Branson and Geldof both do this

02.05.12 | Posted in General

We had a pretty intense morning last Thursday in Melbourne at the Business Chicks brekky. Sir Bob Geldof was our speaker and he crafted his stories with such passion and conviction that anyone who happened to accidentally clink their fork against their coffee cup was heard, such was the silence and attention he commanded.
I spent most of his talk in tears as he lifted the lid on what he’d seen over the last few decades in poverty-stricken Africa. I agree that what’s going on in Africa is our generation’s version of Nazi Germany ie humanity knew about what was happening (to an extent) and yet didn’t take action, or didn’t know what to do to avoid/lessen the atrocities. Geldof spoke of the work he’s spearheaded through Live Aid, and Band Aid, and various other initiatives that have seen him catalyse almost $200 million worth of funding into Africa to ease poverty. He spoke about where he sees the solutions lying, and surprise surprise, it’s women and girls, as we all know. It’s educating women and girls and empowering them to be part of the solution.

Geldof is also a successful businessman and touched briefly on a few of his ventures. I was interested to learn that, just like Richard Branson, Geldof doesn’t have an office. He said he works from his kitchen bench each day.

I’ve toyed with the idea of working from home a little bit (I’m currently in our city office every day) but have never fully gotten my head around it. We did an office refurb in my last business which resulted in me and my business partner having our own individual offices, separated from the team. She loved it. I hated it.

Half the fun of going to work for me is being involved in the office’s activities. Feeding off the energy, having a joke with my colleagues, being able to ask a question then and there without having to set a meeting – these are all reasons I choose to go to an office each day. And open plan works for my leadership style.

However, after hearing Geldof and Branson speak at Business Chicks, I’m questioning the logic of going into the office every single day. Think of the time they save commuting each day, think of the uninterrupted blocks of time where they’re free to focus on the important stuff, think of the perspective they must achieve looking at their businesses from afar.

Curious to hear from you as to what works best for you, particularly if you’re a leader of a team (and not working by yourself at home).


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  1. Gemma Munro

    Great insights into two impressive men, Em, thank you.

    My hubby and I both own our own businesses and share an office at home. I’m often in the city coaching clients, but we relish just hanging out together, working with focus then breaking to eat lunch in the back yard. I think the lack of time together with two little kids makes it even more meaningful.

    Let us know which way you decide!

  2. Emma

    Thanks Gemma for your comment. I would definitely consider working from a home office if I didn’t have a team to lead. The challenge for me is to maintain the business’s culture and continue to drive growth – I’m not for a second saying that it doesn’t run without me, but the team say they feel more fired up when I’m around. Shall keep you posted and thanks for the insight. I must say I’m quietly jealous you get to eat lunch on the grass every day!

  3. Emma

    David, what a privilege to see your name pop up in my inbox this morning as I woke up. Simon hails you as an exemplary example of incredible leadership and I’ll look forward to getting to know you and to learn from you.

  4. Tristan White

    Great post Em!

    I understand your situation completely. I too am the CEO of a fast growing business :) and love being a part of our office team (their energy is amazing!). I’m also super-passionate to make sure we are focussed on growing our family culture. I get it.

    But, as leaders, one of the most important jobs we have is to leave a legacy. To create a sustainable business that can live on without us.

    In my experience, a sustainable culture that can exist and grow without relying on any one person, is the key to a sustainable business.

    I now work from home 3-4 days every week and love it! Our culture continues to grow without me while I get both the freedom to focus on growing our business and the flexibility of seeing my little family most days.

    For me, deciding to work from home is one of the best decisions I ever made. I even blogged about it! Read what I reckon are the ‘5 Reasons why entrepreneurs and business owners should work from home’ over here:

    Let me know if you decide to trial working from home, I’d love to know how it works out for you..

    Oh, and keep these great posts coming!

  5. Carol Jones

    Greetings Emma from rural Australia.

    I’ve been an employee of both large and small companies. Owned a business with 16 staff. And now run my world wide mailorder business from my remote rural property in the beautiful Central Tablelands of NSW.

    As am employee, I always noticed how much better a business performs when the CEO is there. Unless, of course, the CEO is an ogre. But that’s what leaders are for. To lead. In person. Not from afar.

    Ditto for when my partner, an architect, and I shared office premises in Balmain NSW and 16 staff looked to us for guidance. Encouragement. And motivation. And according to them, they liked us being there. Especially if a problem arose. We always had a catered casual lunch with them every Friday and we all benefited from getting together as a group and talking about whatever topic was thrown on the table.

    And by being there all the time, we were never out of the loop.

    My partner and I have worked together from our rural property since 1992 and now love the isolation and solitude. And the uninterrupted time we have to spend on our respective businesses.

    But I could never envisage having staff and not being there with them. I’d have to give up working from home.

    I think you’re so right to make sure you’re with your team. Nothing takes the place of an energetic, highly motivated leader to inspire everyone.

    There’s a right time for everything. And life changes. And working from my beautiful remote rural property is my current idea of heaven.

    Best wishes Emma.


  6. Stephanie Vilner

    Great thought-provokiing piece.

    I no longer run a large team, so i must say home office for me works well!

    Here’s a couple of perspectives you might like to throw into the mix:
    1. Fellow G20YES Australian delegate Glenn who was with me in Mexico: he’s about to go and spend 6 months in the UK, growing his biz. He’ll Skype, but he’ll EMPOWER his team he levas behind in Melbourne because they know he trusts them enough to let them get on with stuff. Everything can be managed remotely these days; they’ll feel like he has total trust in them

    2. Last night, I went to the screening of the Y.E.S. movie hosted by the Young Entrepreneur Society. one key message ‘you can work ON your business or IN your business’ Staying at home makes you do the ON your biz bit best. Maybe one day a week, Em? and w.r.t point 1, you’re giving your team permission to handle things, too!

    3. some people never have a sit down meeting, ever, if they can avoid it and they’re super productive. Creel Price says better to take a walk with me in the fresh air, than to sit behind a desk. No paperwork, just two oxygenated minds. Love that!

    Love your pieces! Steph