Running a start-up is a great adventure but it is tough – long hours, little certainty and constant demands that you become an expert in everything from account management to accounting. Each new challenge can be the difference between success and failure.
When we first started I worked with great people who put in the same commitment and mad hours I did, but we realised that if we wanted to succeed we simply couldn’t do everything ourselves. In every area there are pitfalls and opportunities that are obvious to those with years of experience and invisible to the rest of us. You need experts who can teach you what you don’t know.
However these experts are expensive and we there wasn’t enough work to justify full time roles for many of these positions. That made hiring someone doubly difficult if 50% of their time was going to be spent on work that could be completed for a fraction of the cost.
We’d interview people (and hired a couple) who looked great on paper and just knew that they didn’t get life in a start-up, who wouldn’t rise to the challenge, organise themselves and just make it work. Worse were those we interviewed/employed who knew less than we did!
We’d had a few enquiries about part time work and I’d always felt uncomfortable that the culture wouldn’t work for them or us. That we wouldn’t be able to rely on them when the crunch came, that when a big client needed a quick turnaround – I would be left holding the can at 17:31, as always.
Worse I thought they would just add to my workload, that I’d be managing the gaps around them, organising the company’s diary to fit theirs. If I knew everyone started at 9 and finished at 6 it would all be easier, this despite the fact that none one started at 9 and finished at 6 anyway.
There were a couple of lucky breaks – the first was a Business Analyst friend of a friend who was looking for part time work when we needed to plug a gap in a failing project – he was critical in turning the project around. The second was our Office Manager – again through word of mouth we recruited someone on a part-time basis who became the Company Secretary and without whom we just wouldn’t be here.
When the crunch moments came they were at least as, if not more, committed than the full timers – working into the night to pull legal agreements together or get projects delivered. Each one of them understood the vision and I came to understand that the desire to work part time is often present in those who need to deliver the best of themselves in every area – be it home life or work. People who resent being spread so thinly they get nothing achieved.
I learned that part timers can work overtime when it’s needed, they’re just more focused about why they’re there and what needs to be achieved. Perhaps those who seek out flexible working understand the nature of commitment and just take their responsibilities seriously.
Once I got used to the idea that they weren’t available on a Friday or started at ten it made no difference to me. Everyone is unavailable at times and we all plan around each other’s diaries – there is really not much difference between part time and full time staff.
I was lucky to work with good people who wanted more than money or corporate career prospects, who want to work on something worthwhile. I found that there are professionals for whom a good work life balance is more important, but who also need to feel that they’re using their skills, being challenged and who want to make a difference.
They were all very clear about what they had to get done to support the team, they all brought a maturity to the employer/employee relationship. Project Managers, Company Secretaries, Software Developers, Marketing Execs, Business Analysts, UX Consultants each one of them matured the company in some critical way, showed us how to get to the next step on our journey and a little bit of each one of them is still embedded to this day.
We got access to skills, maturity and knowledge that would have been out of our reach, but more importantly we got staff that stayed with us as we grew. I would love to see the stats on length of service for part time versus full time employees in high turnover roles.
Would I encourage part time professionals to work in a start-up? If you want a challenge and want to be appreciated – undoubtedly!
Would I employ a part time professional again? Without hesitation!
I just wouldn’t have known where to go, until now. Good luck to Part Time Professionals.