I hold vehement disdain for the hours 9 and 5. Offices with ceiling tiles and blue carpet make me feel nauseous. Face-time work cultures just leave me baffled. Complex hierarchy and bureaucracy, well, they piss me off.
A few years ago my friends and colleagues didn’t quite understand why I scorned the traditional workplace so much, fast forward to today and now they all get it. They were happy to play on the team for ‘Business-As-Usual’ while I joined the renegade squad of entrepreneurs, creatives and freelancers to play for the freedom seekers; AKA team ‘Business Unusual’ or BU to our fans. They are not alone in this thinking shift; it has caught on actually. According to a report released by Demos on Monday, 4.5 million people are currently registered as self-employed. That’s nearly 1 in 7 of the UK population and it includes a solid upswing in the numbers of women leaving the bosom of ‘employment’ for a more self-directed future (of business start-up and freelancing).
Now, I’m not playing out some fantasy of entitlement, far from it. I’m a ‘working class gal’ from north west London. I have no problem working 8 to 8, 9 or 10. I just want to do it on my own terms, not because I’m scared to be the first one to leave the office (thank god for Twitter and Facebook), and I can only work for something more meaningful than shareholder return. Which aptly brings me on to the other skills required to join team Business Unusual. We welcome anyone that understands the new era of business is about passion, profit and purpose.
The BU business leaders that inspire me are the ones that shout about their passion. Passion to create a lasting brand, disrupt an industry or change the way we communicate. They are smart; they know that you need money to do this and to create systems that support flexible career options and ways of working. Stefan Sagmeister is a great example of this. Every seven years he closes his studio and takes a year long sabbatical, this time off gives him the insight and inspiration he needs to deliver great work for his clients. Lastly, team BU are driven by a purpose; to bring clean water to rural communities by selling reusable water bottles, support reoffenders back into employment, and develop technology to encourage children to think about their mental wellbeing.
I built my agency, A Very Good Company, on these principles. We operated a four-day work week, tried out having unlimited holiday entitlements and values led job descriptions. We refused to work with brands or clients we didn’t believe in. Thankfully, that got us in the doors at Virgin Media, Channel 4 and Marks and Spencer and we in-turn used our profits to create a global celebration of Good not hang out on a beach in the Bahamas. See, it’s business unusual!
Some of my business unusual experiments worked and some didn’t but I’m glad I tried them out. It made me realise that I love business, the art of entrepreneurship and Start-ups (more than consultancy) so now I’m a Partner and not the boss, I get to spend more time doing what I love.
Through my new gig and my board roles at UnLtd, The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and Wayra UnLtd, a tech for good accelerator run by Telefonia, I’ll be focusing on helping Start-ups and the people behind the Start-ups to succeed in building passion driven, profitable and purposeful businesses.
After all a winning team needs great players to choose from (insert your own World Cup pun here - I don’t watch football) and I’m going to make sure that team Business Unusual has nothing but the best on our squad.
This article first appeared on Huffington Business (UK).
Natalie Campbell is founder and director of A Very Good Company, a social innovation consultancy.
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