Q: I work 80 hours a week in an internet start-up. Sounds exciting, but i feel stuck. I need to work hard to keep my job, which i generally enjoy, but in doing so i miss out on the rest of my life. How do i achieve a balance?
A: The choice is yours. You have bargaining power. If you want to spend more time at home, negotiate to make it happen. Need more vacation? Negotiate.
The nature of the employer-employee relationship has changed. Think about it. At your firm, are the employees treated as investors? Because this is what they are - intellectual investors. Every day they bring their heads and hearts to work. Our advice is simple: think about what you want from your job and your company, then knock on the company's door and tell them.
Remember that the company is disposable. If, for one reason or another, CNN goes down the drain, it's not detrimental to Larry King. If Warner is teetering on the abyss, the artist formerly known as Prince is unlikely to have sleepless nights. In an age where capital is abundant, the bargaining power of everyone is increasing by the hour, by the minute, by the second.
The only thing that now makes capital dance is talent. Take some dancing lessons.
Q: You talk about funky business, but for most people the changes in working life you describe are frightening rather than funky. There are a lot of insecure, fearful people waiting for the funky bubble to burst. Aren't you just putting a positive and fashionable gloss on something that has a lot of negatives?
A: Make no mistake, there are negatives. Number one, not all companies will win in the e-commerce scramble. Obvious, we know, but there are just too many plain vanilla e-business companies out there. Whatever the anti-evolutionists might argue, Darwin was right. Some companies will die and others will be consumed - only a few will prosper. The companies that succeed will be those that recognise that power now belongs to people with unique skills, not to those with the fattest wad of dollars.
In addition, the internet will eventually enable the demanding customer always to get the best deal. As your message suggests, this is a frightening prospect for a great many organisations. Then again, if you find acknowledging, developing and rewarding people a frightening prospect, you really shouldn't be running a business. Equally, if you are daunted by groups of demanding customers, go elsewhere to earn your living.
Q: I have an old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar shop. I am not a multinational, but would like to add some clicks to my bricks. The technology i understand, but how about the relationship between the shop and the web site? What's the point of a shop when you're selling on-line?
A: You're right. Shops will have to change. Until recently, we designed, built, manned, organised and decorated shops to sell stuff in them. The onus was on optimising shelf-space. With the introduction of e-commerce, everything changes. A real-world bookstore, or any other store for that matter, cannot compete with a virtual one in terms of availability, price and convenience. The result for those in the real world is that they must compete on real world advantages - don't sell stuff, show stuff. And, if you're good enough, transactions still await around the corner.
Another consequence is that many manufacturers will be forced to set up shops to show stuff - and a lot of shops that sell stuff produced by someone else will be forced to close down operations. The shop will be reincarnated as an aesthetic and entertaining experience. Visit the Tate and learn something about the shop of the future. Visit Legoland. Do it now.