14 July 2024
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Start-up entrepreneurs face new ‘success’ hurting laws

Peter Switzer
26 June 2024

Last year, leviathan property developer and builder Tim Gurner copped a media backlash when, according to Euan Black in the AFR he “claimed workers had taken their foot off the gas pedal since the pandemic”. And while manufacturing and mining bosses said he was on the money, the court of public opinion threw the book at Tim!
In support of Gurner’s view, the Minerals Council of Australia chairman Andrew Michelmore, who has more than 35 years’ experience in senior leadership roles in Australia, told The Australian Financial Review that office workers in certain parts of the economy were enjoying “a lifestyle that was not sustainable”.
However, the criticism from non-businessowners actually went global, with US politicians weighing into the argument over the expectations of new age workers.
With this in mind and at a time when old school business builders are worried that workers aren’t on the same page as their bosses, comes this story in today’s AFR with the headline: “Start-ups reject work-life balance ‘beast’.”

The newspaper’s Maxim Shanahan and Paul Smith at The AFR’s Entrepreneur Summit in Sydney yesterday tell us businessowners in start-ups argue that “workers must be prepared to ‘‘go to war’’, to help their companies succeed, rather than worrying about work-life balance.”
Anyone who has owned a business might understand this sentiment, but new laws are coming that will mean ‘warring’ entrepreneurs might have to go into battle with part-time fighters/employees!
Why? Well, the lawyers at claytonutz.com explain it this way: “The right to disconnect permits an employee to switch off and refuse to respond to contact or attempted contact from their employer (or a third party like a client, where the contact or attempted contact relates to work) outside their working hours, unless the refusal is ‘unreasonable’.
“It was pared back from an original proposal which would have seen employers banned from making contact with employees outside their usual working hours. Employees can exercise this right from 26 August 2024 (small business employers are exempt from the operation of the provisions for 12 months following their commencement, that is until 26 August 2025).”
This law change is certainly at odds with the sentiments of two successful entrepreneurs who spoke at the AFR Summit.
The reporters quoted Honey Insurance founder Richard Joffe and Goterra boss Olympia Yarger, who said tech workers needed to realise that “to succeed in a start-up, you’re not optimising for work-life balance”.

‘‘This idea that you can be in an exceptional environment and create wealth while sitting on the beach and finishing at five is just nonsense,’’ Joffe said. ‘‘I think the worst thing you can do is pretend to people that [working at] an early-stage company is a cakewalk, that it’s a ping pong table, and it’s a joke.’’
To use a quote I relied on yesterday (but is again appropriate), people who are risking their reputation, their money and their life in trying to build something important want committed employees.

On the other hand, employees, who don’t share the dreams and the profits of an entrepreneur, see life very differently.
History has shown that it is those entrepreneurs who can select the right people and who provide enlightened leadership, as well as equity options, are the ones who get the employees who make business success happen.

Great business leaders not only learn to deal with employees who aren’t the right fit, they also learn to deal with governments who don’t really understand the importance of job creators, worker trainers and big taxpayers.
One way an entrepreneur gets buy-in from their staff is to underline the importance of the business.
The AFR says the CEO of Goterra, Olympia Yarger, runs “a Canberra-based start-up that grows fly larvae and uses them to convert food waste into protein and fertiliser. It works with customers including Woolworths.”

She only keeps staff who she implies are effectively made of the right stuff. ‘‘The more traditional approach to work-life balance doesn’t exist at Goterra. We believe we’re in a climate crisis, and you don’t take work-life balance during a climate crisis,’’ Ms Yarger said.
‘‘That’s an upfront conversation we have with staff, so we’re attracting the sort of people who want that kind of work environment.”
We live in a new world with new age concerns for employees and their overall happiness, so it’s going to take a special group of entrepreneurs to create great businesses while not having a “we’re at war” mentality.

The likes of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk were “at war” leaders. Bill Gates was famous for 2am phone calls to his key staff, so the new age entrepreneurs will have to be outside-the-square thinkers to win at business and provide a winning life for their workers.

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© 2006-2021 Switzer. All Rights Reserved. Australian Financial Services Licence Number 286531. 
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