Why I hire people who work from home

More interesting to me than the spate of articles on the decision of Yahoo to eliminate the option of working from home has been the comments on these articles. I should have followed the advice I give my children,

“Never read the bottom half of the internet.”

Too late – and I will never get back the wasted minutes reading comments written by the descendants of Simon Legree

You spoiled entitled slobs are lucky to have a job! Don’t come into work ever again. There are plenty of people in this economy who would be happy to do your job for less money than you are making and show up at 5 a.m. It’s about damn time that someone cracked the whip on you! You’re just lucky your jobs haven’t been outsourced to someone who is a real worker who is willing to work for 42 cents an hour seven days a week, 14 hours a day ….

I just sent out a contract for artwork to someone in Philadelphia. Our Chief Marketing Officer we hired in January lives in Massachusetts.Our animator lives in San Francisco. A programmer who helped us out when we got overbooked last year lives in North Carolina. We’re really hoping to be able to hire him to work with us again this fall. We have two consultants in North Dakota, one of whom is coming to Santa Monica next month. In May, I’ll be in San Francisco, North Dakota and Massachusetts.

There are actually only four of us that work in Santa Monica on a regular basis, and one is the woman that cleans the place. My assistant lives about an hour away and usually comes in once a week, although she is available to come more often if needed. My husband, who has been seen so seldom since he retired from making things in black boxes that we have started calling him The Invisible Developer, has an on office upstairs. I’m pretty relaxed about things but I have put my foot down that before he comes downstairs when either co-workers or clients are here that he WILL shower, shave and put on clothes rather than come downstairs in his bathrobe. He is rebelling against such authoritarianism by staying upstairs for most of his life. Friends refer to him as “your alleged husband” , since they see him about once a decade.

Business is good. We pay taxes in four or five states most years. I had a book published this year – unrelated to business, it’s on matwork in judo and mixed martial arts – and we donated the proceeds to charity.

There are two reasons we hire people who work from home.

One is that it pays off for us. 

artwork from gameHere is an example of a poster one of our artists did. It wasn’t part of his contract. He put it together using some of the art he did for the game and I saw it on Facebook, offered him a price for the right to use it as an award for those who backed our game on Kickstarter.

I’m the exact opposite of those commenters on the work-from-home articles. I don’t think the people who work for us are lucky to have a job. I think we are lucky to have them. That’s the exact kind of people I want to work with – people who could get another job in a heartbeat but choose to work for us. If you are extraordinarily good at your job, it’s always a good economy for you. We’re a small company. I can’t outbid Yahoo or General Motors for talent. What I can do is offer other consideration. Would you like to work from home? Do you do your best work from 5 a.m. to 1 pm? Do you need to adjust your hours to accommodate small children? We can do that and if Yahoo or some other company won’t then maybe we can steal you away from them.

The second is that this is the kind of people and kind of company we want to be. I have that old Golden Rule idea. I treat people the way I want to be treated. Many years ago, I was sitting in Union Station with one of my business partners drinking champagne. Our company, Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. had hit a million dollars in contracts, within less than two years of being founded.  He was waiting to go up to a photo shoot with one of the senators from North Dakota and I had a meeting scheduled with agency personnel to discuss our latest project. He turned to me and expressed my feelings exactly,

If you had told me when I was a ten-year-old boy growing up on the reservation that this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Well, I didn’t grow up on a reservation, but my point is the same, we have a great life, and rather than try to squeeze every last drop of work out of our employees and make the absolute highest profit, we want the people we work with to have a great life, too. We try to charge as little as possible for our products so that more schools can use our games – Kickstarter funding will allow us to give Spirit Lake: The Game free to twenty schools. Our consulting fees are below average, but that allows us to consult with dental schools, vocational rehabilitation projects and universities. Yes, we’d make more if we were consultants for Coca-Cola , tobacco companies and defendants  in anti-trust suits, but so be it.

I work downstairs in my house. It’s very convenient because that’s where all of my stuff is, and besides that, I don’t have to drive two or three hours a day in rush hour traffic in L.A. Also, I hate mornings.

I’m sure those same commenters would tell me that is a terrible attitude for a business that has a responsibility to shareholders. At the moment, the shares are held by me and said CMO in Massachusetts and we are pretty damn happy. We have met with potential investors a few times, and perhaps our “bad attitude” is the reason we haven’t done any deals yet. Oh, no wait, it isn’t. The main reason is that we have not yet reached the point where we need to give up any equity in the company, and we don’t intend to until we absolutely must. Any investors that expect us to treat our employees like they are small children that need to “be kept an eye on” definitely won’t be a good fit.

In February, I had a book published and submitted two federal grants. In March, I’ve done the design for our next computer game, had clients in for three days of training, designed and wrote much of a database to a client specification and rewrote the part of the game that does assessment and testing. I get an amazing amount of shit done and I think it is not at all coincidental that I am very happy with my life AND I’ve made money running one business or another for 28 years straight.

If we end up with investors who buy into that kind of company, that would be great.

On the other hand, my fall back plan is to do what I’m doing now – live by the beach, design computer games and write.

Tell me again, why exactly was it that I needed to drive into the office?



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  1. We are also working upstairs in our house for exactly the same reasons.

    I have often felt that typical corporate employees are given all the technical tools to work from home _on principle_. But actually you were expected to show up in the steel&glass office – often decorated with fancy colored furniture – to ‘communicate’ and ‘be visible’ (self-market) AND use all those communications tool in addition, to stay connected with the mother ship 24/7.

    And I do not miss the desk sharing space and ‘hot desking’ at all.

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