A few years ago someone called Timely a lifestyle business. At the time I didn’t like it at all. Today, we embrace it. If you work hard enough at both, growth and quality of life can be complementary rather than competing priorities.
Three months after we launched Timely, I had the opportunity to meet with some heavy hitters in the tech industry. Geeks on a Plane were heading to New Zealand and one of their stops was the beautiful resort town of Queenstown, just a 3 hour drive from my house. At the event would be representatives from top U.S. start-ups, VC firms and corporates, as well as local investors and founders. I was excited.
I wasn’t going along to pitch. We’d only just launched and we were funding Timely ourselves from some cash we had from a recent exit. It was November 2012; we were only three months old and had just a handful of customers. We didn’t need capital, but we needed to network.
The event did not disappoint. Dave McClure was a blast to meet. Ryan Lawler was generous with his time despite an awkward initial handshake that spilt beer on a passer-by. Jesse Thomas’ positivity was infectious, persuading me to demo Timely to him and loving it so much he tried to find me investors on the spot. I chatted at length to Rowan Simpson, who six months later became our first investor… and good friend. And I met the unstoppable Lou Donnelly-Davey who, despite trying to walk through a glass door that night, made a great impression on me and three years later would join Timely to run our marketing team.
It was a great night and definitely worth the six hour round trip. But there was one encounter that evening that didn’t leave such a great taste in my mouth.
In his enthusiasm for our product, Jesse introduced me to one of the VCs in the house. In this guy’s defence he was surely fatigued from four days straight of listening to pitches. He was rocking a set of Google Glass, which meant he didn’t make proper eye contact with me at all. Not a great start. I explained what we were up to with Timely and the things that are important to me: building a beautiful product, the huge global opportunity and my family. In response, Google Glass Guy said “Sounds like a nice lifestyle business…” and then walked off.
Why should #founders have to choose between quality of life and business growth? Tweet
Are we really building a lifestyle business? There’s an implication there that means we’re not hungry for growth. That you can’t have lifestyle and growth. That lifestyle isn’t worth investing in. This didn’t sit well with me.
We went back to the business of getting Timely off the ground that next day. It turned out we’d built a product that small businesses rather liked. We started to grow fast, took on investment a couple of times and built a team.
Although that comment from Google Glass Guy stayed in the back of my mind, we maintained our focus on living well-rounded lives:
- We decided to work remotely, so our team could stay close to the important things in their lives.
- We placed a focus on knowing what’s really important to our colleagues, professionally but also personally.
- We embraced bringing your whole self to work.
Working this way meant going all in on trust and transparency. Trust was placed in everyone who came on board, which meant acknowledging that different people work in different ways and are motivated by different things. We placed our emphasis on outcomes, rather than outputs. We set clear goals and gave everyone access to the company’s data.
So, what happened?
It turns out that when you hire great people, trust them and set a clear focus — they do amazing work. Tweet
Our customers directly benefit from the passion our team brings to their work every day. They see a relentless commitment to improve the Timely product and to deliver love-soaked customer service. They see us obsessing with saving them every second we can.
But more so, they get to see who we are as people. Our customers are small business owners who are striving for the same work/life optimization as we are. They get to know us as people. And people buy from people.
Caring about growth, life and well-being creates a virtuous cycle. Tweet
When our team are happy, they do amazing work. Our customers benefit from this work and also get to know us. Lots of customers come on board, the company grows fast and the shareholders are happy.
Three years, 5,200+ customers, 80+ countries and 30 incredible colleagues later… we’re doing something right.
When Google Glass Guy wrote us off as a “lifestyle business” he was making a statement that work and life are a zero sum game. That commercial success can only improve at the expense of personal well-being. That’s not the case.
Commercial success and personal well-being can be complementary, rather than competing priorities. There’s a sweet spot where your work and personal life are reaching optimal levels and feeding each other. This is what our team are striving for at Timely. This is also what we strive to help our customers to achieve, by mastering their busy appointment schedules.
It’s not easy. We’re still learning and we don’t always get it right. The stakes are also higher. When you blend work and life, rather than put them in silos, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. It’s not for everyone.
As long as we can optimise growth & quality of life, then call us whatever you want… even a lifestyle business. Tweet
Our work-life balance doesn’t come at the expense of growth, it feeds our growth. And Timely is growing like wildfire. Our team are on board with it, as are our customers, our directors and our investors.
Originally published at www.gettimely.com.