, I can tell with certainty that starting Communicable Inc. has been the best decision I made in my career. Grateful to every single person and company that made this adventure possible. I believe we may be at the forefront of an emerging work model based on trust, professionalism, autonomy, and mutual respect. And we need those alternatives to emerge, because, well, maybe full-time jobs aren’t the droid we’re looking for. There’s life outside of 9–5. If you’re thinking about making this transition or have taken the plunge recently, I’m happy to chat. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without a strong support network and amazing mentors. Also, I give the best bad advice.
Here’s to exploring new worlds, seeking out new ways of work and life and boldly doing what hasn’t been done before.