Why Side Hustles Don’t Work

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Do you feel sometimes that your work is a “side hustle” - something we do to put a few bucks in our pockets to then feel and do the “good stuff” elsewhere - with our hobbies, volunteer work, personal relationships, and such? 

Well, if we want to really enjoy our work....

And as we enjoy it, build a great business.

Then a side hustle just aint gonna cut it.

Luckily, we just need to make three small changes to break out of the side hustle mentality.

And win big.

Now before I go through what these changes, let’s talk for a moment about both the positives and limitations of the “side hustle,” the “corporation of one” mindset and workflow.

The positives can be for very many of us - because of the time and place we are in our lives (students, parents with young children, etc.), and / or the kind of work we do (really anything these days that mostly involves sitting in front of a computer), that side hustles can be awesome.

They allow us to work “virtually,” to have (theoretically!) that golden elixir of work-life “balance,” and to find and serve customers all over the world from the comforts and ease of our home office.

But obviously we can’t build a great business this way.

No, this can only be done by "collections of humans" gathered together under a common banner and brand...

...and doing great things together as cohesive, inspired, and hard-working teams. 

Now doing this is harder today than it has ever been. 

And the core reason why is the same one that makes side hustles so attractive..

All of us are just...distracted.

Staring at screens from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep, in a technology-induced daze that if we are not very careful will insidiously prevent and preclude real human connection and teamwork.

Because we are still fundamentally wired as we have always been.

As homo sapiens. As primates who over hundreds of thousands of years have evolved to naturally organize ourselves into small groups and clans, and communicate face to face, in person, with all five of our senses.

And this “natural” method of collaboration and communication has been how throughout business history the greatest teams have done the greatest things.

Like Thomas Edison's famous invention lab, or Steve Jobs leading the development of the original Apple computer, or how our greatest movies have been made, to in more recent times how without irony the #1 social media in the world designed its new headquarters floor plan to be just....

...one very large, loud, and crowded room. 

Unfortunately, too many of us have never had team experiences like this at work.

And of course the days of yonder and of Edison and Jobs and the first Apple are never coming back.

And most of us do not want to work on a crowded, open floor like at Facebook’s new office. 

So the goal is to keep those blessings and miracles and modern, virtual work - of  telecommuting, flex time, work / life balance, etc. - and have a great team environment.  

It just requires the three small changes.  And then a pig-headed determination to stick with them no matter how strong the temptation and inertia to revert to business as usual.  

These changes are:

1) Use a group chat and messaging tool instead of email 

2) Whenever possible choose video calls 

3) Schedule longer in-person team meetings, but on a more in frequent basis.

Let’s go through them one-by-one:

#1. Use a Group Chat and Messaging Tool Instead of Email. Group chat and messaging tools - like Slack, Voxer, Yammer, and Hangouts - are
much better for electronic communication than email because : 

a) They are “real time” (more on this in a moment);

b) The etiquette on them is such that when others are “cc’d” there is not a reply requirement to reply;

c) In a chat message there is no need for a subject line as there is with e-mail (think about this for a moment); and, 

d) As group messaging is inherently by "invitation only", it naturally avoids the soul-sucking email spam deluge.

Now a big reason why folks shy away from group messaging apps is because of that first and key “real time” benefit, which for many can be distracting from their main work flow.

To this I say if in this year 2017 of ours you just have to
find the balance.

Yes, it is not right to just let ourselves to be pinged and distracted all day with chat messages, but nor is it right
to not try to make the “virtual reality of physically sitting next to someone” that real time communication allows fit into our workflow.

The darling group messaging tool of choice of the Silicon Valley types is Slack.

Slack finds a great balance between lightness, simplicity, speed and feature richness for virtually any business communication process need.

And even me - a grizzled old man / old school executive - loves Slack’s fun and varied “emojis,” which really do help communicate emotion and feeling.

#2. Video. Business phone communication conducted with video - which can be done at high quality at virtually no cost through a ton of apps - is just better communication than audio alone.

It is better because we are visual beings.
 

And it is better for the very reason so many of us shy away from it. 

Because it is hard.

When on a business video call for business, we first must present ourselves professionally, i.e. no relaxing in tank tops and flip flops allowed!

And we must actively listen - i.e. look right in the camera as we listen and not multi-task, and show that we “get” what is being said.

And just like with group messaging but perhaps even moreso, as we do we replicate in-person reality and communication and collaboration results and efficiencies soar.

#3. In person meetings. Now the great thing about group messaging tools and video calls is how they allow us to preserve the brevity and ease and lifestyle benefits of virtual work flow while staying connected to our colleagues.

But of course none of these tools will ever replace the need for a lot of in-person meetings and get togethers to build great team collaborative energy, ideas, and accountability. 

These tools will, however, let us have less meetings and can make the ones we do have far more productive.

I've written elsewhere on good flows and agendas for the various internal team meetings that drive mission critical business initiatives forward, but for here it is suffice to say that if a team is communicating effectively with group messaging and video calls as described above, that in-person team meetings can be reduced to as few as one to two times per month.

These in-person meetings should be a bit longer, a bit more free-flowing and relationship building focused than perhaps they would be if all were working under the same roof, but in the end they should proceed as they have always done in businesses and team settings since time immemorial.

Just get together in-person with your team members, and let the magic happen. 

Yes, it really is that simple, get on Slack, or a group messaging platform of our choice, make as many of our calls with video as possible, and meet in person perhaps less frequently but with a positive and innovative spirit always.

And let that very limiting side hustle mentality be just a thing of our business past.

What about your company? Are your employees and contractors working as well together as they should be? Do you need help in getting everyone on the same page to attack a key new business initiative?  

If so, send me an email to [email protected]

In your email, tell me about a key new initiative that if you execute upon it properly can propel your company forward in a new and powerful way. And I'll email you back my thoughts to help you.

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