“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey, Author
On the 4th March 2020 I handed my notice in to my workplace where I had been for nearly 12 years. On the 17th March I packed up my belongings, rented out my home and moved in with friends. On the 14th April I moved back to Norwich with my two business partners ready to start EN-TE. It's now the 15th July and I sit writing this looking out into the Forest of Dean.
The issues from Covid have impacted us all, but, perhaps more than anything people have realised there is more to life than the commute, the office, and the strict 9-5 we seem to accept as the norm and the only way to work.
That realisation came to me a little earlier. I wasn't firing on all cylinders; I had lost the curiosity and the creative passion that brought me into the design industry in the first place. I had an employer that was flexible and my commute on a bike was a mere 15 minute ride, but I needed to re-assess what I wanted. Something that needs to become more acceptable to say… I needed to put my mental health first.
A New Hope
My dream as a young designer had always been to have my own agency, but to bastardise a quote from Darth Vader, "The doubt is strong in this one". It's something all but a very few creatives will struggle with at some point in their careers. With that in mind, I knew it would be massively important to find the right people to work with - who you can trust, who can support and who can help push the creative boundaries. My business partners are friends first and those who know a little about EN-TE know that we, as a team, are worth way more than the sum of our parts - and that's the value we can offer.
We formed this company together, we have an equal investment and all share its values. We don't insist on time sheets, we don't have contracted hours and we don't feel the need to check up on each other - we just trust. We are open and transparent with all our clients, and genuinely want to see them succeed and be part of that journey. We're not in it for quick money; we want to work with the right people, not the richest. It's a simple thing but it results in fantastically creative environment. Now this should not be mistaken for not working hard… I'm proud to say that in over 12 years of working in the design industry, I've never missed a deadline. We are doing long days, we are working weekends, but when we aspire towards a collective goal, it doesn't feel like work.
The energy behind EN-TE is a passion for great design and a wish to work in a happier and more collaborative way. This fusion can only come from a balanced approach to 'work' and 'life' - and it's this that brings me to put pen to paper.
I should have been writing this in Austria. Clicking publish and jumping on a chair-lift to the top of 'Äussere Schwarze Schneid' before throwing myself back down on a mountain bike. Not everyone's idea of fun but, for me, the ultimate challenge. (Video from last year is below for anyone that is interested.) Alas that trip has been postponed for obvious reasons, but the Wye Valley and beyond is a more than adequate substitution, albeit with peddle power taking me to the top of any hill rather than a cable car.
I make this point because, after riding, I can't wait to get back to work. Can something you look forward to really count on the 'work' side of the work/life balance? Trust me when I say that a happy, excited, motivated designer will always create better work.
So, today your work comes from my camper-van (Doug) in the Wye Valley, next week from my desk at home, and the week after... perhaps the Austrian Alps... wherever it may be, you're getting a refreshed and creative designer, happy in what they're doing and motivated to work hard because they want to.
My partners, Blythe and Laura, wouldn't be seen anywhere near a mountain bike but we each have our own ways to stay on the right side of that work/life balance. We're a collective in that we have our own strengths but work together as a team that has chosen to work together. In the same way, we choose to work with other likeminded businesses that can bring value to us, to our clients, and who also reflect our outlook.
For all those who have made it this far, thank you. I would love to hear how you keep on the right side of the work/life balance, and if you've seen that change in the last few months.
Star Wars Image: www.starwars.com/databank/darth-vader