As I type this Adam is asleep on the floor in the office next to mine. Earlier this week Ian slept on the couch. They remind me of such fond days of yesteryear...
When Joel and I started Link-VTC in June of 1993 we decided that we would run a global video conferencing call center that was open 24 hours a day 365 days a year - with just the two of us. This meant one of us had to stay at work every night. When it wasn’t my turn to sleep on the floor I would wake up in the middle of the night and call the office to make sure Joel answered the phone. If he didn’t have a chipper voice I would badger him, “You weren’t sleeping - what if JP Morgan Japan calls?” He hated that part of my behavior. When we finished our shift we would work a full day - sleep would come the next night. A year later we brought on two new partners, Jim and Art - they had to take their turns doing the night shift shift as well. It was right of passage, a show of commitment to the company and a badge of honor. The people who slept at work were the most important people in the company.
Ian and Adam, I understand why you sleep at work. Your commitment to this business is as true as a mother’s love for a child. So while I tell you to go home and sleep, only you know when it is time to leave your baby. And frankly I’d be disappointed if you didn’t work so hard. I’m glad you feel so connected to your work that the office is your home.
There were times at Link-VTC when one of us would look over at the other partner and say, “Dude, you are tired go home. You aren’t doing good work.”
Some say we have no work life balance. I disagree completely. I don’t need to time slice everything in perfect proportion. There are times in your life where you can and should work really hard. This is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want folks to be so tired they do a crappy job, but we all can work more than 8 hours a day.
I understand the concept of pacing yourself. Some marathon runners can run at a 10 minute a mile pace others at 5:30. The 5:30 minute guys are generally younger and train harder. They also win the races. You aren’t going to become a world class athlete by taking PE class in high school. You got to work harder than anyone else to rise to the top. Same in business. You need to work harder when you are younger because you can. As you get older, like me, you can taper off a tiny bit.
And my wonderful wife Renee - she get’s it. We make a point to connect several times a day by phone, dinner or lunch when possible and on weekends. Since she knows I’m going to be working hard to get this business going, she has gone back to school to get her degree in film. Our 16 year old daughter is so busy with school, acting and friends that we hardly see her now. That said she sees how hard her mom and dad work and that has translated into her strong work ethic. The best way to lead is by example.
Are we crazy for working so hard? Isn’t life more than work? Most of the impact we have on others comes through our work. Building a family, raising a child, being a great athlete or writer, helping the poor, starting a business - all work. The harder we work the more good we can create in the world.
A robotic ball - where is the good in that? Think of the lives of all the folks who earn a wage in a factory making the ball, and all the store clerks selling the ball, and the hours of fun people will have playing with the ball, and the one child who will be inspired by the ball to pursue a degree in engineering, and the breakthrough in user interface design that this and other devices spark. Who knows where this all leads? But I have never seen anything great that was created with average work, modest commitment, or a dispassionate team.
A founder can love a business like a mother loves a child and through that love will come great things. Ian and Adam I feel the love.
We eventually hired a dude to work the night shift and I haven’t slept on the floor since.
But I still called him in the middle of the night.