Sunday, June 04, 2006

From the founder of Motek

A couple of months ago I posted about Motek, a woman-owned company offering sufficient vacation days to let employees come back to work enthusiastic, practicing enlightened management policies that secure quality of life on the job, not just despite the job, like most companies.

I received a number of interesting comments on that post, one of them from the founder. The authors of Peopleware would pretty much agree with Ann Price, I think. I snip here, since summer is a good time for a reminder about big life lessons.

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 desktop 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 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.

...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 an employee 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.

1 comment :

steve said...

I'm fortunate enough to know two Nobel laureates, two Turing Award winners well enough to know their personal habits.

None of these people are completely focused on their work. They do work very hard and bring amazing cleverness to the task, but all of them play very hard.

One of the Nobels (I won't embarrass him by invoking his name) has always taken about 6 weeks of "vacation" a year to "focus" his thinking. He will be working on something and, when he gets to the point where progress is very hard, he disappears - hiking in Iceland, white water rafting, working on a road crew in Wyoming and building cameras in his basement. He notes all of his inspiration seems to take place during these "vacations" ... he core of his prize in physics came when he was holding stop/slow signs on a Wyoming road crew in 90+ degree weather. While cars were stopping and staring, theoretical physics made an important leap.

Many of the other people speak about the same effect.

I'm not creative on that level, but it is remarkable how these seemingly orthogonal activities seem to act as a catalyst for ideas even for me.

Kelley Johnson (the Skunk Works) used to recognize this and encouraged away time. He thought that people who required to work 40 or 50 hour weeks for 49 to 50 weeks a year weren't smart enough to work for him.