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Starting a workstyle revolution
Episode 1239th January 2024 • The Happy Entrepreneur • The Happy Startup School
00:00:00 01:00:16

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Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst are the cofounders of Hoxby, a community and social enterprise that provides companies with the best talent and helps people work in a way that best aligns with their chosen lifestyle.

They're both advocates of what they call Workstyle, and have just published a book called Workstyle: A revolution for wellbeing, productivity and society.

They also consult with companies to help them be more resilient and inclusive by learning how to take advantage of the rich diversity of talent across the whole of society.

During this episode, you’ll learn more about their ideas, how and why they built Hoxby and what it takes to create organisations designed to cater for individualised ways of working.

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Feeling energized, excited about this conversation.

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Um, after a week of just, and someone told me maybe it's to do with the

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lunar cycle, I'm not sure about.

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Yeah, I do.

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I do find the darkness brings us down.

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But I, I'm curious about the whole kind of lunar cycle thing and

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how it affects people's moods.

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Anyway, in terms of that kind of cycles and energies and moving and how we

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kind of, uh, I think be in, whether it's life or work, uh, I think the, the

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interest for me in this conversation is, is about our individual cycles in

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the way we want to sort of operate.

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And how that fits in with what I perceive a lot of the time and,

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and being outside of like a formal organization for the past 20 years now,

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in terms of like, Laurence and I have been working together one way or the

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other, on our, by ourselves on our own.

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There's, I had this perceived sense of a structure and when I

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was working in a business, there's a structure and a pattern that,

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um, that was set by the business.

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And then there was my own needs for how I wanted to work.

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And I remember very clearly at a young age is I phrased it.

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I wanted my hobby to be my job.

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And I was wondering what that meant.

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And, and part of it was actually the joy of it, but I think there

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was something around it kind of fitting with the energies that I

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bring to the day and to the times.

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Um, but I, I didn't see how that worked at the time.

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This is, you know, good 30 years ago.

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Laurence and I know each other for 40 years now.

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Um, and that was a different world it felt in terms of world of work, but I feel

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though we're stepping in, um, in different ways into a new way of doing things.

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And, and that's why I was really intrigued by, um, a, uh, your community

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Hoxby, um, uh, that we, I was introduced to by Fran Uri, who's a part of our

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community, and he was telling me about, he said, you gotta talk to these guys.

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It's exactly the same stuff that you're talking about.

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I was like, okay, cool.

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So I talked about it, uh, and now recently with the book, uh,

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Workstyle, um, I feel there's, uh, even more of a reason to talk to you.

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So before we jump into that, I think, uh, what would be useful for those of

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our community and the people who, uh, listening in now is maybe to give, uh,

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kind of a brief history of yourselves, Maybe, and then maybe talk a bit more

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about the, the work you do at the moment.

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Okay.

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Thank you Carlos.

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I think it's probably sensible to just start by, explaining

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Workstyle in, in very simple terms.

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This is the name of the book and the, and importantly the word that Lizzie

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and I created back in 2014, as a word to give us a language to describe our own

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preference of when and where we work.

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So having a Workstyle means having freedom to decide when

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and where you work for yourself.

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And that we think is an incredibly important word.

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It's not just a word we came up with in the pub one night, though,

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that's exactly where we did come up.

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Um, but it's a word that's increasingly important now that we

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can, broadly a lot of our work can be done from anywhere and any time.

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Um, so we need to shift our mindsets away from traditional.

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Industrial age, nine to five, Monday to Friday type thinking,

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and into, uh, anywhere, anytime.

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And Workstyle is the word that we created to help us do that.

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But that conversation in the pub where we came up with that is kind

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of, I think, worth us talking about in terms of our, our history and

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how we kind of came to this point.

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So, uh, it was a cold December 9th in 2014, and Izzy and I

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had two for one cocktails, uh, because we were classy like that.

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Um, but we were having a chat about how we were feeling about work at that point.

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And, um, for me, I'd already reached burnout by then and realized that I

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needed to have a, uh, a pretty major rethink about my life and, and my work.

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So prior to that point, I would wake up at half past five.

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I'd leave the house at half past six to get to the office for half past seven,

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and I would get home 12 hours later.

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Uh, and I would do that every day, uh, five days a week,

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on the basis that I couldn't physically give any more than that.

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Um, and I was giving everything I had every day.

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And as I say to my 4-year-old son on a boringly regular basis,

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the faster you run, the more it hurts when you hit the wall.

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And in all honesty, I hit the wall eventually at that point.

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Um, and I became ambivalent to our successes, numb to our challenges,

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our problems, and really just fell out of love with work.

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And I'd reached burnout fully, but didn't really realize that until

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my wife, Sarah told me that I'd become a shadow of my former self.

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And so we decided to take a week off, some holiday rest in recuperation

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to see if that would help.

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And we went to Spain for a friend's wedding, but I can't tell you much

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more than that about that holiday, um, because I wasn't really present enough

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to be forming any memories of it.

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And that was the thing that kind of made me realize when we got

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back that time away, time off wasn't gonna fix this problem.

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Uh, I needed to try and resolve it in my head.

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Um, I needed a new psychological relationship with work.

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And so that's when I decided to stop thinking about my work value in terms

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of how many hours I was doing and start thinking about it in terms of what I was

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outputting and the impact of that output.

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And that was the kind of big overriding thought that I took to the pub table

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that night to share with Lizzie, which was about being judged by output rather

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than by input and wanting to change the way I work to be more like that.

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So my, my background is slightly different.

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Um, less about mental health and more about having a family

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was the catalyst for me.

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Um, for me it was when I had my first child, my son Finn, that I

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think my eyes were properly opened to enduring inequalities at work.

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And I'm kind of embarrassed about that.

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Because actually until then I'd, I'd really been quite ignorant

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about the number of people who are being excluded from work

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because of traditional structures.

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And, and this was in 2014 that Alex and I had that conversation.

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So things have changed a lot even since then.

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And kind of suddenly I wasn't willing to be working during Finn's waking hours.

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I wanted to be working during nap times or evenings.

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And in particular, I had this common thing with Alex that kind of led to

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the meeting of minds, which was I wanted to be judged on my output rather

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than being in an office at the times that traditional work expected me

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to be, um, which made me very angry.

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I went through a phase of anger.

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So Alex and I came up with the word Workstyle in the pub.

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We decided we should do something about it.

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We started Hoxby as a prototype organization to do that.

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And then two years after that, I had some serious complications in my pregnancy

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with my twin daughters, Zoe and Meghan.

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And that meant that I had to have surgery at 23 weeks, followed

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by nine weeks of bedrest.

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And being able to work from bed during those nine weeks with

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only a very few people know about my personal circumstances

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was a complete lifeline for me.

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It was a welcome distraction, but it was also just a world to escape into

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where I felt valuable and I connected with my purpose and as well as other

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people during what were actually really long anxiety ridden days on my own.

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And we were incredibly lucky that.

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Both my daughters survived against the odds and the day we brought them home

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from hostel and couldn't fit the double pram through the front door of our

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London flat, we decided to move across the country to Bristol, and I was able

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to do that without any disruption to my career, which I felt very privileged for.

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And I, I still feel privileged for that, but I also feel like

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everyone should have access to that.

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We shouldn't have to feel privilege for it.

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So, fast forward to 2020 and outta the blue, I was diagnosed with breast

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cancer, um, which as you can imagine, turned my world completely upside

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down as assuming healthy 38-year-old.

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Um, and again, Workstyle was my savior.

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You know, whether it was helping to pass the time in the chemotherapy chair or

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helping the cancer diagnosis not to define me or just not to fill my head, which

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I was so determined that it wouldn't.

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And since then, almost unbelievably, my husband has been diagnosed with cancer.

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Um, so I have a whole host of reasons why Workstyle is deeply personal

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for me, but now my Workstyle is, is fitting my work around, supporting

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him through his treatment, trying to stay healthy myself, and manage the

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side effects of my medication, and looking after three small children.

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So as origin stories go, it's quite a long one.

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Um, but suffice to say that for us, this is not just our work, this is our, our

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purpose, and we are profoundly connected to what we're doing through Workstyle.

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There's so much to work with there in terms of like different paths we can

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go down in terms of conversations, uh.

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Well I was thinking about before when you were talking about this catalyst

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almost for you, you guys individually changing the way you want to work.

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Well, certainly knowing that something wasn't, wasn't right was when we started

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the agency, me and Carlos back in 2004, I think it was, wasn't it around then?

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We were lucky that far fast forward five years or so, we both had kids around

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the same, same stage and you know, if one of us hadn't decided to go down that

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route, um, or got married at the same time, then we, maybe we would've had

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different ambitions for the, the business.

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But luckily we both, almost without even saying it out loud, I think it

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just kind of happened that we both just kept the business afloat for a

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few years while our kids were young and managed to go home at lunchtime or to

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go and do the things that needed doing.

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Um, but we didn't really grow the business much in that, in that period.

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And that's one thing that I'm very grateful for that, that time as they

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will say, you don't get it back, do you that this first few years.

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And you, Lizzie saying that you didn't wanna compromise on that.

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And that's something you can never, you can get more money over time,

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but you can never get that time back.

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So that's one thing I'm grateful for.

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Um, but yeah, like you said, Carlos, fast forward 10 years then needs change.

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And I think that's the thing we've learned is the reason you start

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a company might change over time.

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And so, um, maybe you're doing less of the work you love doing or maybe you want more

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or something different from, from work.

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And so, again, we were very lucky that we both got to a similar point in our journey

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where we were also thinking about the same sort of things about what was important

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to us, but also not wanting to compromise on home and family life too, and how

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building that into the business and work is, is always a challenge, I think.

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What's brings coming to mind is, uh, a way of thinking I had in the past

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of, there's work life separation.

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You know, there's, I turn up to work, I do my work, life happens

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and I do life outside of work.

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And I found that difficult because the energy I bring to my work is

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very dependent on what's happening, uh, uh, in the rest of my life.

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And, if, should shit happen in my life, not having a a, a workplace that's

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understanding or a way of working that can flex with that creates so

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much tension, so much difficulty and, uh, and makes anything that's

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happening outside of work even harder.

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From my perspective,

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Carlos, I would add that shit happens in everyone's life.

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Like, you know, Alex and I have talked about this a lot over the last eight

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years, that we've yet to meet someone who doesn't have some shit in their lives.

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You know, if nothing else, we've all just lived through a global pandemic, you know?

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And so I think that's not unique to a small group of people.

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That's actually everyone who has varying types of shit going on.

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But you, that is, as an says, it's a normal, you know, and

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that's why we think we need to fundamentally reshape work around it.

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Exactly.

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And, and it is that model I feel, uh, like, oh, the way I perceive it.

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Some people have this mechanistic perspective of how, how business is, it's

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like input, output, a machine, it works at a very rigid, uh, uh, in a very rigid way.

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And what I'm understanding from your work and what you are trying to.

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A champion is that this machine is actually full of human beings with

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Yeah.

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Lives

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Absolutely

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where shit goes on.

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And so to suddenly say, oh, and we have a, one of, one of our communities,

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Serena Savini who, who has this podcast about coming back from a life changing

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experience, coming back to work.

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When you don't have a workplace that is able to appreciate that, understand that,

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work with that, how much pain that causes for the human being experiencing that.

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And then what does that mean for organizations who are losing the diversity

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of talent and experience and knowledge and creativity because they don't, this

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person doesn't fit into the machine.

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Yeah.

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I mean, we're talking about how life is really important

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and work should fit around it.

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Um, but we are conditioned to think that life just has to fit around work.

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'cause it's a, it is a, the nine to five, Monday to Friday

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construct is an immutable reality.

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It's fixed, it can't be changed.

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But actually it can be.

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To go back to lunar cycles, it's one of, that's probably one of the last remaining

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truths about the, the planet, which, you know, we have a moon and the sun, all the

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other stuff is human, is human construct.

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You know, the working week, the nine to five, they're things that we've

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created to navigate, uh, the world and find the best ways of collaborating.

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Um, but we also have to be open to the idea that they can change.

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And as people, we have the agency to change it and make

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it what we want it to be.

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So why not make it such that work fits around life, uh, now that

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we can, now that we can work from anywhere at any time, let's change it.

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Because we know that, that, that helps people to deal with those changing

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circumstances or their personal situation.

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And that control to deal with those things.

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That autonomy is what we know improves individual wellbeing.

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And we know it improves productivity.

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And the research that we conducted within Hoxby over the last four

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years supports that argument.

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And that's what we're saying in the book as well, which is if you can enable people

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to have autonomy, to decide when and where they work for themselves, then you

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can get an increased state of wellbeing and increased productivity as a result.

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But more than that, you've got people who are able to fit their work around their

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life and that's just better for everyone.

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We ha live in a world that is really different from the ones Sir

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Robert Owen lived in 207 years ago when he came up with the concept

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of the eight hour working day.

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So much has evolved since then.

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It's such a different world, and we need to recognize that we've invented

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electricity, let alone the internet, portable hardware, you know, prevalence

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of wifi, and, and truly reflect on whether the way that we're working is

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fit for the digital age we live in.

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Rather than, and, and I know that, you know, the happy Startup community is

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preaching to the converted on this, but you know, the fact is we can work

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from wherever and whenever we want, as long as there's a space for our

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laptop if we work in a trust-based environment, um, because it, it means

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that we can be defined by our output rather than where we're going to work.

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And so I think for us, the, the technology side is really

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important, but also attitudes to work are fundamentally changing.

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More and more people are changing their perspective, that actually

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we can choose how we earn a living.

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And again, I know that this community is one that really believes in this, but

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we are trading that idea of a job for life, even for those of us who started

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in more corporate traditional careers, for self-employment portfolio careers.

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And, and that means a fundamentally different engagement

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and relationship with work.

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There's a, we can go, it feels like there's, there's a, we can go a bit

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deeper here in terms of what does it mean, what does work mean to us these days?

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Uh, and as, as people and what, what is it we are trying to get out of

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work other than just a paycheck?

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And then there's this other aspect I'm curious about in terms of, yes,

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we are, uh, in an age that facilitates more a different way of working.

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How, what does that, how does that work?

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What is it that we need to think about?

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What, what, how do we create organizations that are designed to cater for individual

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needs around work and how, how we wanna fit them around their life.

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So maybe we start off with that and then we can maybe dive a bit deeper.

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Well, I think that's, that, that second point is kind of why we

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wrote the book, uh, Workstyle.

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So in 2014 we came up with the word, and we've been testing.

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The concept within Hoxby ever since.

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So the book is the sum of eight years of experience in running an organization

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whereby everyone has complete autonomy.

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And it's also the last four years of research into the relationship between

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autonomy, wellbeing, and productivity.

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So in terms of trying to shift mindsets, which we think is the fundamental,

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fundamentally biggest challenge and why we wrote the book in the first place,

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shifting mindsets away from industrial age paradigm and into new digital age

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reality that we now live and work in is the thing that we are most trying to

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achieve with the book, and through, uh, the consultancy side of what we do at

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Hoxby is helping organizations to do that.

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And there are three things that we learned very early on, uh,

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in starting Hoxby, which is that organizations need to be digital

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first, asynchronous and trust-based.

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And, uh, Lizzie talked about being trust-based earlier on.

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And what we mean by by that is trust-based rather than presence based.

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So trust someone to deliver an output rather than relying on seeing them

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at a desk to trust that they're working and, and asynchronous.

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I would say they're, say often we're not at a desk, are we, Alex?

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Like.

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No, quite.

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You know, I talked about working from bed.

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I work from crouching on a train platform.

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I regularly work from the hairdresser.

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Um, you know, now my hair's grown back after chemo.

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Um, and for us, like I feel really passionately that I am as

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dedicated to my career as anyone is.

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Don't judge me on whether I'm working from the hairdresser.

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The other, the other two things.

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So asynchronous and, and digital first.

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So, um, being asynchronous rather than synchronous means moving away from the

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assumption that we have to be working together at the same time in order to

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work together, which is something that, you know, we're, we've had 200 years of

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human conditioning to learn how to do.

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It's difficult to let go of, but when we can shift to asynchronous as the

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default and still have synchronous conversations, don't get me wrong, but

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shift to asynchronous is the default.

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Suddenly we can work more, more independently with more autonomy and

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with more people around the world.

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So that's really important.

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And being digital first rather than physical first.

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So rather than assuming we all have to commute to shared buildings in order

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to collaborate, let's just accept that even when we're in those buildings, most

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of our collaboration happens online.

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So we don't actually need to be in those buildings.

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We don't need to be thinking about ourselves as collaborating

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in person physical first, but actually digitally first.

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And then let's save those moments of in-person collaboration

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for deeper connection and for specifically chosen moments where

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it's of the most value to do that.

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Elon Musk comes to mind.

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Um, Musk have must seen you now that he wants everyone back in the

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office and minimum 40 hour week.

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So I'm curious to know, say when you're starting out, like we've done and we

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help people start out business, you start out with a good intention, but

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then maybe the fear comes in for, for whatever reason, in terms of revenues

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drop or productivity goes down.

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And so someone comes in like him and probably thinks, well what we

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need to do is get everyone back in the office working harder together.

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Yeah.

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I, I think, I think, can I just speak to the, the context for this first and

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foremost, which is that I think a lot of organizations took on remote working

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methodologies during the pandemic because they had to, not necessarily because it

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was part of a strategic conscious choice for how to best operate that business.

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They took it on 'cause they had to, and now post pandemic, perceptions

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have changed among the workforce and companies and the way that

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they're run, fundamentally are at odds with each other at the moment.

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So people want more autonomy and flexibility.

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Companies want to retain as much control as possible 'cause that's

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how they know how to operate.

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So they're kind of meeting in the middle with some sort of compromise,

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most of which looks like hybrid.

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So what you end up with is a compromise.

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And then from that position of compromise.

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When things don't work or things don't go as well as you want them to,

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leadership has a decision to make, and it will invariably defer to the position

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of comfort or, um, previous success.

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So it's, okay, well this hasn't worked.

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Now we've got a good reason to all get back in the office.

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Rather than shifting to a more proactive strategy, which says, actually this

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is really great for our business.

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If we can make autonomous work work or remote work work, we can

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see how it's better for individual wellbeing and collective productivity.

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So this is something we're gonna commit to doing for the longer term.

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I think that's the big difference and the big thing that companies are

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sort of wrestling with now is what is our proactive strategy, our way

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of working into the future that we are going to be working towards and

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trying to get to, rather than how are we gonna navigate back to the way

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we used to do things before covid?

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And I think that's partly about competitive advantage.

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Like I think there's, for Alex and I, as you can tell, the real driver behind this

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is about wellbeing and about society.

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But the way that you work as an organization is a source of competitive

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advantage if you get it right.

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And there are too many leaders who aren't recognizing that.

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They're seeing the way that you work as being only on the HR

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agenda and not being something that is central to business success.

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Yeah.

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And I think one thing that Alex and I are passionate about is cognitive diversity.

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There are groups who are fundamentally being excluded from work.

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And we talk about seven different groups who are fundamentally excluded,

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older workers, carers, um, those with chronic illness, living with

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physical disabilities, mental health challenges, parents because school

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hours completely don't align with working hours for the most part,

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and people who are neurodivergent.

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Those seven groups, forget all the discrimination that's

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also happening at work.

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Those seven groups simply can't engage with work.

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And what's interesting is not only should we socially bring those people into

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work, if we're socially responsible, we should want to allow those people

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to work, there are some massive gaps between the people who want to work

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in those groups and who, who do.

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So for instance, 77% of people with autism want to work, but only 26% do.

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That's a 51% gap of many of them.

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Exceptionally talented people that want to work but can't because of the

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structure of the way that we work.

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But also if we can bring more diverse people into work, firstly, it will

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address the UK labor market shortages.

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Um, but also we will be better businesses, because we'll come up with more, we'll

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be more collectively intelligent, we'll come up with better solutions.

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So for us, this is a really virtuous cycle.

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I would love a chat with Elon Musk to go back to the Elon Musk conversation.

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I wanna have that chat with him.

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I don't doubt he wouldn't listen to a word I say.

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But I think the thing that's scary for Alex and I, and the reason that

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this is time, it's timely for us publishing the book now, is it felt

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like individuals went through an enlightenment during the pandemic.

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And now what it feels like is with the recession here, businesses are going

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the opposite direction and starting to pull people back into the office

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and contract into, um, traditional ways of working all over again.

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The tension that I'm.

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So exploring or thinking about at the moment is this balance

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between purpose and profit.

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Um, trust and fear, uh, speed and well, the speed of human beings, you know,

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the speed of business, technology and markets and the speed of a person,

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just a human being going through life.

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And so I, I'm curious.

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Look and I'll connect to the Elon Musk thing 'cause I've been watching

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a lot of documentaries about him.

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It's fascinating, alien.

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Um, but this real intensity, this real need to make things happen,

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real push this kind of like, the way it's portrayed as superhuman,

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psychopathic workaholic mentality because he's driven by something.

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And so he is on a time stable that doesn't fit a lot of people

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if they're gonna have any kind of normal or any life outside of work..

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So there's this business imperative that leaders may have, they seem,

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and where that's coming from.

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And then there's this, uh, what I'm hearing from both of you, there's

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also this social imperative of like, actually what does it mean for the

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people within the organization?

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Actually one thing I'll add is the BrewDog, uh, story comes

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to mind with that as well.

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'cause I saw James Watt, the founder, he said a lot of stick over the last couple

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of years about the culture in the company.

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But one thing he talked about was how basically, um, he's, he was on a growth

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path and he, his defense for the way he treated people in the company was,

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well, if you don't like it, don't, don't stay around like, we are on this path.

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This is what it takes to work in this way.

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And so, like with Elon Musk, it's almost like, well.

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Don't come work for us then.

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Which is again, like you said, with those groups at the very least,

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nevermind people who don't value that.

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workstyle a very narrow view of the kinds of people you have in your organization.

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It speaks volumes for the culture, I think as and, and how you choose to lead

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your organization and what you choose to prioritize very much sets the tone for how

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you're gonna go about achieving your goal.

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Whether you achieve your goal or not is kind of secondary to that.

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I think for us, uh, Lizzie and I set our purpose at Hoxby to, to create

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a happier, more fulfilled society through a world of work without bias.

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And we set that on day one and it hasn't changed.

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Um, everything that we do within the businesses is every decision

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we make is based around that.

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Is it going to help us to create a happier, more fulfilled society

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through a world of work without bias?

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And if the answer is no, then we won't do it.

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And by trying to pioneer Workstyle within the Hoxby, uh, as an organization, all

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of the work that we do, so whether that work is in the creation of, uh, campaigns

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or, uh, design studio or press office stuff, which is makes up the bulk of the

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work we've done over the last year, uh, eight years or so, whether it's that in

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the way we do that or what we learn from that to make us better at autonomous

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work that we can then pass on to our clients and the rest of the world who

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want to know more about working with autonomy, which is basically the other

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half of our business, the consultancy side of our business, everything we're

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doing is in pursuit of creating this world of work without bias that, that

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we've aspired to create from the outset.

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And we wanted to do, we wanted to change the world within five

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years when we started Hoxby.

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It didn't happen.

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Oh, how ignorant we were.

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But, but the pandemic happened and that changed a lot, uh, for us.

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But it meant we were ready, uh, for when that pandemic hit the way that

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the organization was structured to have autonomy, and the, the work that we did

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was all, was all in place, such that we were able to continue business as usual

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right the way through the pandemic.

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And in fact, we, we grew faster during the pandemic than at any other time.

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So I think my learning from that as a leader would be, have your, your

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purpose and the way that you work and the decisions that you make in pursuit

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of that purpose, determine the culture and how it feels to be on that journey.

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And when you reach success, eventually, then you'll know you've reached it

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in the way that you set out to from, from the outset and, and how you

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treat people along the way speaks to the type of leader that you are.

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And I, I would add as well that this, this has been a big experiment at Hoxby.

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It hasn't been an easy journey.

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You know, if it was easy to work this way, everyone would've

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been doing it 10 years ago.

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But whenever we've been, had a tough decision to make, being at a crossroads

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felt like there was an impasse, Alex has been amazing at always

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bringing us back to that purpose.

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And it always makes the decisions for us.

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It always guides us.

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It gives us something that we can anchor everything in.

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And I think emotionally as well as culturally for our organization, I

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think for the two of us as leaders, that's been amazing as well because

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it's been something consistent and it's been a real help to us in making

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decisions that are, are right, I think for what we wanted Hoxby to be.

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So what's springing up to me is this, this I, you're talking about

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Workstyle revolution, this kind of also revolutionary approach

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to thinking about business.

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Um, there's this idea of making money and then what I'm

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hearing is making a movement.

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And, you know, people talk about bringing, you know, what's your purpose?

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What's the business's purpose from our perspective of the Happy,

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Startup, School, we talk a lot about, um, working from the inside out.

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And there's, there's a set of, it isn't something that you come up in a boardroom

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of like, oh, okay, this is our purpose.

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It's like both of you, well, I guess that you are feeling living.

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These are needs that you have.

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These are things that are personal to you that you are now turning

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into or articulating in a way to gather people around you.

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Yeah.

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And it's that need to change the world because you need

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it to change for yourself.

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And then through that message, it sounds like you've, people

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have been attracted to that.

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And that's been part of the business success in inverted commas.

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I think so.

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And, and our community, the Hoxby community is not

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ancillary to the business.

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It is the essence of what Hoxby is.

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It's how we deliver all the work that we deliver for clients like

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Unilever, Merck, AIA, Amazon.

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So it is the fundamental of the business.

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But more than that, when we talk about what is success, I think for Alex

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and I, the most profound moments of success are the individual stories

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we hear about, we ha how we have transformed just one person's life

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or, or a couple of people's lives.

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You know, we had a, we have an annual meetup, um, not to do work, but just

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to have fun and connect each year.

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And someone came up to me at that and said, I, I just wanted you to

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know that if it wasn't for Hoxby and working in a Workstyle way, I

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simply wouldn't be able to work.

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And it for me, that is success.

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Like forget turnover or you know, growth or any of that.

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Like that is what we're here for.

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We're here just if we can just change a few people's lives for the better,

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then that's what we're here for.

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And that, I think when you work for yourself as well, it's not only

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about self-management, it's about self-motivation and it's about no

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one giving you an end of year review and being able to be okay with that.

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And I think those little conversations like that are the things that

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massively spur Alex and I on.

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it's absolutely that.

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And for me, if I think back to what you were saying before, Carlos,

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and, and talking about falling out of love with work, I think one of

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the reasons that I fell out with work and went through burnout was

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because I didn't have a clear enough understanding of why I was doing it.

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I was focusing a lot more on what I was doing, the number of hours I was doing

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rather than the purpose of that work.

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What was that achieving in the world?

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What was, what was I bringing, uh, for all that effort?

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What did I have to show for it?

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What was my impact?

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And I think that's where having, you know, a sense of purpose that aligns

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with the, the business that you're running, and that meaning something to

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you personally is where you can derive, uh, success and Happiness and, and

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good feelings from what you're doing.

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This is where I feel this, you know, talking about this Workstyle

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revolution, trying to essentially start a new conversation around work

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for me also invites a new conversation around what does success mean?

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And, and if we're going to work differently, we are also gonna

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pursue success differently.

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I assume.

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And that's why I'm hearing from you.

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'cause when one of the things we talk about a lot within our

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community and within the programs that we run, we talk about impact.

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What does impact mean?

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And I think some people can think of impact, has to be impact with a massive I.

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You know, I'm gonna change the world.

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Mm-Hmm.

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In five years, the world of work will be different.

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And.

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Yeah,

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it can be, I have a conversation with someone and I see a shift.

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Their lives have changed, that one person's life has changed because

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of something I've said, something I've done, something I've created.

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And personally that, you feel, I feel that a lot more than maybe

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having an idea that someone's read something out in the ether that might

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have made them think differently.

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And it's a, it's a curious thing for me about how our relationship

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to purpose and impact can kind of motivate us to do things in a certain

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way or to to, to create and to step out and to, and to be, to be seen.

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'cause you know, you guys are now saying this is, this is our perspective on the

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world of work and and I, and we believe in that we're gonna stand behind it even

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though there may be people who disagree.

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Yeah.

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And, and I think what we, what we take from our work is really important

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to our sense of self and whether, whether we're feeling like we're being

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successful to your, to your point.

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To articulate myself better, perhaps I should say Hoxby

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and the Workstyle revolution hasn't made me rich financially.

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It's hard work.

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And, you know, it's a, it's a pursuit, uh, of, of, of a mission and of a, of a

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sense of purpose that is non-financial.

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It's actually about, as Lizzie's articulated, changing individual

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lives, doing something that that can fundamentally improve the way

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people live and work is far more rewarding, uh, than salary alone.

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Uh, it's kind of what do you take from your work as being the thing that,

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um, that gives you most satisfaction, I guess, that can be seen as whether,

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uh, as your own definition of Success.

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And we live in a world that is, I'm gonna say driven by money, but money

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is an important part of being able to survive and do things in this world.

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So we need to create products and services that are of value.

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So I, I'll be curious because, you know, another, um, challenge that many

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of people in our community and the people who are, who kind of believe

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in the things that we believe in is like, yes, I wanna do purposeful work.

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Yes, I want to make, uh, impact and I need to pay the bills.

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I need to employ people I need to purchase services that allow me to do the work.

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And so I'm curious on that aspect of how, how are you thinking about that aspect

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of talking about your work, selling your work, pricing your work, defining

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even what that work is, the value you are creating so that it, I am assuming

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reinforces blend supports the mission.

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Yeah, I think we, one of the things we talk about a lot is about creating

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more Workstyle work for more Hoxbys.

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So for us, there's this measure that is halfway to that vision that we're

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trying to create, which is that the more Workstyle work we create

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for Hoxby that they can deliver on their own Workstyle, truly with the

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freedom to choose when and where they work, the more we are achieving.

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Um, and last year we paid Hoxby 2.5 million pounds.

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So that feels good that it's almost like that matters more than the turnover.

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It's the, it's the bit that we put back.

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Those are people being able to earn by working in their own way and

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fitting their work around their lives rather than the other way around.

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But I, I think that the thing that Alex and I have gone, and Alex, you

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know, were saying earlier that when we started, we thought, right, five

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years, we'll just change the world.

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Um, and I think what we were measuring ourselves on at the time

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was this kind of hockey stick growth.

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We just thought, let's do this and then it'll grow and that'll be great.

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And the thing that, you know, we're older and wiser now, and this goes

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back to what Laurence was saying at the beginning, we've realized

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that this isn't just about growth.

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There is an element of, of being of significant enough of a scale that it

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will feel like we've had an impact.

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And for instance, working with big businesses like Twitter, please,

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um, in order to change the way they work will have a massive impact

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because they, that will, it's just simply the way to impact more people.

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But I think for us, it's, we've learned over the last eight years that

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actually it's a combination of factors.

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It's about being there for my husband when he has chemo and, um,

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picking my kids up from school.

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And also about being able to get more Workstyle work for more Hoxbys.

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So I think it's, it's just more nuanced rather than simply being what is the

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top line growth that we're looking for.

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A few years ago we became a B Corp and, uh, obviously being a B Corp is

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about balancing purpose and profit and, and, uh, having a positive impact.

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And I think that's been incredibly valuable for us.

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Being part of that community and that movement has helped us to understand

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better how we can have an impact.

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So it's not just on how we impact the people within Hoxby community and

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enabling them to work in a Workstyle way.

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It's how we can apply everything we've learned from that to help

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other businesses do it in the way that Lizzie describes, and work

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with them to improve their impact.

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And if we can do that, then we as a community are amplifying,

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uh, the impact we can have.

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And I think that's where we are able to bring our sense of purpose right

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through every aspect of what we do now, which is that we work with companies

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to improve their impact as, and, and at the same time do the same for us.

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So I think that's a really helpful, um, framework and, and has been a

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really useful guide in shaping our business in, in and its purpose.

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So I'm gonna articulate it in another way, 'cause I, I'm, I'm really, what I

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wanna help, who I want to help is there's, um, individuals in our community and

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people who follow our work, who, who have this real strong sense or need for

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purpose, but maybe struggle with this, all right, how do I make money from it?

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How do I, maybe there's even a blocker around the making the money from it.

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And, uh, I mean, you can correct me if I'm wrong here.

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The way I understand your business and how I am an understanding is how it's

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evolved is there are organizations out there who want projects to

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be completed with the best teams.

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And there are people out there who are very talented, but don't necessarily

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wanna work full-time and don't wanna necessarily work from one single place.

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And so you are able to provide value to these organizations.

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Say we can bring together the best teams, but the way we do it is by

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bringing all of these different people from different other world.

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And so you pay us money because you're gonna get this project

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done, but we're doing it in a way that's aligned to who we are.

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In that process.

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We've learned about what that means in terms of community and the people

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who wanna work and how they wanna work and how organizations could work.

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And now you turn that knowledge into a service for other organizations

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who wanna do a similar kind of thing.

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And that's creating and people will pay you money for that.

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That it's exactly that, Carlos.

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And, and what I would say is all the Hoxbys want to work on the latter because

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everyone who is in Hoxby is connected to Workstyle and wanting to show the world.

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We can work this way.

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But also we've grown the business through the former.

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So for example, one of our clients is Unilever.

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And Unilever is a very conscious, big business, um, compared

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to many other big businesses.

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But you may not be working through Hoxby on purpose work at Unilever.

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It may be through marketing work in order for them to sell more cleaning products.

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But the way in which you are working is autonomous Workstyle working, and

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therefore that Connects with your purpose.

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So even if the, the work itself isn't specifically in purpose, it's

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the way that you are delivering the work that can be really fulfilling

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from a purpose perspective.

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And as a freelancer, so everybody within the Hoxby community is freelance.

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So as a freelancer you have, uh, that challenge of balancing your income with

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your, with your work and prioritizing the type of work that you do.

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So that's something that we try and help with, but it's with an understanding that

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increasingly lots of different types of work can be done on a self-employed basis

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than much more so than, than in the past.

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The gig economy and freelance economy is booming.

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Um, but the idea of a portfolio career is also changing.

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And so people can think about, I'm sure your audience already

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thinking about this, but in terms of what are the different strings

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to my, to my, uh, self-employed bo.

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Well, Hoxby might be one of them.

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And from Hoxby, I get, uh, the opportunity to work on projects that

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can have a positive impact on the world.

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And I also get the benefit of a community of 500, like-minded people globally, who

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I can call upon for advice, guidance, or just talk about football with, or whatever

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the topic of conversation might be.

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So Hoxby provides that for freelancer, but a freelancer ultimately is looking

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at their, uh, their income and their, their work in a holistic sense.

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And we provide a bit of help with this, but there's lots, there's

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an increasing number of services, I'm sure you know that, that

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will help freelancers with that.

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The thing that I always say is.

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To think about yourself as a T-shaped person.

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So you have a deep set of skills that is the kind of up and down

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of the, of the T, and then you have broad skills across the top.

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And you can monetize those for yourself as a self-employed person.

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You can command a higher day rate or an output rate for the

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things you are deeply skilled at.

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But you can also command a rate for the thing.

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Your broad transferable skills, might be project management or client handling.

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For example.

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You may not be able to command as much per hour per day for that thing, but

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it can be a useful way of thinking about your portfolio, certainly in the

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start where you might want, you might need to time to build up your depth.

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And so you might start with more of the breadth type work and gradually trade

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it for deep specialist work over time.

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And so those sorts of things and that sort of advice is, is out there, uh,

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to help people with managing that work versus remuneration balance.

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But Hoxby and the way that Lizzie and I have created it as a community for

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freelancers is really, uh, to be the destination of choice for those people

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who want to have that control for themselves over when and where they

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work and the type of work that they do.

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So what, what a message that I, I'm really feeling the need to

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communicate is that sometimes people can overcomplicate their businesses.

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They're trying to be really clever with the product or the service.

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And then, you know, again, correct me if I'm wrong, because on one level,

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the, well, it's not a ridiculously complicated business in terms of

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the transactions you're making.

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Like got a project, need a team, we're gonna supply a team.

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Yeah.

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But you've married it with this much deeper, meaningful way of doing it.

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And so.

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The invitation, I'm hoping hearing you guys talk, is that actually

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I can live really purposefully.

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I can really have, and I can produce a very product or service that provides

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value to people and people will buy that 'cause it makes sense and I know

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exactly what I'm getting into and I just love the way you do things.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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This is really only building on what you've said, but as a service business,

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the experience of our, of our people in Hoxby, of our Hoxbys manifests into what

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the customer experience is as a service.

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So the more that that is purposeful impact led and enjoyable, the better

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the service experience is that we deliver to our clients and they feel

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that and they get the benefit of it.

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I also got a quick question for we depart.

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Um.

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Because like Carla said, the business sounds on the, on the surface

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simple to get your head around.

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Um, and in some ways you, you put in your heart on the line here with

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your values and your mission kind of gives it a really nice niche.

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Like us you, that people gravitate to the, the story and

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the values at the heart of this.

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I suppose my question is more about from an employee, employer point of

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view, so attracting people at Amazon, these brands, is there any resistance

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to that from their point of view?

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Like, yeah, that's great and you know, from a noble point of view,

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it sounds amazing, but deep down we all know we need control and

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people need to be in the office.

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Does that, have you, has it ruled you out of, um, projects

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because of your stance, I suppose?

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Yeah.

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I mean, we've been ruled out of projects.

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Partly we've ruled ourselves out because of our principles.

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There are some organizations that have approached us that we simply

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won't work with because we have impact as our success measure and we feel

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they don't align with our values.

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It's interesting.

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Our clients basically fall into two camps.

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The clients that we've worked with for longer tend to work with us

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because we deliver the best work, not because of how we deliver it.

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Because in truth, when we started and pre pandemic, we didn't

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shout about the way we worked.

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We shouted about the brilliant output.

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And so I remember about six years ago, our client to Amazon saying to us.

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I don't care how you work, I work with you because you are

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the best at what you deliver.

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And I kind of, I think Alex and I are a bit like, oh, okay, that's

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re a massive compliment, but also is that, is that what we want?

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Mm-Hmm.

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And so I think then over time we've become more open about our full set

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of values and about being transparent about how we work and why it's

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important that they understand that.

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But our clients still fall into those two camps, the ones who work

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with us just because they think we, they know we deliver the best work,

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and those clients that work with us, because also they fundamentally really

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believe in what we're trying to do.

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And that's other B Corps and, um, kind of organizations that are impact focused.

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And I have to say that's where the two sides of the, of

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the service offer come from.

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Which is if we're working with like-minded organizations on creating a, a comms comms

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campaign, for example, and doing it in a Workstyle way, then one of their reasons

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for working with us is because they know that it's gonna have a positive impact.

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It's creating work for people who would otherwise not work in the

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traditional nine to five system.

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It's, it's having a positive impact on society simply through that.

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But then also because they care about that, they want to learn about

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how they can do it for themselves, how they can improve their own

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ways of working to include those people in their own workforces.

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So it's a virtuous circle, uh, for the organizations that, that, but agree

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with our vision for the future of work.

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I wanted to tie this to another podcast I run called the Happy Pricing Podcast.

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And one of the things we talk about, uh, why people buy you.

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And so some people just buy you for the solution, but also other people

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may buy you for the good feelings you create, and the associations that they

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create by being one of your customers.

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You know, and you, it's a very simplistic thing, is like, I will buy a name

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brand t-shirt even though it costs 10 times more than another t-shirt

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because of what it says about me.

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So there's this feeling that I get is I will work with Hoxby, not

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just because they do good work.

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'cause what it says about me as a business and how I wanted to view our, I would

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say, examples of anyone who's thinking about, alright, what, what does, you

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know, working in having a stance around impact or purpose mean in terms of value?

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So that was the thing.

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Hopefully that's, uh, something that well, I believe is what you're doing and,

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and what's, uh, embodying that aspect.

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And, and to, to see that is value as well.

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It isn't just about the, the, the solutions.

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So, of course there's a book, but please, if there's, what would you like to

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tell the audience now and anyone who's listening on the podcast that, um, would

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be of helpful to you or help to you?

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I'll start by just saying, um, the book is out there, it launched

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literally a couple of weeks ago.

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It's called Workstyle, a Revolution for Wellbeing, productivity and Society.

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And if you do one thing, if.

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By the book please.

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Um, but hopefully as a result, you might want to join, join

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us at the Workstyle revolution.

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We, we are on, uh, Instagram and we're on LinkedIn a lot,

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sharing stories of people who have implemented workstyle for themselves.

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Lots of tools, tips, guidance, and all that stuff is also available

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on workstylerevolution.com.

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So our primary mission is to make workstyle the new norm, to replace

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the nine to five as the default, uh, because of the benefit it can bring

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to individual wellbeing, productivity, and to society more broadly.

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So that's the, the main, the main objective.

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Um, and to talk about Workstyle.

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Use the word Workstyle, tell someone what your Workstyle is or that you

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are creating a Workstyle of your own.

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And the more that we talk about it, the more we will speak it into existence.

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And that is something that, um, people find weird at first, using a new word

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feels alien, uh, and a bit hippie, but it is the, the way in which these much

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needed changes need to come about.

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I would add one more thing, um, which is that, um, or two things.

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Firstly, we are always looking to recruit from those excluded groups which

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I talked about earlier, older workers, carers, those with chronic illness,

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physical disabilities, mental health challenges, um, and neurodivergent.

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Actually, we're not recruiting for more parents at the moment because

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we over-index and parents and we're looking to build cognitive diversity.

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But those six groups, we are always looking for applications from those people

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and you go to hoxby.com/apply, then the Hoxby Foundation route is open all the

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time for anyone in any of those groups.

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On our website at hoxby.com/apply, we always have a list of, um, skills needs

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that we have within the community.

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So once a quarter for one month of each quarter, so,

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um, January, April, et cetera.

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We are open for general applications, which is from anyone, but the

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rest of the time, um, we welcome applications from people with

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the skills that we specifically need and also from those excluded

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groups that I talked about earlier.

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Um, and then the second thing I would just say is if you know of any

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organizations that are looking in the long term to move to autonomous

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working, we would love to help them.

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And that's how we can have our impact on the world.

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Awesome.

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Before we close then I, I like to just have a, a way of just a,

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an opportunity for a reflection.

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Something you are leaving our conversation with.

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I'm leaving Feeling positive.

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I, I love conversations where it feels like we, we have a meeting of

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minds and it's felt like that today.

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The comments in the comment thread and also talking to you, Carlos and

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Laurence, it feels like there's hope.

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And I think sometimes I feel like we are living in a, a very small part of

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the world and there are still so many people going into their offices every

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day and working in traditional ways.

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I think I'm, uh, feeling a little bit humbled, I guess.

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Um, I think we always talk, I mean, we've been doing this for eight years or so now,

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and we often talk about purpose and how we use it in our day-to-Day decision making.

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But we don't really regularly reflect on when that's happening

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and the impact that that's having.

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And when we get to conversations like this and we explore it in a bit

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more detail, I'm reminded of that.

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And, you know, we, we use a lot of principles to inform our decision making.

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O and, and we stick to them over the years, but we rarely kind of look

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back at the, the, the sum of that, uh, that consistency of thinking.

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And it's great to have been able to have the chat today and think about

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that, talk about it, and realize, um, that actually staying true to

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that over a sustained period of time has been incredibly rewarding for

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everybody who's been part of Hoxby and for Lizzie and I as its founders.

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So, uh, thank you for that, uh, leaving feeling fulfilled.

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I'm feeling well, I started off feeling grateful, feeling grateful leaving this,

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I think, um, partly you guys sharing your story so openly, 'cause I think

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that for us is a big, um, well element of trust there, I think to share that.

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But also I think it really gives weight to the work you're doing and how, how

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emotive it is and how important it is really, rather than just, I think a lot

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of people shy away from telling their full story because it's not about me, it's

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about the brand, it's about the company.

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So yeah, that's testament to you guys.

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Um, and just yeah, hopeful that, you know, we work a lot with entrepreneurs

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and um, you know, some freelancers, a lot of people who work on their own.

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Um, but we don't really have any dealings with bigger companies.

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And so it's nice to know that there's people out there that are trying to

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make a dent in those organizations too, 'cause yeah, ultimately it's all

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people at the end of the day, isn't it?

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And it's nice to know that.

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Yeah.

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The world is changing even if you don't read about it in the, the news so much.

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I'm coming away from this conversation with lots of thoughts buzzing in my head.

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Um, I think a key thing for me is the, the way you talk about what you're trying to

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do at, uh, Hoby and also with Workstyle.

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When I think of revolution, it's like chop of the heads start anew.

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There is an aspect here of education, I think what I'm hearing.

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And, and not only just education, but also modeling.

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So education not just by telling people what to do, but

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showing them how it can be done.

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Yes.

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And I think that's a much more powerful way to shift minds and get people to

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appreciate a new way of doing things as opposed to just banging them over the

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head with a stick of saying, do this.

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Yeah.

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This is the way to do it.

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So I'm really grateful for that.

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And the digital first thing is really interesting for me.

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I was curious because I, I believe everyone is so immersed in digital and

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not realizing that they can use it so much in different ways in the way they work.

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Maybe they're just so sucked into consuming, whether it's

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Instagram and, and other channels.

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Yes.

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Mm-hmm.

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When actually through using videos like we were using Loom to communicate

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using voice messages using WhatsApp.

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I have my gardener sometimes it's like showing videos of what's going on.

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It's like different ways to then asynchronously communicate that allows

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us more flexibility in the way we work.

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And I feel that is a, a nice seed for people to.

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To use rather than just totally changing their work.

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So actually I can, I can work with more flexibility because of technology.

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There's a whole bit in the book about owning your technology.

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So rather than just being a passive like recipient of those digital interfaces

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and those apps and things, but actually taking control of it and owning it and

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saying, I'm gonna turn my notifications off here, here, and here, and I'm

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gonna, you know, use it my way, is really important and, and empowering

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part of having a great Workstyle.