The Highlands by Design Manifesto
Slouching towards Utopia.
A business should strive to become a think tank for creative and human expression. The business should build applications that the workers want to see built. There should always be a striving towards big ideas. There must be a desire for revolution within our world. Everyone must always be treated equally, and with respect. The manifesto is always a work of progress.
A Criticism of Current Business Models.
The reasons for this manifesto are simple. Small businesses in the Southern Highlands, in a majority of cases, are the enemy of everyday people, social progress, and reason. While a majority of socially aware people spend valuable time being critical of larger corporations, there are further reaching issues at home. Solutions must be found for the local problems before tackling the larger ones, otherwise the foundation for change will lack the stability required to survive long enough to become effective.
Small businesses in the Southern Highlands (and elsewhere we’re sure) almost always underpay their workers, expect far more from their workers compared to larger businesses, and will steal every cent it can from the people that dedicate their time to make the business money. Anyone that has worked in a variety of small businesses will be aware of these unethical practices. The problem of course is what can one do? People have a tendency to find themselves coerced into debt (either through credit cards and/or car+home loans), which ensures they have little option but to accept these injustices. This also results in the stripping away of basic fundamental freedoms, as the speaking up against the employers doesn’t become an option. This is something we are not capable of accepting, and things will need to change.
The separation of the worker and the product also becomes a concern. Small business owners expect work to be completed quickly, and without any real time to test the products to ensure they work effectively. Quantity shall always rule in a capitalist society. The worker then finds themselves distanced from their work, and before long, there will be very little pride or respect offered to their output. It is a lose/lose situation for all involved, including the business owners.
The product should dictate who runs the business. The biggest problem with any business is the people that run it. In many cases, if not most (at least from our experience), the business owners are out of touch with the product they produce. A business owner will be attracted to the potential profit, and not the quality of the product. In the field of web development, you will often find the business owner is completely unaware of what their business produces, and how the product could be improved. They seldom come from a communication based background, and have very little interest in the current approaches to developing for the web. If a business owner cannot themselves create the product they are producing, they serve no value to the business and should not be in any position of power. They are obsolete.
This also produces the problem where the owner finds themselves threatened by the workers, and in moments of hopelessness (after-all, it’s not like they can do anything about it as they have no real idea of what the workers actually do) will find themselves punishing workers in subtle ways. This can be as simple as not greeting certain individuals, or forgetting to pay individual workers on the established pay days. These attempts at demoralising workers happens with far too much frequency, especially in the Southern Highlands.
This all said, there is comfort in knowing that if the revolution does come, these are the people that will find themselves with their backs to the walls, but it would be far more constructive and positive to try and change things.
Income and Social Responsibility.
Living in a capitalist society, money tends to become the focus of any discussion regarding business. Strangely enough though, when a business wishes to take advantage of potential workers, the sensitive issue of income always seems to end the job interview process. The interviewers hype the job up, make the worker feel as if they really want the job, and then tell them they’re not worth shit. It is only then that the offered salary will confirm that opinion. In our case, the issue of income will be discussed first.
To keep it easy, 50% of all incoming money will be equally distributed amongst all the workers. This is not net profit, but all incoming monies. Expenses for the running of the business will come out of the remaining 50%. If a business brings in 1 million dollars each year, and the business employs 5 workers, each worker will receive $100k in annual wages. If a business doubles its incoming money, so too will the worker’s wage double.
The remaining 50% will be spent on running costs, as well as projects of social and cultural significance. As an example, a business may choose to set up a record label that will release albums for local bands, or they could organise exhibitions for artists they like. They can hold daily/weekly lunches for the homeless, donate equipment to under-funded public schools, or support important local causes. Every worker shall have a say in where this money is spent, and it is to be spent equally across all the worker’s interests.
A person’s job should also allow that person to follow their external interests, as a person’s role in a business should not dictate who or what they are. If an employee has an active interest in playing and following something like tennis, it should be reasonable for the business to pay for trips to tennis matches the person wishes to experience. As it is to be expected that everyone works on projects with subject matter they are interested in, it becomes a business expense.
All these charitable business ventures will be considered as tax write-offs, and will operate with the goal of running at a constant loss. Tax money never goes to the people who deserve and need it, and therefore it is always a goal to minimise funding wasteful political campaigns, and watching our tax-money paying for expensive weekend retreats for the current political parties. Until the day where political systems are setup to allow people to decide where their tax money goes, we should always try to minimise paying tax.
The Initial Stages.
The people who sacrifice life’s comforts shall find themselves rewarded. The initial stages of implementing such a business model will not be easy, and without an initial investment (which is to be avoided if possible), raising the required funds to reach a level where everyone can be happy will take time. The best plan of deployment will involve working slowly and patiently to build up enough capital to create a stable future environment.
The business should always remain small, with an absolute maximum of 8 staff. Each person should have ideas of what types of projects they would like to work on, and each should be able to expand their abilities to cross over into each other’s fields of expertise. A criticism of the current business climate is that businesses always choose to hire people that specialise in specific fields. Instead, it is important to consider the Ancient Greek’s idea of excellence – where people are able to perform many tasks well rather than just the one. Having workers that understand and are capable of performing everyone’s roles, ensures a healthy respect for every part of the business. This, it is hoped, will help to do away with personal egos and arrogance that one usually finds where people become ‘specialists’.
All employees are always equal. This includes the founders of the business. No single person or groups of people within the business becomes more important than anyone else. The business becomes the priority in every respect. Each person should feel that this is their business, and they should never feel like they cannot criticize the operation of the business. As there is no head or leader of the business, all personal issues between workers must be solved with those involved. This will hopefully lead to an environment where backstabbing will be eliminated.
In regards to who shall work for the business, once the business reaches self sufficiency to hire additional workers, only the best possible people need to be hired to ensure the business remains stable and capable. We cannot find ourselves in a situation where we hire close friends who do not have the abilities to grow with the business, or are not capable at working on their projects. Only the most passionate workers should be hired, people with real ideas of what they would like to work on, and the best possible plan to achieve results that they will personally be proud of. It’s not always easy to find such people, and people should not be hired if they are not right for the business. Doing so will only lead to frustration and friction down the line.
Another complication is where the workers stand ideologically. Workers should feel free to hold any religious or political view without discrimination, but anyone with capitalist tendencies should not be considered. If someone turns up in a suit and tie, and drives an imported European car made in the last 4 years, it is safe to say they are not right for the business. These people are threats to the stability of the business, and eventually they will feel jealousy towards other workers as capitalism promotes inequality. It is important to hold dear the idea that everyone is always equal, regardless of what function they serve in the business. If a full-time cleaner is ever to be hired, the cleaner deserves to earn a salary equal to someone who financially looks after the paperwork. A capitalist cannot, and will never be able to accept this, and therefore they must be avoided at all costs.
Gaining and Keeping Trust.
Without trust, such a business model can never work. As all workers shall be considered equal within the business, there is always potential for power struggles, especially when money starts to flow through the business with relative ease. To combat these inevitable battles, guidelines must be put into place. Although the solution is very simple, it will be said that those that founded the business shall have final the say if in case such a situation does arise. Although it is hoped that these such situations do not become common occurrences, it is almost to be expected over the long term as people are mostly selfish creatures.
All the business financial paperwork is to be completed externally by someone who is not in any way related to any worker. The business financial status shall be public at all time, to ensure every worker knows how the money is being spent, so at no point can a person feel cheated.
Ideas and Expectation.
Ideas should be treated as the currency. A business should build applications that the workers think are useful and interesting. The business should not concern itself with the current cultural climate, nor should it follow trends. Awareness of these is always important, but a business that makes a habit of following trends shall never become larger than the sum of its parts. The business must strive towards building its own future.
The business should always be happy to accept failure. People shall not have to feel responsible if their current project does not achieve greatness. Failure is always to be expected, and minimal time should be dedicated to trying to patch up failures, unless the workers on the project feel it is important.
The Project Becomes the Product.
The ideologies of the business will extend to the outside world. No products produced by the business will in any way take advantage of other people. This includes such things as charging for memberships for users on sites, and charging other businesses for submissions on websites. Basic functionality for the products produced should always be free, and if a subscription service will exist, the end user or potential clients should never be hounded, or worse yet, tricked into subscribing.
Employees should feel free to come and go as they please. If a worker wishes to work from home, or has personal issues that need dealing with, there is no reason for the business to disallow any worker’s request within reason. Obviously if someone chooses to work from home, and does little work for 6 months, it will need to be brought up at regular meetings.
Regular business meetings should be encouraged, for the simple reason that the business must remain relevant. Issues regarding technology should be discussed, as well as whatever else interests people. Although meetings can become a waste of time (and in most cases they are), it is important to think of meetings as opportunities to discuss what we problems we are encountering, and what is to be done to solve them. We must remain philosophical when it comes to issues, and trying to solve problems requires big ideas, and the observing of problems from the outside of the content.
Workers should always remain in Control
All employees shall be hired on a freelance basis, but must be treated as if they are full-time employees. This includes the founders of the business. What this means, is each person will pay their own tax, superannuation, equipment, clothing, and anything else required to do the job. In other words, the worker is responsible in spending their money how they see fit. They will purchase the hardware and software they wish to use, and not what the business tells them they should use. This method of employment has benefits, as everything is claimable under the current tax system, minimising the tax the worker will annually pay.
The business should hire a part-time accountant to take care of all paperwork, as such things only get in the way of creative expression. By hiring people on a freelance basis, they are able to claim all car expenses in their travels to and from work, as well as lunch expenses if they choose not to eat at work. They are able to choose how much they wish to put towards their superannuation. They are able to choose where their money goes, after all, it should be their right. The accountant’s role is to ensure that tax is submitted as painlessly as possible for the worker, so very little time will ever be spent on worrying about tax debts, and filling out paperwork.