Laurence McCahill is a man on a mission to bring more meaning to entrepreneurship. He’s the brains behind The Happy Startup School, a movement that is helping a new breed of entrepreneur to realize their dreams, those that place purpose and people before profits. His e-book ‘4 steps to a Happy Startup’ has helped to create a global movement and he recently curated and hosted the first Happy Startup Summercamp in London’s Hyde Park, bringing together some of the leading minds in happiness in business. He also co-founded digital product consultancy Spook Studio. His work has been featured in Wired, The Guardian, TechCrunch and The Next Web.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Life is short. Far too short to be spent in a stale or negative environment, with people we don’t like or in a job without fun or meaning. The world has changed. People no longer accept that work is work, we want more. Why should we keep our real self for the margins of life? Other than sleep we spend most of our lives at work so it’s imperative that we enjoy it.
There’s also the fact that happier workers are more creative, productive and generally better at their jobs. There’s a global movement happening that will bring more meaning to our lives, more fun to our workplaces and more human values to our companies. This can only be a good thing – both from a human and commercial perspective. In the words of Tony Hsieh: “Happiness is a business model.”
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
We’re helping entrepreneurs build employee and customer happiness into the DNA of their startups. We firmly believe that if you build a business based on a clear purpose (other than making money), with your own personal values at its core you’ll create a more meaningful company that will put people first and create a culture of respect, trust and freedom.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I see too much potential being unfulfilled and too many businesses maximizing every ounce of energy from their employees and every cent from their customers. We’ve had enough of these leeches. Business has a real opportunity to create value and make the world a better place, as well as make money. The general perception in our society is that business is a dirty word and work should be a struggle. I’d like to change this.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
Unusually for a designer, I’m not an art aficionado – I like to look forward not back. That said, I do love the work of Dali. I spent a while in his hometown of Cadaques in Northern Spain and was inspired by his seaside home which is still standing. I love the UK seaside town of St Ives, which is a haven for artists and creatives as there’s such wonderful light, and some of the best scenery you’ll find in the UK. I see football (soccer) as art but that’s another matter…
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
I suppose we’re a little different in that we optimise our business for happiness, not profits. So we try to make our environment a fun place to work. We make a point of getting to know each other as people, not as colleagues, so we regularly break bread together in our kitchen, have hosted our own Olympics (from table tennis to remote control car racing!) and a very competitive ‘Come Dine With Me’ cooking competition. We’re also prone to the odd, drunken game of Cards Against Humanity. Not for the faint hearted…
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
I’m always inspired by the non-profit sector, but I particularly love the work of the UK charity Action for Happiness. They’re leading a movement for positive social change by inspiring and educating our society about how we can improve our wellbeing by embracing tried and tested principles from the science of happiness.
I also get inspired by the growing experience economy and love seeing how the service sector creating delight amongst their customers, whether it be hotels, restaurants, airlines, etc. We put a real effort into the little details with all our activities as I know first-hand that these can make a real impact with people and help to foster trust and loyalty. I believe this trend towards experiences and away from buying products we don’t need will only continue.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Embrace random acts of kindness. Encourage staff to regularly do nice things for each other and others in society. If you want to create meaning at work you want to create a culture of empathy.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I play the accordion! My dad made a number of albums in the 1970s as an Irish musician and ‘encouraged’ my brother and I to pick up the piano accordion to follow in his footsteps. We did rebel a little when we hit our teens though, I migrated to the drums and him the guitar. I still pick up the accordion every now and then though. You never lose your roots, and I still get a tingle when I hear Irish music, particularly the Pogues. Awesome band.
What do you do for fun?
Spend time with friends and family. Walk the dog. Watch Chelsea play (football/soccer). And occasionally dabble in music or go to the odd gig. I also love to travel.
What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh (Zappos)
Start With Why (How great leaders inspire action), Simon Sinek
4 Steps to a Happy Startup: Stop Dreaming, Start Doing
Where in the world are you?
Brighton, England, UK. It’s a quirky, seaside town about an hour from London. It’s as near as the UK has to San Francisco. It’s a very liberal place where anything goes and a hub of creativity, students and drag queens.
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