One of the best parts of starting a company is taking time to think about the culture you want to create within the workplace. For us at Identify, I wanted to create a place that reflected all the things I loved in working, while trying to remedy some of the things that challenged or disappointed me in companies I’d worked for, and alongside of.
One of the core values of Identify is our family centric culture. Family values are often bandied about, and I personally had had a very bad experience with a company who stated it was a value, but the family values they operated in were pretty broken and distorted.
SO for us to say we are family centric meant we actually had to BE family friendly.
When I was pregnant with my first child (she turns sixteen this year) a colleague said to me “Welcome to never feeling you are enough for anything — you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to juggle and coming up short.” And while there is a fair bit of truth in that statement, in terms of the calls and decisions we need to make, I’m resting in our choices, and I’m hopefully building a team where that juggle is not so troubled as it once was.
In practicality it’s meant the following:
1. We allow people to work in their own homes, around their family commitments as much as possible
2. We’ll often start small with a new team member, and talk about how the role can grow as their children grow — future proofing them and their place in the business.
3. We schedule meetings around childcare commitments, and babies are allowed to attend our meetings (but their comments are not recorded in the minutes!) I trust my team to focus, and catch up when that is not possible.
4. We aim to work two weeks ahead at all times so that if family issues crop up we’ve got a buffer for our clients and us to get someone else to take over for a little while.
5. Anyone on the team is allowed to say no to work if it’s going to conflict with family responsibilities.
6. Anyone can work nights or weekends to get their work done, but no one on the team is obligated to respond to emails or messages outside normal working hours.
7. Most in the team are paid weekly as it helps them with cashflow (it’s no small thing when you have a small family!)
8. While two of our team are going to be salaried from June 1st, we’ve built on a team of contractors, so they can retain flexibility.
From a business perspective there is a cost to being a family centric business. I sometimes have to go to a team members home to meet because it’s a baby nap time, we have to work around the many vomiting bugs that sweep through young families, and there are clients we won’t chase because our family friendly hours don’t fit with the plethora of evening activities and events people in our industry are expected to attend. We’re probably never going to be considered “cool” but we’re not interested in being so. We just want to do good work.
Before taking on a client that may lead us to work in our normal “family time” it is discussed with their potential account manager and any of the regular contractors who will be working for them. If I don’t have buy in, we don’t agree to take that client — to protect both my team, and the client. (Though we’ve never said no yet!)
Much of our team are ex big agencies- but we’ve swapped out the events and glitter and long hours for the family, and very different types of glitter and long hours!
The cost to the business for me is far outweighed by the benefits. I’ve got an incredibly loyal team who is so fully invested in what we do. They often do work beyond what they are paid for — despite me instructing them to not do that. They think for themselves, they are intensely professional, and we increasingly work as a functional extended family — making sure each person is cared for, developed, protected when need be, and nourished. I know I feel very cared for in my team — we are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we work hard as a team to enhance each other’s strengths, and minimise the risk of weakness by working closer together.
As a business, I see that there is a need for employment laws to be challenged and changed to help people who want to balance family/lifestyle and work. Contractor/Employee law is out of date with this style of business.
I’m incredibly proud of the team I have alongside me. I am sure if I had not made family a central part of my values, I would not have amassed such an incredible team to work with.
*This blog was written, in part to celebrate the birth of Nina to one of our team members, and our newest mama Miranda — a woman I am thrilled to have as part of Identify. Congrats Miranda — welcome to the juggle!
Rachel Klaver is managing director of Identify, a full service marketing agency for small to medium businesses. We create our clients’ strategy, deliver exceptional content, run campaigns ( managing Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms, and PR), as well as providing facilitation and training to help businesses do their own marketing.