What an Employee-Owned LAN Mob Means

When I was first introduced to the idea of employee-owned businesses I disliked the idea as being too socialist-bent.  Outside of the burdensome time spent voting on every little decision, why would any business owner give away their business in that way?  I'm a believer in capitalism as the best economic system for growth & prosperity, however there are parts of our corporate society that I'm ashamed of.  Extreme wealth has concentrated with shareholders and owners, while employee wages continue to decline or remain stagnant.  Efforts by government to increase wages have simply led to staff reductions or costs being passed on to consumers.  The rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.  Surely there must be a better way!

From "Mine" to "Ours"

I'm in no way rich, and LAN Mob is still a ways off from profitability.  The first few months of running LAN Mob I was constantly talking to the others about how much debt I was personally carrying, and the rate at which we were burning through cash.  It frustrated me every time I felt I had to point it out.  It felt like my biggest struggle was how to get the others to care about "my" business as if it were their own?

As we started to plot out business growth over weeks and months it became more apparent that yes, we were growing!  I couldn't be around most of the time due to my day job, but the others stepped up and showed a deep commitment to the business.  Customer relationships were being forged directly with employees, and responsibilities were becoming increasingly decentralized.  Every employee put their own stamp on it, and LAN Mob began to grow away from being "my" business and instead "our" business.

Once I made that connection, the money really meant nothing anymore, and I'm now looking at how best I can divide the business up and still make it the lean machine it is now.  I haven't found the perfect model yet - business structures are tied up in so much legalese.  "Ownership" could be translated to mean decision-making power, and while we make a lot of decisions as a team, I feel a completely democratic decision making model is too idealistic, slow and burdensome.  The last thing we need is to get bogged down in arguments and high drama.

So I don't see the management structure changing in any drastic ways.  I'll still be making the occasional unpopular decision when I feel like it's in the best interests of the company.  What will change is how the eventual profits are divided, and that will somehow be based on a formula that we all agree on.  My early models weigh highly actual hours put in and their effect to the growth and/or bottom line.  The last thing we need are owners who are not actively involved in the business, and that includes myself.  So as team members migrate away from the business, so will their ownership.

What an Ideal Team Member Looks Like

Zachary wrote recently about the ever-changing job positions that come with a small start-up.  It seems we're adjusting and pivoting all the time, but the future of the company is starting to take shape, and if you can peak through the fog you get a rough idea of what a future LAN Mob team member may look like.

  • Gaming Enthusiasts - LAN Mob employees need to have a passion for multiple games and a basic understanding of gaming culture.  I'll admit to be the weakest person on the team when it comes to this area of expertise!  When we opened LAN Mob I hadn't gamed in months, and my vault of gaming knowledge was nearly empty.  I've taken to listening to gaming podcasts on my daily commutes, and am constantly talking games with the staff & customers to try to stay up to speed.
  • Console & PC knowledge - An intermediate knowledge of consoles and PC configurations is necessary.  As our staff goes, some of us are stronger or weaker in certain areas, but as a team we manage to get by.  For the tougher problems we all rely on each other's expertise, and we are always learning.
  • Positive Attitude - Not only for dealing with customers, but internally with our team as well.  We all have the occasional down days, but a poor attitude can be a drain on all of us.  It's a constant struggle to reach and stay in the "zen state" as a team, but an overall positive attitude and optimistic outlook helps.
  • Information processing & communication - Ask any LAN Mob employee about Slack and they'll agree that it's become a way of life for us.  Facebook, Twitter, Twitch & this blog constitute a social media package which we all contribute on.  We're bombarded daily with information relating to the business and are in almost constant communication with the community & with each other.

The Future

The gaming industry is in constant change - just recently Xbox announced they are opening up their online platform, and a slew of VR headsets are hitting market very soon.  So we don't know yet what LAN Mob will look like 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years from now.  What we do know is that it's going to take a team effort to continue to adjust, grow & expand the business, and that team will ultimately reap the results of their efforts.
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