Running an Empire From Home
When people think of multimillion-dollar tech companies, one visualizes a cool modern office like Google or Zappos. The home office of JuicyAds, the sexy advertising network and one of the leading and largest networks in the adult space, is run from my home. My commute is about 10 seconds and I’ve been known to wear pajamas to work since I started as an affiliate 14 years ago.
According to research by TeleWorkResearchNetwork.com, 79 percent of people want to work from home at least part time. In the time we have been telecommuting, only one employee has left the company because they missed a traditional office environment. In fact, the number of people in corporate America telecommuting is increasing every year.
How I ended up with a staff of 25 all working from home, is a result of the type of company we are. For years, the entire company was on my shoulders and I did everything. As my personal life started to suffer, I realized that I simply couldn’t do it all anymore. From the start I insisted on sustainability and boot-strapped the company at all times. The luxury of being able to open a nice office was not in the game plan, and I believed that brokers who care about their clients don’t enjoy big margins and profits. Hiring people in a small city with a strange three-degrees-of-separation, simply wasn’t possible due to the stigma in adult. To keep that separation and to hire affordable staff, I started to hire internationally in 2010.
Meanwhile, The Blonde demanded I move the office out of the house to better restore my life balance. With a growing company and the office “right there” it was very easy to become distracted and go back to work, or to work long hours. This was resolved by enforcing a 6 p.m. “quitting time” that I stuck to 80 percent of the time. (The other 20 percent was reserved for breaking the rule since aiming for perfection would have been extremely discouraging).
When I finally signed the lease to the new work space, The Blonde and I split up the next day. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her the good news. While picking up the pieces, I carried on and started the office experiment in the summer of 2012. Looking back, being around people at that point in my life was probably one of the best things for dealing with the fallout of my personal life. An apartment was rented so that the transition from working at home to an “office” wouldn’t be so difficult and three of us worked there for almost a year. My least favorite part was commuting in the Canadian winter. Average commuting costs the average worker about $4,500 per year and more if you count other additional expenses not needed if you’re telecommuting, according to the TeleWorkResearchNetwork.com study. The benefit was that the experiment dramatically improved my work-life balance. When I was at home, I was more relaxed, extremely social (I was dating a lot), so work wasn’t calling me from my empty home office. When I was at work I was productive and sticking to my work hours more than ever before.
Like how everything began, our office experiment came to an end because of personal life changes. I was only in the office half of the time due to my traveling, and at the time I was planning to move to San Francisco. Another co-worked suddenly announced they were moving as well. With life dramatically different than it was before, the office just didn’t make sense anymore.
The cost was that my work-life balance immediately broke down for a few months while I reset my personal boundaries. At least I got to spend time at home during the day with my dogs again!
I would imagine the primary concern for those hiring remotely, is trust and fear of abuse. This happened once with one of our employees, who was billing for hours they were not actually working. The trust was broken and there was no saving their job. They were abruptly terminated. Luckily, this has been a rare occurrence and most people are generally trustworthy.
Research shows that telecommuters are twice as likely to work more than 40 hours per week, which is great if you have people under salary. My experience showed that being in an environment that was not “home” meant that I wanted to get home as quickly as possible and get out of the less desirable environment. I didn’t work many hours over my regular 6 p.m. quitting time while in the office, but while at the home office, it was common. Its also been shown in a University of Innsbruck study that for creative work (like designing, programming) and anything that generally requires intelligent decisions and thought, productivity can be significantly improved by up to 20 percent by working from home.
I believe that one of the keys to our company’s success is the happiness of our amazing staff. A happy staff is a more productive staff, and it shows. Julie Larson was awarded Best Adult Sales Rep in 2012 and Jimmy “Wizzo” won Affiliate Manager of the Year in January. Whether or not the same strategy would work for your company is going to depend on trust, the ethics of your staff, the type of work being done, the level of communication, and whether you choose to try it, or not.
Juicy Jay is CEO and founder of JuicyAds.com. Follow Jay and JuicyAds via Twitter @juicyads.