The secrets of businesses that go the Extra Mile
A solid playlist, a tank full of gas, and hair flying in the wind. From the Golden State to the Sunshine State, we hit the road to uncover the top small businesses that go above and beyond for their teams and communities. The kicker? When it came to the secrets to their success, each company kept bringing up the same things, despite being separated by industries, size, and state lines. All those repeat answers didn’t make us cringe. It revealed something incredible — these secrets must actually work.
In this series, we’ll show you these companies’ secrets in all their glory, along with actionable things you can do today to follow in their footsteps (or tire marks, train tracks, plane lines… you get the idea).
Being wild and free isn’t just another song lyric spinning on repeat. Fast forward to the workplace, and it turns out your employees also crave that flash of freedom: MTV found that 81 percent of Millennials and 69 percent of Boomers believe they should be able to set their own hours at work.
A little wildness lets you stay open to where the road will take you. At work, that translates to letting employees decide how they work best, so you can show them you trust them. When that feeling radiates, it makes your team happier, more on point, and it can even help you save some extra dough. Not too shabby, right? Keep reading to hear about one simple — yet sometimes uncomfortable — tactic that can help your team get to where they want to be a whole lot sooner.
Flexibility attracts the doers, not the slackers
Getting to work on your own terms sounds like a dream. But the one question on many employers’ minds is whether flexible policies attract people who end up not doing the work. Not so, survey says. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that people who work from home also get more done — four more hours a week of work, to be exact.
Ultimately, flexibility is not just about productivity — it’s about making your team feel energized about rolling into work each day. Staples found that employees who work from home are 25 percent less stressed and 76 percent said they were more loyal to the companies they worked for. The cherry on top? It also helps your bottom line. For each person who works from home, employers can save $11,000 a year in overhead costs, found a study from Global Workplace Analytics.
Four easy ways to bring more flexibility into the workplace
Flex that flexibility — don’t just talk about it
Flexibility is about more than simply setting up a work-from-home policy and walking away. It’s about painting a world where people fit work into the rest of their lives in a fluid, organic way. As an employer, you can do that by fostering an atmosphere that lets people go where they need to — whether it’s for family, school, or pursuing the things that make their heart sing. Here’s how a few small companies make that idea shine.
In Oklahoma City, floral design studio Juniper Designs — named one of Martha Stewart’s top wedding florists in the country — lets the team bring their kids to work. “If you have a new baby and want to wear him or her to work, do it,” owner Alison Fleck says. Once during a wedding installation, Studio Director Kelsey Smith brought her daughter to the job. She let her daughter nap in a pack ‘n play while the team set up all the florals. The end result? Kelsey was able to produce an incredible event while taking care of her just-as-important mommy duties.
Kim Love, owner of Bright Life Preschool in San Luis Obispo, also takes non-work obligations seriously. She works with a bunch of local Cal Poly students who are studying to become licensed child care professionals. Because she supports their dedication to school, she allows them to set schedules that work for their busy lives. In fact, when you enter Kim’s office, you’ll find a collage of sticky notes on the wall as she tries to piece together the weekly schedule. Kim says that her scheduling philosophy is inspired by her days waiting tables in college. “Every time I told people I can’t work this schedule, I’d be right on the schedule in the wrong place the next week. It’s just disrespectful, because I couldn’t do that. Class was my priority.” And she makes sure it’s her team’s priority too.
Let people be themselves
Allowing people to take the time they need, when they need it, is Tom Hand’s mantra. Tom is the owner of Subculture Corsets, a specialty clothing boutique in Jacksonville, Florida. His company earns over $1 million a year in sales, and a big component of that success comes from the happiness of his employees. He and his family encourage their team of rockstar salespeople to take time off to pursue their passions, even if it whisks them miles away.
JoHanna Moresco is a Subculture employee who doubles as a violinist in a band called The Crüxshadows, who amazingly have the number one single in Germany right now. Because she tours so often — for months at a time — Tom told JoHanna, “‘Look, we know this is your true love. Whenever you come back, you have a job here.’ That freedom to follow her dreams and passions – it makes her extremely happy when she’s back in town.” While letting someone take a few months off here and there isn’t the norm for most businesses, it can do wonders if you’re at a company that can swing it.
Allow for ebbs and flows
This may sound like a line from the movie Inception, but hear us out: It’s important to be flexible with your flexibility. We learned that many small business owners don’t roll out flexible policies just because. They let their policies mirror what’s going on in their companies.
At Pool & Spa Superstore in Mobile, Alabama, the average employee stays at the company for at least ten years. The team works “crazy hours” during the summer, explains CFO Jonathan Golden, but during the months when things aren’t as hectic, Jonathan makes sure his employees take time for themselves. “When we get into slower times, we don’t track how long someone took for lunch or the exact days people take for vacation.” They allow their flexibility to shine when work isn’t as jam-packed, so their employees know there’s a break in sight. Says Jonathan, “People work hard knowing that the company will take care of them if they take care of the company.”
Experiment with the magical mix
“You don’t need to keep stopwatches on people or set up Internet trackers on what they’re doing,” says Aaron Walker, the CEO of Camelback Ventures, a New Orleans-based nonprofit. That mindset inspired Aaron and his team to experiment with implementing a five-hour workday so his employees can delve into other interests. One day a week, the whole team works until one or two in the afternoon. “By the time lunch comes, your day is over and you get to go home,” says Aaron. The time crunch also helps people get hyper-focused into their work. “Limited resources force you to be creative and ask yourself what’s really important.”
What’s so cool about this experiment is that it has inspired people to dive into their other passions outside of the office. Recently, the team challenged each other to “go do something you keep saying you’re going to do, but you never do.” One teammate who wanted to buy a property finally went to visit open houses, while Jon, another employee, was able to work on the children’s book he always wanted to write. Says Aaron, “For him to be able to have that time and more energy to write that children’s book will make him a better employee. He’s thinking in new ways.”