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Abigail Murphy
28 Oct 2014

What’s it like being Abi the Outlander?

Update 6th January 2016:

Although much of what I have written below here, almost 18 months ago is completely still the case here at Outlandish, our legal structure is going to change. The employee owned route for us, ended up not delivering the benefits we had hoped, and as of this year we have all become self-employed and will be moving to become a Co-operative Consortium in the near future. Read Harry’s fantastic blog explaining the detail of why we are choosing to become a Co-operative.

 

Other updates:

  • I still work with my friends – there are even more of them now
  • I still have the responsibility for the success of failure of the business
  • I now come in from Bounds Green on the train as I bought a whole house (cripes!)
  • We still work with nice clients doing interesting projects
  • We are still (evidently) able to change the way we do things quickly and constantly trying to improve
  • We still don’t maximise our profits and have made even more effort to ensure our profits go to good causes and fund good projects
  • We still develop our skils and experience wherever possible. In December 2015 we went on a group counselling session to learn about solution-focused behavourial therapy. It was great.
  • We go out for lunch rather than get it delivered – we got a bit bored of the same food all the time!

 

Original post published on October 28th 2014:

Why do I work here?

  • I work with my friends
  • I have the responsibility for the success or failure of the business (along with everyone else – we are employee-owned)
  • I walk to work (Finsbury Park)
  • We work with nice clients doing interesting projects (my favourite at the moment) and all of us decide which projects and clients we work with
  • We are able to change the way we do things quickly and constantly try and improve (See Consent based decision making)
  • We don’t maximise our profits – we prefer to deliver quality work rather than rake in lots of money
  • We develop our skills and experience wherever possible. Our mantra is ‘See one, do one, teach one’
  • We get lunch delivered to our office twice a week
see one, do one, teach one

We did a team print screen session and have the results up around the office

What’s it like?

As one of the first people to join Outlandish (the 4th partner), I’ve seen Outlandish grow from a group of friends, freelancing together and working around a dining table to something altogether more established, more planned and more focussed. But still a group of friends trying to do some good stuff.

We’ve taken the big step to be fundamentally employee-owned (exact legal structure yet to be defined as nothing quite seems to match our needs!), share profit at the end of the year equally between all Outlanders and use consensus based decision making in all important business matters, as well as fostering a work environment that shares responsibility but also the rewards.

The longer I work here, the more I realise we really are trying to do something quite different. We try not to have specific job descriptions and roles, but key areas of responsibility. We invite all Outlanders to be interested in any aspect of the business, and encourage the techies to understand the finance, the projecty people to understand the tech, and for us all to make effort to bring in business, extend our skills and input in to the direction the company should take. This really is the way it is, it isn’t just hot air, although it relies on each individual to make this happen – but communicating that to clients, possible Outlanders and friends takes a while. We are currently working with Pete Burden who is helping us define our purpose further. Here is the blog that talks about the purpose we came up with.

As the person who pretty much keeps things ticking at Outlandish (job titles that could be associated with what I do; Programme Manager, Project Manager, Operations Manager, Finance Director, HR Manager), at first I found the prospect of still being responsible for the business, without having the exact authority to change things (without getting it agreed by EVERYONE first) frightening. I went through a phase of feeling like I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, not understanding how anything was ever going to get done and unsure if there was still a place for me in the future (I thrive on structure, process and targets). Now that we are embracing the non hierarchical approach to decision making, things have settled down and I feel we as a team are in control of what is happening, and it isn’t all on one or two shoulders.

So finding the right people is utterly key to our success. At the moment there are 9 of us, not enough to be able to carry any one, and all must visibly contribute to the business, bring in more value than they cost and pro-actively try and improve any aspect of the business that is important to them. Performance, profit or loss on projects and success is plain to see – there are few places to hide.

For some who just want a job, the way we are trying to work and develop would sound utterly terrifying, it certainly isn’t for everyone, for others it would sound fascinating, motivating and something they would like to be involved in. So if you are one of those who wants to find out more, or you know someone who might fancy themselves as an Outlander, let us know!