Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
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Beware of fads in business

I was expecting to miss this week's blog as I am off to irk for a while in Turkmenistan and where I may well not have internet access in my spare time. However, an article in the news caught my eye and compelled me to put keyboard to screen!

The article that caught my eye was about Richard Branson. It wasn't the one about the consistent delays in the proposed flights into space, but the one about letting employees choose when and how much time they took off.

Many entrepreneurs see Branson as some sort of role model and I worried that this might cause a fad to develop with potentially disastrous results. There are many reasons why I question the validity of this idea.

The first is that management of human resources is often the weakest part of an entrepreneurial startup and leaving employees to manage themselves in the area of time off my well cause problems in other areas.

Large businesses like Virgin will have clear established norms for time off and people will doubtless stick fairly closely to those norms when deciding what time to have off and when to take it. The new business will not have established such norms.

Another concern is that, whilst I despise measurement of performance by hours worked, there has to be some other objective measure to evaluate employee performance both relatively and absolutely. Again, such target setting and evaluation mechanisms are often the last things to be established in an entrepreneurial system.

Another requirement of such a system is an enlightened management team that can work within such confines . Again this takes time to establish.

But one of my biggest concerns is that of peer pressure. Already we see large organisations where people don't want to be the last person to arrive or the first person to leave in the evening. It is likely that people are going to be more concerned about taking time off rather than less concerned.

I can clearly see the benefit for the large corporate to adopt such a system. I well remember in one of my previous positions that staff were given laptops so that they did not always have to come into the office. The cost of the laptops was minimal, but the productivity benefit was enormous. Not only did people not waste time travelling, but, on average, they checked their machines out of hours for an extra two hours a day including weekends. In other words there was 30% unpaid work done each week per laptop.

The vacation idea has the same potential. It is very unlikely given the present competitive market that people will take their full entitlement. The need to fulfil their work commitments and their fear of being seen as left committed than their colleagues will give the company extra working days per year with a reduction in administration in human resources. It may also remove the need to comply with current legislation.

So by all means look at ways to innovate in business, but look at both sides of the coin. Companies like Virgin and Netflix never got where they are today without a strong business structure and a clear eye to improving the bottom line.

Have your role models, but look at them when they were at your stage of development, not when they are an established multinational.

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