There is an effort to reward ratio with everything.
You want a better body? You’ve got to eat right, exercise, and lay off the alcohol.
It really doesn’t matter what reward you’re going for. Whatever it is, you’ve gotta be committed to putting forth the effort.
I wanted us to be better
In 2012, I wanted Mack Web to be a better company. At the beginning of the year we set some pretty lofty 3-5 year goals and were eager to work towards them. But like many companies we soon ran into an obstacle: when were we going to find the time to spend on us? We run a pretty tight ship. We have a tiny team of 4, and we were already spending every waking minute delivering win to our clients.
I realized that we would never have the time to spend on building a better company unless we made ourselves a priority. We had to make the time.
So we did.
And Innovation Friday was born
Every Friday, the entire Mack Web team sets aside time for innovation and creativity. We take a break from our normal ball-busting routine to slow down and spend time on us. We call it Innovation Friday.
From lunch time through the end of the day, we make time for training, creativity, problem solving, and slacking off (i.e. going to a bar or leaving early). We don’t do any client work, and we only check email periodically throughout the day to make sure there aren’t any emergencies.
Our innovation days usually look something like this:
We keep a structured schedule so that we make the most of our time together. Even though we have five hours, it always goes by really fast. So one person on the team keeps an eye on the schedule and keeps us all on task.
We chunk the day up into four really important things:
- Individual time
We push pretty hard every day, so it’s really nice to look forward to dedicated quiet time at the end of the week. During individual time I ask that the team focuses on something that increases their value within the company. Most of the time the team is reading, watching videos, or doing modules in DisilledU.
- Training time
This industry moves so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of all the knowledge. If our team is not continually working on learning new things, we’re totally going down. So each week during training time we work on a skill that will strengthen our expertise.Our company is kind of a hybrid. We’ve got a variety of skills to work with from design and content, to SEO and social media. As much as we can, we try not to silo our roles and come together to accomplish what the client needs. So during training time we focus on learning new things that will help our team stay well rounded. Training time also allows us to make education a priority and set the necessary time aside to stay on top of our ever-evolving industry.
- Creativity time
Creativity time is kind of new. We realized we needed a time each week to talk about cool things we’ve read or seen (and that may have nothing to do with SEO). We didn’t want to add another meeting to our week, so we carved out the time during Innovation Friday.The thought with creativity time is to bank up a bunch of super neat ideas that we can pull from when we’re working with our clients. This helps when we’re stuck or just need to break out of routine and do something fresh.
- End of the day
Once we’ve worked through our entire innovative day, we’re ready for a break. Sometimes we’ll call it a day a little early. Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we go get a drink together. It’s really nice to just relax as team instead of always pushing so hard. This portion of our Innovation Friday reminds us that we do actually kind of like each other. Especially when we’re not under a bunch of pressure.
Other stuff we’ve done
Sometimes on Innovation Friday we ditch the structured schedule and go on a field trip. One of our very first field trips was to New Belgium Brewing. We were in the early stages of redefining our values, mission, vision, and culture. We heard they had a pretty awesome culture and we wanted to check it out. I do recall there was some beer drinking that was done in the process. All in the name of innovation.
What we’ve noticed
Thing is, you will always be too busy to do things for your company. There will always be things that you’ll want to make time for, but won’t. Putting Innovation Friday on the schedule has committed us to becoming a better company. We’ve been holding ourselves accountable for this time since February and it’s made all the difference in who we’ve become.
So even though our work week is shorter (we work 4 and 1/3 days on clients, and 2/3 on us), we have experienced some really great things:
Accelerated realization of goals
Some of the 3-5 year goals that we set for our company have been completed in 9 months. The time we spend on Innovation Fridays keeps us motivated and focused so that we are working on accomplishing our goals and not just talking about them.
Although the team is encouraged to work on their knowledge and furthering their expertise all the time, we spend at least an hour of Innovation Friday reading and learning new things. Our scheduled trainings help bring our diverse team up to speed so that they can better serve our clients.
This year has presented more challenge and change than I care to think about. Innovation Friday has kind of been our glue. This time has been a gift. We have resolved issues that would normally have been band-aided and pushed to the side in order to handle our current client workload. It has been an incredible accountability tool.
We have happier clients
It probably comes as no surprise that if you invest more in yourself and your company, that you become an even bigger asset to your clients. Even though we’re taking time away from client work, we are amplifying the value we provide them because of the improvements we’ve focused on. We have heard a lot of comments from our clients this year about how we’re different (in a good way). I attribute that to a stellar team and the fact that we committed to making the effort.
Innovate with us
What if you took some of that time that you spend on your clients and spend it on your own company (or your own growth)? Don’t you think you’d begin to experience some of that same success that you bring to your clients?
What is it that you really want to do for your company (or even for yourself)? Find the time to set aside and do it.