Thursday, September 29, 2005

M&A as E.R.

I was having drinks with a good friend and former corp dev colleague who is disgruntled with managerial expectations that he put in "face time" in the office. It's probably not a big deal, but it seems like dissatisfaction that should be easily cured. I've always told my direct reports that I consider them professionals - I don't care what hours they spend in the office, as long as they get their work done in a high-quality fashion. Sometimes that means a lot of time in the office anyway, but usually if you give a good employee that kind of flexibility you will get very good results.

In any event, after a few more drinks we concluded that a corp dev department could go one step further than my approach: Treat the group similar to the way emergency room doctors work:

Like an ER, corp dev staff are expected to work as hard and as long as necessary when a trauma case/big deal presents.

Like ER docs, corp dev staff can expect to be "on call" for emergencies.

Unlike many ER docs and surgeons, corp dev staff in most companies are also expected to work regular office hours.

Now, there are certainly those who relish their hours in the workplace and enjoy the company of their co-workers. And, of course, those who lead the organization can't expect to escape a good deal of office time. But what about those talented analysts who want more flexibility and work-life balance? They're already committed to being there for any emergency; why not free them up the rest of the time if they want it?

Ground rules would include always being accessible by wireless phone and e-mail, keeping on top of industry reading and being in the office whenever deal work demanded it. There could be months where this wouldn't look any different than regular work, but corp dev work is notoriously cyclical. I'm also not sure it would work at a smaller, high-growth company like mine. But in a larger, mature company, having an explicit policy that staff could be "on call" and away from the office when deal work doesn't demand it could create a great deal of good will and staff loyalty.

1 comment:

seth said...

Josh - I completely agree with your approach. One of my frustrations as a corp dev person inside a company was the need for 'face time'. My boss at one company used to call me up in the mornings at 8:00 if I wasn't in and ask where I was - with no understanding that sometimes I was traveling 4 days a week and needed a morning to get something else done, or had been in the office until 1:00am working on a deal . . . very frustrating indeed!