Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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With Friends Like These, Who Needs Employees?

I spent all of Tuesday standing up and placing mailing labels on 650 boxes.  

This is hardly the work I went to college to do. While packing boxes with tea, caramels, candles, and cookies doesn't sound like my dream job, it's also very much the work I'm loving at the moment.  

I wasn't alone in this task. My two co-founders at Batch were there, too, as were a host of volunteers comprised of friends and family.  

It's this sort of combination that makes running a slow company - no matter what your slow company does - awesome.  

Friends first, colleagues second

Many of us work, and that means we're spending 40 hours a week (or more) around a core group of people. In some cases, during certain seasons, we'll spend more time with this set of people (waking hours, at least) than our own family members (then again, some people don't like their families much). It would seem that liking the people we work with would be a core ingredient of job satisfaction or could at least help with our search for meaning when it comes to work. 

Sort of. One study claims that employee satisfaction increases by half when people have a friend at work. That same study claims people with friends at work have a better perception of their pay, proving that money isn't everything. Then again, the startup scene suggests that partnering with friends isn't the surest path to success. Better to pick a co-founder for his or her skills instead of his or her hobbies.

So, if you're going to go find a job, look for people you like. But if you're going to create your job, throw camaraderie out the window, right?  

Not if you're a slow company.

Slow companies allow for work and pleasure

I think that slow companies - those companies where we create or find our life's work - can allow us ample chances for relationships. Indeed, slow companies recognize that more matters than the bottom line. What you do at work matters as much as with whom you're doing it. People matter as much as productivity (in fact, there's a nice intersection of the two).  

The success I've had at each of my four companies is very largely based upon who's in the room with me, both in terms of skill sets and pre-existing relationships. Rest assured, there are friends and relatives I'd never go into business with, just like I'd never enter the Amazing Race with my wife (it would only be a race to see who killed who first, which would leave our daughter parentless). And I've also worked with people I'd never want to get a drink with. But if I had to choose, I'd rather work with a friend than succeed with an acquaintance.  

That sweet spot of success and community

Money doesn't buy happiness, but it makes for a nice down payment on it. And while working with anyone just to earn your keep is one way to look at work, it may not be the most rewarding. I'm willing to bet that you'd be much happier making a little less and doing something you'd never think of doing with friends than winning accolades while being overworked for someone you can't stand being around. 

Perhaps this means your shift your chase. If you're looking for meaningful work, don't only consider a job description, commute length, upward mobility, and salary range. Look around and see if you like who else is in the room. Will you have a chance to laugh? Cry? Celebrate? Are these people you want to see again on the weekend, around a poker table, or on a road trip?  

Successful slow companies allow people to be fully human, which means they can form full friendships with others. Is that a perk of your workplace?