Growing Green Grass Together
This afternoon, I randomly scrolled through my LinkedIn home feed at my office. And stumbled upon this post.
I quick-read it, and I reread it when I reached the end. This time, very slowly. And when I finally finished, I took a deep breath. For a moment, I feel nostalgic. I don’t know why I feel nostalgic, I have never been in Jacob’s position, but suddenly I remember the first time I built my company.
Me and my co-founders, Fajar Indra and Febriawan Ariful, was the only college student who wanted to add some cash to our wallet by looking for a side job. At that time, none of us thought that it would be our permanent business. Presentation design wasn’t a thing at that time.
Long story short, we reached a point when we couldn’t handle the projects ourselves. We talked, decided to make this our main job, and recruited our first employees. We rented a tiny house with just five workers (me, Fajar, and Fikri plus two new employees)
The thing is, I never imagine employing other people. I always had this vision of ‘which office I would work with when I was still in college. It never came to my mind to build my own business and my best friends. That’s why when I got these two young men to work for me, with low wages–I’d be honest–, I always think like this:
These two young men decide to work with me even with small wages. Now, then…
What can I give for them? What should I do to improve their skills? What can I do to make them feel comfortable working with me? How should I build the work environment?
With those thoughts, I got a very overwhelmed result.
From five to eight people. Now more than twenty people. We finally can rent a bigger house (now with a kitchen) and slowly stepping our milestones. One person came, and we bought our first refrigerator. I provide free coffee and drinks. We don’t even have a cleaning service–we wash the dishes ourselves, make our office cleaning schedule (and tease the ones who are late to do their cleaning part). None of them seem forced to do it all. We do it happily, which makes us look like a family rather than coworkers.
I remember when one of my early employees–now my marketing manager– couldn’t believe that the coffee and drinks in the kitchen were free. She said, “I had to pay for one cup of coffee back in my internship days in a company. I can’t believe you do this every month for us,”
I laughed. I didn’t know that you must pay for coffee in a company (I never worked in an office before, you know?) Everyone drinks coffee, and I think, why would they pay for something that everyone in my office enjoys–coffee? Free coffee is a simple thing, but it may bring something bigger?
I also set them free to explore their talents. One of the designers has a viral Dribbble account. My Creative Director, Fajar Indra, is a well-known local landscape photographer. One of the marketing members is a book illustrator; she has done many popular book covers! My creative manager has zero design skills at first, but he has a spirit of learning more–now his presentation design is the best in our company! And there is so much more. I’m proud of their achievements and the value they bring to the company together.
And how is this story connected to Jacob’s post? My employees might once be in their position (underpaid), but they never give up on me. Because they feel free to explore their skill, free to improve, respected, and they get the feeling that this is their fight too. When the company is getting bigger, so do they. We’re in this together.
Like Jacob said, “Trust me when I say “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”, and even if it may look like it is – the water bill is higher. Life and your career shouldn’t always be about money. Find balance.”
Yup. My grass wasn’t even green. But slowly, by paying ‘the water bill’ by myself, now along with my employees, we eventually make our grass greener each day. By giving all I have to my employees, I make them stand with me, and I’m sure they will give their all to the company.
With all the things we are achieving right now, I dare to say that we have found the balance Jacob mentioned.
Here is my message for you who plan to build your own business. Give all you have first. Respect first, and you’ll be respected. Set your team to explore their passion and talent rather than bind them in such ‘work policies.’ Eventually, you’ll get more than you expected. You’ll have a loyal coworker (family), big business, office building, hundreds of clients, etc. Your grass will eventually green, Growing Green Grass Together.
Now we’re already moving into our very own office building. Another milestone reached, see? A long journey still awaits. What can we achieve together in the future?
We’re just a tiny family of creative-minded who formulated presentation designs. Now, we’re more than anything. It’s merely “Growing Green Grass Together.”
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