What Makes a Great Employer?

I ask myself this question all the time, for a number of reasons. What makes a great employer?

Is it how well they pay? Vacation time? Benefits? Culture? Is there a magic answer to this question?

I’ve thought about it quite a bit, and I think the answer is…yes. There IS a magic answer, or at least a simple one.

At the end of the day, what makes an employer truly great is defined by how they see their employees, and consequently how they treat them.

But what exactly do I mean by “see” and “treat”? Let’s take a look at Zappos.

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5 Ideas for Cool New Restaurants

As anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows, I love food. I’ve eaten at hundreds of different restaurants, and tasted thousands of different dishes. So, after much eating and thinking, I’ve come up with a few ideas for some very innovative end awesome restaurants.

I have no intention of starting a restaurant of my own, but if anyone chooses to use one of these ideas to start one, all I ask is that you invite me in for a free meal ๐Ÿ™‚

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Time – Your Most Valuable Commodity

It’s true. Time is by far your most valuable commodity. You have only so much, and once that time is gone it can never be regained. In fact, you never really know just how much time you have, making it that much more precious.

So, knowing that our time is so valuable, why on earth do so many people settle for so little compensation for their time? I mean, seriously, minimum wage is $7.25, which means that if you worked full-time from the age of 15 to the age of 65, earning minimum wage, you would have made $754,000 in your working lifetime (in 2010 dollars). Even a salaried employee working from 25-55, making the US median of $45,000/yr would bring in only twice that in 2010 dollars. Is that what the best days, hours and years of your life are worth?

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In with Efficiency – Out with Mindless Tradition

In my mind there are few worse things than clinging to a tradition or system without a clear, justifiable purpose. Along the same lines, I’ve always been a huge supporter of finding new and better ways to do things, and I’ve never been content with the words “just because”. From the time I was a child I’ve clung tenaciously to the maxim “Work smarter, not harder”, and this post will endeavor to explore the art of efficiency while identifying the woes of mindless tradition.

I consider myself to be an efficiency expert, and the fact that the last three employers I’ve had have needed to hire two or three people to replace me when I’ve left supports that claim ๐Ÿ™‚ So how is it that I am able to be consistently efficient, regardless of what type of work I am doing? Simple…I test and then seek to improve the existing process for every task I’m asked to do. If no process exists, I create one.

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Remote Working and the Virtual Office

For me, July 17th, 2009 was an incredible day…it marked the last day that I would ever spend working in an office.

Yup, that’s correct. For almost a year I have been a remote worker, working quite literally from a virtual office (my office consists of an Acer netbook, a Sprint MiFi cellular router, an iPod Touch and my HTC Mogul). And, bar none, it has been the best year of my adult working life, not to mention the most productive!

Let’s begin with a story: Once upon a time, long long ago, there was this little thing called the industrial revolution. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It involved factories, lots and lots of workers, and brilliant leaps in efficiency. It completely transformed our country, our economy, and the world. Unfortunately, it had some negative side effects.

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Low Latent Inhibition

I have a condition known as Low Latent Inhibition. For those with a low to average IQ, LLI almost always results in mental disabilities, up to and including insanity. For those with a high IQ, insanity is still possible, but there is another possibility…true creative genius. Luckily I have a genius-level IQ, and as far as I know I’m not insane ๐Ÿ™‚

Who knows, it’s possible that some of the greatest minds in history, from Albert Einstein and Mozart to Leonardo da Vinci, may well have had LLI. No way to prove that, but it’s certainly possible.

Unfortunately, Low Latent Inhibition is difficult to spot, since it seems normal to the person who has it. It could easily be diagnosed as things such as ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, APD (anti-social personality disorder) and in some cases even Tourette syndrome. If you or your children have been diagnosed with any of the above, you may just have LLI, and medication prescribed for the above could cause severe long-term harm if you don’t actually have the condition it was prescribed for.

For many of you, you probably found this page after watching an episode of Prison Break. In that show, Michael had LLI, and much of what he was able to do was because of that condition. S0…

On to the point of the article. Just what is Low Latent Inhibition? (While I’ve re-written extensively, I can’t take credit for most of this, so thank you LLI group on Facebook).

As you grow, the mind learns to label objects and filter out extraneous information. This filtering process is called ‘latent inhibition’ – and it means that the conscious mind is only aware of a fraction of the data being processed by the brain. In some rare cases, the ability to filter incoming data is decreased. People with LLI (low latent inhibition) are incapable of seeing things in terms of labels.

They notice an awful lot more. Reality becomes more vivid and alive. Everyone has different levels of latent inhibition. It can become a problem if the inhibition process is radically decreased. LLI is not a disease. You do not suffer from it. It is a dysfunction that has both positive and negative sides.

For most people, reality is experienced piecemeal, since they concentrate on one task at the exclusion of other things. While typing on the computer, hearing diminishes, smell diminishes – the awareness is narrowed.

With LLI this is not the case at all. The input is constant. Your awareness does not fluctuate. It only oscillates between hyper-awareness and extreme-awareness – with the latter being something to be concerned about. LLI puts you in touch with the raw immediacy of reality.

The overwhelming sensory input means that you experience everything simultaneously: the humming of the computer, the flickering of the monitor, the feel of the clothing you wear, your emotions, the bird in your garden, the smell of coffee… Every minuscule detail happening around you is felt in its entirety.

This does not mean that you read every word and remember every facet…but you do see it, smell it, hear it, taste it and feel it. The information is absorbed, and your mind is sponge-like in its capacity to pick things up. You learn from them, and demonstrate new insights and understanding.

There are pros and cons to having LLI, as you will soon see:

Pros:

  • You notice more, hear more, smell more and feel more through tactile contact. Without any conscious effort, your mind is in possession of a broader intake of information.
  • Upon encountering any form of stimulus (that interests you), your mind automatically dismantles and explores its components.
  • You usually see through the lies and the deceptions that people use in everyday life. If youโ€™ve watched the show Lie to Me, they would call you a โ€œnaturalโ€.
  • When learning, you can often make instantaneous changes. Adaptation is easy.
  • Self-correction is easy because the underlying principle is more evident. Clearer.
  • You make connections and associations between seemingly unrelated material.
  • Comprehension is typically easy. You notice the non-verbal background information and this often provides a more comprehensive picture than what is being spoken.
  • There are exponential leaps of insight taking place all the time, with the background reasoning intact. Wave-upon-wave of permutations, options, variables and choices.
  • Creativity is a given. You see alternatives.
  • You notice things that other people miss
  • Leaps of logic are common. Instead of progressing A,B,C,D and onward, you skip from A to N to Z, accurately.
  • There is no talking voice in your head. No ‘chattering monkey’. The volume and complexity of the information at times drowns out conscious thought entirely.
  • You see the world more thoroughly.
  • Learning is not limited to defined periods of academic study. The assimilation of information is constant, ongoing and never static. There are no lulls or pauses. Everything offers a lesson.
  • Within the maelstrom of information there exists a place of calm and quietude. The eye of the storm. No verbalization exists. No internal narrative. Just presence. No sense of self to intrude of interrupt.

Cons:

  • Education is awkward. Schools are not set-up to cater with this condition. The way in which things are approached by schools seems piecemeal and incomplete.
  • Listening to other people talking/thinking aloud can be infuriating. They are at point A when you have reached point N or Z already.
  • It is difficult to write/type/speak quickly enough to articulate ideas and the breadth of the permutations involved. Verbalizing what takes place in your mind is impossible. Words render only a fraction of the entirety.
  • Tact is necessary since people lie constantly.
  • LLI makes driving a car difficult. Your brain notices countless dangers and variables, and you become overwhelmed and nervous. You are either a terrible driver, or an incredibly good one.
  • Hyper-vigilance can lead to anxiety, and sometimes OCD-like tendencies.
  • Illusions are not very effective. You see through things without wanting to. Conventions and traditions have no significance.
  • You do not value what other people value, and often feel truly unique/alone.
  • Filtering out the variables and honing your options to something workable can be very difficult. Every solution potentially harbors new problems, new variables and new concerns.
  • People may find you to be a little odd, unorthodox or a little intense.
  • You have a habit of saying things that do not fit the accepted norm of behavior. You often choose to disregard conventions because they serve no constructive purpose.
  • Background noise is a major problem. Noisy neighbors can cause serious stress.

So that is that, a nice summary of what it means to have LLI. It made my childhood, especially school, absolute hell (for example, I got along with adults much better than kids, and I could read at a college graduate level in 5th grade). I saw doctors constantly, and was diagnosed with everything under the sun, since little was known of LLI at the time (heck, little is still known).

However, having LLI makes business and entrepreneurship SO much easier, so for me I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Separation of Church and State – A Twisted Tale

Despite what some may say, this is actually a very simple issue. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states quite clearly that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”. This means, quite simply, that no issue of religion is to be determined by the United States Government, nor any State government (14th Amendment).

So, if we accept that, then that means that no body of government at any level has the right to say where you can and cannot pray, where a cross can and cannot be placed, where “God” can and cannot be written, or anything else in regards to religion.

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Pareto’s Law and Client Stupidity

I read a quote yesterday from Albert Einstein that says “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Working as a consultant in the Internet marketing industry, I can tell you that the latter is absolutely true.

Vilfredo Pareto was a genius, and his 80/20 rule is as applicable today as it was in his time. Case in point, SEO clients.

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Employers vs. Employees – A Broken System

Over the years, I have worked for many different companies, from tiny start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. As I’ve worked for such vastly different companies, and observed many others, I’ve been both fascinated and disgusted to see a common theme, what I like to call The Employer vs. Employee Mentality.

As author and speaker Seth Godin would put it, the vast majority of companies seem to see their employees as nothing but cogs in a machine, easily replaced and of little real value. This can be seen at every level of almost every business, in the hiring processes, employee handbooks, management tactics, and turnover rates. So here’s the thing…why? Why is it this way?

In my experience, companies seem to have the attitude that we, the employees, should count ourselves lucky to work for them, the employer. They also seem to assume by default that we, the employees, can’t ever be trusted, and treat us accordingly. This is incredibly wrong.

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MMORPGs – Gangs and Drugs for Gen Y?

Last night my wife and I watched a very interesting documentary called Second Skin, which was all about the addictive world of online gaming, MMORPGs in particular. It followed the lives of a handful of different gamers over the course of a few years, and I have to admit it was fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, it was also sad. I don’t play online games…I never have, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve known a few obsessive online gamers over the years, and honestly, sometimes it is hard not to laugh at them…but I digress.

As per the title of the post, I’ve given this plenty of thought over the years, and watching Second Skin was the final piece of the puzzle. I was quite shocked, as I watched, to see an incredible number of correlations between gangs and drugs, and the gamers and games they play (such as EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, even Second Life). Don’t believe me? Read on ๐Ÿ™‚

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