Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Motek, A Very Strange Software Company

I just read this article in the in-flight magazine on my way home from a short trip to Scotland: American Way Magazine: The Best Company to Work for in the World-Period.

As someone who needs at least a 3 day intro to a vacation to even start to relax, the European-style 5 weeks of vacation initially caught my eye and kept me reading. The rest of the story brought tears to my eyes (and I read a fair amount of business overview articles, for your average UI designer). A woman-owned company, with acknowledged lower salaries and internally published salary levels, in return for real quality of life outside the office? But that's not all.

Employees also know when an employee isn’t able to keep up with the workload. The result? Price offers a financial reward to employees who ask for help in order to stay on schedule. “The goal is to get the work done, not establish a star system,” she says.

Of course, it’s one thing to conjure up a cutting-edge culture and quite another to thrive amid relentless daily pressures. But Price hasn’t overlooked this aspect, either. While other companies talk about collaboration, Motek lives it. The company keeps a single to-do list... so that everyone is on the same page about priorities and the state of various projects. Anyone can enter an item, including customers and vendors. The list can include everything from ordering ink cartridges to customizing a specific function for a customer. Motek divvies up the tasks at meetings — and teams don’t pay any attention to who entered particular items.

The way Price sees it, the company’s success is a direct result of the money it invests in employees and of its commitment to developing a business structure that fosters knowledge-sharing and mutual goal-­setting. What’s more, “It’s amazing what a rejuvenated person brings back to the office, not just in terms of great new ideas but also in terms of enthusiasm and desire,” she explains. “The software industry’s idea that employees are entirely replaceable is absurd.” In fact, she believes it is precisely because of long hours and poor working conditions that today’s software is so buggy and behind schedule.

Apart from mourning that they are located in Beverly Hills (although I really do love my current job), it's now my goal to find other studies supporting her assertions. Let me know if you know of any...

Here's Motek's News page with links to many other articles about them.

6 comments :

chatt said...

Wow. I am continually amazed at the bad choices I must have made - cause I don't work for this company, and I'm not retiring at 42 from Microsoft like another friend, and I'm not being sent to Europe multiple time this year like another friend, and... I guess I'll take a deep breath, pet my cats and continue preparing my internal clients for working with people half a world away, for when my job is finally 'off-shored'. Or go sailing, that sounds nice too.

Lynn said...

Yes... it made me want to start a company like this, to be honest.

Ken said...

I've long wanted to start a company like this. Build something that solves a problem for relativly narrowly defined but currently in pain market. Wanting to do it and actually finding the thing to solve and acting are separated by a large gulf.

Celestial Z Weasel said...

Huh 5 weeks? I get 28 days + flexi-time. Next year I will (boggle) have been there for 10 years and get another 5 days!

leilani said...

i, too, read the same article on an american airlines flight back from antigua. and, in a stunning coincidence, came back to my company which just announced a new "holiday policy that reflects industry benchmarks and that enables Factiva to further support the work/life balance and the diverse needs of our workforce." we now get the day after thanksgiving off (whooo hoo!), 6 (instead of 4) personal days, and persons like me, who have been there more than 5 years now get 25 days for vacation, with one buy-back week (just in case we do not use all of it). all i can says is : it's about time (my company started acted like the global company it claims to be).

Ann said...

I'm honored by your blog. Motek’s a small company making a difference in an ominous world that left millions behind. While Microsoft creates more software for the desk top we give computers to the desk-less. We automate places still using paper & pencil to track inventory. In case you're wondering that's 85% of the nation's warehouses.

Along the way we try to improve the quality of people’s lives by shunning sweatshop environments that expect people to work nights and weekends. Our product enables companies to get the more done than they did before so they can eliminate overtime. This delivers cost savings for our customers and quality of life for their employees.

If you think the only way to get the quality back into your life, consider this. I started taking 1 month vacations when I was 22 year old GE software consultant. No, GE's vacation policy didn't accommodate me. As en employees who'd only been there 1 year I was given 1 week off. So I told my manager I needed to take 4 weeks off for personal reasons but never provided details. I didn't care if he thought I had breast cancer or a death in the family as long as he understood it was non negotiable. Sure it was gutsy but the lesson was invaluable. I learned I could do it. I learned I could live by my own rules and have done so ever since.

Anyone waiting for their employer to enable them to live is missing the point. Try to understand. You don't look the same on the beach in your 40's. You don't feel like climbing the steps at Machu Pichu at 35. As I tell all Motek employees: the time to go is now. Once people realize their employer isn’t the obstacle money comes up. People inevitably say they can’t afford to take a month off. When I was 22 I didn’t have any money either. And back then, (20 years ago) there were no frequent flier miles on credit cards. I found a book called Air Courier Bargains. Yes I actually flew as an air courier to Asia. Even though I can afford to fly anywhere I want these days I still put every expense I can on my credit cards to accumulate miles. You can pay your electric bill and mortgage on a credit card today. I always have enough miles to travel and get away. I believe strongly in recharging your batteries and although I spend 3 weeks a year on vacation with my husband I always start or end my trips by spending at least 1 week all alone.

Yes I’m passionate about this topic. I truly believe all my other business ideas have come from my ability to step away from work and think about how I want to work. Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Without the inspiration you may be working hard but not necessarily smart.

Thanks for inspiring me to write you. You sound like a thoughtful contemplative individual who understands the importance of living.