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Let My People Go Skiing

I’m a big fan of the book Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the Founder of Patagonia.

Yvon’s message is part of the inspiration behind our new Powder Day policy.

But only part of the inspiration. There’s a little more to it:

The Back Story

When I was a kid growing up in Bozeman, Montana, we had some epic winter storms.

In 1991, I remember a storm that dumped two feet of snow. The governor called a  ‘state of emergency.’

It was awesome.

For two days, schools were closed.

Offices weren’t.   All the grownups still had to go to work.

But my Dad was no grownup.

Instead of going to work, my Dad played hookey and went skiing at Bridger Bowl with a co-worker.

He called it a Powder Day.   

I remember seeing the pictures.   They were awesome.

Powder up to his neck, there is my Dad, busting through the turns.

This was before big fat powder skis.  This was old school. “Long Effin’ Skis” – as my Dad calls them.

The secret to powder skiing is to “just lean back and keep the tips up.”

My Dad used to be a ski patrolman, a ski instructor and a ski bum. He knew what he was talking about. And he knew how to ski powder.

Looking back, I don’t really remember most of the days my Dad went to the office.

But I do remember him playing hookey to go skiing for a Powder Day.

My Dad Framed this Photo of his Epic Powder Day

And I remember being really proud of him at the time.   I also remember thinking: ‘doesn’t seem fair – why don’t all grownups get a Powder Day?’

Oh, how things change.

For some reason, I didn’t inherit my Dad’s attitude towards work-life balance when I entered the workforce.

I was a workaholic at age 16.   And it only got worse.

Physically, I let my body go.

Emotionally, I wasn’t available to anyone I was in a relationship with – and I have a long list of ex-girlfriends that will testify to that.

My motto was MTFU – meaning “Man the Fuck Up” – whenever an employee complained about burnout.

A few years ago, I asked my Dad about his approach to work-life balance, and he said something that stays with me.

I lost two brothers before I was 30 years old.  Makes you realize that life can be pretty damn short.

My Dad lost his older brother Bob in a car accident and his younger brother Ken in a plane crash.

Strangely, before that moment, I had really never thought about the profound impact these events had on him.

When faced with a choice, between ‘work more’ or ‘live a little’, my Dad always chose to ‘live a little.’

He worked hard, but he also chose to take a Powder Day once in awhile.

He chose wisely.   Which brings us to:

The Powder Day Policy

As I was reviewing some 15Fives the other week, an employee wrote the following:

After working 14 hours one day, and then it snows 14 inches the next day, it’d be nice to hit the slopes on a weekday with the ability to make it up on a weekend.

I read that, and thought of my Dad.   As an avid skiier myself, I totally agreed with him.

Plus, there’s a reason we live in Colorado.

Our motto in Colorado is ‘work hard, play hard.’

We love the 300 days of sunshine and we enjoy the outdoors.

It just doesn’t make sense to limit that enjoyment to Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.

So, last week at our all-hands we announced our new Powder Day policy.

In a nutshell, an employee can simply take a day off to go skiing, or snowboarding, or whatever, whenever they need to.

At FullContact, we trust our employees immensely.   But with trust comes responsibility.

So, we set a few basic ground rules:

  1. You can’t screw your team.
  2. You have to make the day up within 14 days.
  3. This is an experiment based on trust.

We’ve learned from our Paid, PAID Vacation policy that people really benefit from a break from routine once in awhile.   Sometimes it doesn’t need to be a week off the grid.   Sometimes it’s just one day in the mountains on a weekday.

We’ll see how this new Powder Day policy goes.    I’m excited and so is everyone at FullContact.

Personally, can’t wait to call my Dad up on a Tuesday and say “Hey old man, let’s go skiing.”  He’ll be thrilled.

And yes, we’re hiring.

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