By Madeleine Niebauer, founder and CEO of vChief, a virtual chief-of-staff service, helping executives stay focused on what matters most.
We hear it all the time: If you’re serious about growing your company, you need to be ready to hustle and grind out 80-hour work weeks. I disagree. In fact, I believe that attracting a team of people who believe the opposite—as I do—has been one of the key drivers of rapid growth for my company.
I founded vChief, a fractional executive staffing company with a focus on the chief of staff role, in 2016. In the last four years, we’ve grown from six to eight figures in revenue and from one to 20 employees. While I’m very proud of this growth, I’m most proud of having achieved this while still maintaining a great work-life balance for myself and my employees.
I’ve built my business around three core values, and it’s resulted in a company culture that allows me and all of my team to focus on the people and passions in our lives. Here’s a look at how these core values play out in business and how you can take a similar approach:
Work is not the most important thing in our lives.
While I love my job and the business I’ve built, family and travel are my highest priorities. I’ve worked hard to build a company culture that allows my employees to also balance a rich personal life with their job duties.
The commitment to balancing work and life has led us to adopt a 32-hour work week. All of our internal staff have the option to work a four-day week or to work reduced daily hours over five days.
In my experience, working long hours under high pressure leads to unhappy, burned-out staff and doesn’t result in better work. We find the compressed workweek, which people see as a huge benefit, results in using our time more efficiently. Our overall work quality actually improves.
Our team cites our 32-hour week, unlimited PTO and remote work as some of the top perks that attracted them to vChief. I believe these employee-centric policies are the reason why we have very low turnover, which has also helped us achieve growth.
We don’t set unrealistic growth goals.
I don’t believe that employees achieve more when they’re pushed to achieve unrealistic growth goals. To me, that’s a setup for low morale. Even when targets are clearly unrealistic, and everyone knows it, people still feel a sense of failure for not achieving them. A rushed, pressured and stressed-out staff makes mistakes. It’s not worth it.
That’s why I recommend launching new offerings with realistic revenue growth goals. Give yourself time to integrate changes and effectively enhance your business offerings. In other words, go slow to go fast.
I’ve seen many other companies do the exact opposite and launch a new product with huge expectations, which comes with an expectation of putting in long hours and setting aside your personal life. But I’ve learned that emotionally healthy and balanced people—the kind of employees you want to be around—don’t stay in high-pressure, high-stress environments very long.
Trust is granted rather than needing to be earned.
I trust my employees to do good work. Period. I don’t care how many hours it takes them to do it or when they do it. I believe smart people can make their own decisions—especially the ones I hire! If I’ve delegated something, I trust that person to seek out the information they need and to reach out for help when they need it.
I keep reading about new ways companies are monitoring their employees’ work—both at home and in the office. There are software products that allow employers to monitor every keystroke and web page view of their remote employees. Personally, I think that’s absurd, offensive and even creepy. It’s a violation of trust, and I’ve built my whole company around trust.
I would encourage business leaders to never monitor or spy on an employee to see what they’re doing. They’re either doing great work or they’re not and the proof will be in the outcomes they achieve.
If you want to build a business that’s still around in five or 10 years, I believe balancing your life and your work is the smartest way to grow both your impact and revenue. When you value and respect employees and allow them to develop a healthy work-life balance, you’ll attract the best and most emotionally healthy people. Those are the people who will help you grow your company in a balanced, sustainable way and stay with you for the long haul.