At the age of 3, shortly after my brother was born, my parents founded their first business. Together, with 3 children under 5, they brought on a small but incredibly talented team which took the company from an idea, to create online personal and professional friendships, to the first online social network.
5 years before LinkedIn, 6 before Facebook and 8 before Twitter, over its 14 year life-time it reached 650,000 members across the world, my dad’s mission for 'A Friend In Every City'.
By 5 I was shaking hands with our members, 8 giving badges out at events and before I'd hit my teenage years knew how to share in a concise way who I was and what I cared about - my brand...
Their journey, and our family' journey over the last 30 years is one of ups and downs but fundamentally one of friendship, community, collaboration and openness. Our bonds with each other and those that we came across grew closer, as 'the professional' and 'the personal' merged, to leave authentic, human relationships, removing the cloak of importance and rigidness to reveal the truth behind the business and the person. My mums book aptly named 'Business Is Personal' shares part of this story.
Anyway, more on this another time.
I have always known I had somewhat of an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, and have grown up immersed in the lives of the self-employed, sole-traders, start-ups and small business owners. With siblings, cousins, aunties and uncles all managing their own businesses I have witnessed what seems to work, what doesn't, and of course the truth behind the self-employed world - it is not as exciting and glamorous as it sometimes looks when watching from the safety of a salary. Likewise you tend to see the good - successes and breakthroughs - but less of the lost clients and sleepless nights.
I also have been incredibly fortunate to have started my career in quite the opposite - the largest consulting company in the world with half a million employees and a revenue last year of $44 billion.
Throughout my time at Accenture I felt I was trying to merge the two worlds - one of freedom but somewhat chaos, with one more of structure, discipline and order (but of course, like anywhere worth being also some chaos).
Starting communities within the company that I felt were missing, speaking to graduates and students about their personal brand and network, sharing my passion and belief in intrapreneurship, engaging others in my ideas and leading teams with an entrepreneurial mindset, I grew as an Accenture Consultant but also as Ross Power.
As I have shared previously, I am now starting my journey into self-employment.
So where to begin?
Over the past week I’ve been setting myself up in the way I know how - by bringing the best practices and tools I learnt when leading and being part of software development and strategy teams into my own self-employed life.
This is still very much work in progress however I have some ideas which I am beginning to experiment with, and given I'm building in public, thought I'd share where I am at right now.
Agile, SCRUM, Solo-workers and the self-employed
As a someone who takes great pleasure in organisation and tidiness (my housemates would probably say this is an understatement) when I started to take a leadership role I was drawn to methodologies and processes to align individuals and teams.
Both in terms of the practical aspects of how to ensure everyone is able to work efficiently and most effectively, but also in am more personal-human level - how can we ensure we are celebrating success, recognising hard work and achievements, and keeping check on both individual and the team well-being.
You'll likely have heard of Agile, but I expect would struggle to define what it actually means...few can. It's thrown around a lot, often with a lack of meaning, direction and tangible application.
However, there are some quick, easy ways to bring key principles of what many of the best teams and companies do to your own life.
So, at this early stage, what are the ‘non-negotiables’ I'm bringing into my daily routine and to my personal ‘ways of working’ (wow)?
Many of the below are taken from Scrum - an agile framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products initially emphasized in software engineering however spreading fast across other fields.
1. Daily Stand-up - my morning routine
If you're working in a team at the moment I'm sure by now you have become accustomed to a daily stand-up or some form of daily check-in. Daily stand-ups have spread across organisations in the remote world to ensure everyone is aware of what others are up to and if there are any blockers they can help remove, and importantly offer a brief bit of human interaction which its hard not to lack in a work context at the moment.
I've played around with a few ideas for how to run myself like a team. First I thought about recording my daily stand-up each morning and publishing it on my YouTube channel. This would both act as a way of me sharing my plan with someone, some accountability although I highly doubt you'd be all that interested in watching, but also allow me to speak my thoughts out-loud - an important way of making sense of a plan or idea. I may still do this, but for now am just noting things down in my Notion workspace.
In a Daily Stand-up you answer 3 questions:
i - what did you do yesterday?
ii - what are you going to do today?
iii - what are your blockers? (i.e. what's stopping you from getting work done?)
I've always found this useful and knew from the off I wanted it in my routine.
In addition to this I have also journaled on and off in the past, inspired by 'Morning Pages' and wanted this too to be part of my daily cadence.
Again, this is a useful way of planning the day ahead, but also making sense of thoughts that have come up overnight - the idea is to write quickly after waking to produce a stream of consciousness that fades pretty fast as the day begins - particularly if you start the day checking WhatsApp and succumbing to a guilty scroll.
In doing this it also benefits the mind to layer gratitude and intentions - perhaps three of each - both proven ideas for better mental health.
So, I've done a merger - maybe this is useful for you to. All of this, including drafting this article, has been in Notion - I'll share how I've setup my Notion another time.
[start writing without too much pressure or thought and allow yourself to flow to see what comes up and out]
[share a few of the key achievements, highlights, pains etc. from yesterday to recap where you are up to - think TV series..."previously on Ross’ day" (in booming American accent)
[share a few things you're grateful for - these don't have to be some earthly all encompassing thing - it can be as small as the sun's on your face this morning or your coffee was better than normal]
[share what your intention is with you mood, focus, perhaps theme of the day - I'll come back to this in a later article also]
Plan for today
[now some actions - write down some of the key things you'd like to achieve today. I use a Kanban board within Notion, however go with whatever you're used to - a pen and paper to-do list is often enough!)
2. Goal Setting & Time-Bounding
You'll have seen in my introductory newsletter that I'll be sharing my updates in two-week sprints - this idea also borrowed from Scrum.
Working in set timeframes is important for a number of reasons. A key idea that I like and encourage people to think about is based on Parkinson's Law - work expands to fill the time allotted, or put simple the amount of work adjusts (usually increasing) to the time available for its completion.
As such, teams and individuals should aim to set small, manageable and achievable goals. Like a software dev team which should constantly aim to be releasing working software in each sprint, an individual should aim to be constantly releasing work of some form - even if it is in draft or planning stages.
There's also power in smaller incremental increases. James Clear' Atomic Habits builds on an expansive range of literature which proves that there's power in setting and consistently hitting small goals. They are easier to achieve on a regular basis which means we can set them more often, build off them and constantly see ourselves getting better.
Informing goals for each sprint or chosen period of time however is not always easy, so breaking down a wider plan into smaller phases and sprints within a roadmap also helps.
You might have noticed my updated 'title' on my LinkedIn - 'Discover and Mobilisation'. Like the start of a wider program, I also need a phase to get myself in the right space both with processes and system but also in mindset to deliver. I'll talk more about methodologies and phases another time.
3. Celebrating and sharing success - reflections and retrospectives
A final one to mention for now is the importance of finding ways to celebrate and share your achievements.
Within Scrum there are a number of rituals advised for teams to follow which include a 'Show & Tell' and 'Sprint Retrospective'. The first is an opportunity for the team to come together and share what has been achieved, whether a complete or part complete product, architecture diagrams, user feedback information or whatever else may have been done. This gives the team a chance to share, discuss and request feedback on work done, and other members and stakeholders the opportunity to see what is going on across the project.
Although some would suggest not everyone needs to know what others are doing, this does act as a great way of bringing the team together in a more structured way.
The retrospective which follows is a chance to look back and think about what went well, what didn't, what's holding the team back, how can the team improve well-being and so on.
So, why not try bringing this to a team of one?
Well, that's exactly what I'll be doing - the Collecting Dots newsletter is just that. A chance for me to celebrate and share what I have completed, reflect on my challenges, and look to others, to you the Collecting Dots community, for thoughts, feedback and ways to improve.
From 500,000 to 1 - some final thoughts
I believe, like you, that diversity is key.
Whether in our natural environment and ecosystems or our companies and teams, learning from one and other, sharing our unique experiences and skills, and growing as an interconnected group is our best route forward out of of current challenges.
And one area I still feel we lack this connectedness is between the employed and the self-employed. The large and the small. I have heard self-employed business owned speak poorly of those in large companies, and have seen those in large companies look down on those on the outside and working alone. This attitude serves neither, and only creates more divisiveness.
So, perhaps this will be useful for you whichever place you now sit.
Now part of my mission is to bridge this divide. Close the gap and bring the entrepreneurial fire that exists outside of organisations within, and bring the power and potential within organisations out.
Follow my journey through my newsletter Collecting Dots’ and feel free to comment and reach out if you have any thoughts