Leading SMEs Basic Bananas And Finding The Balance

Health & Wellbeing

Reading up on Basic Bananas, one of the first things that comes up in many places is their focus on fun. Starting a new business for these founders wasn't about spending all hours at the office and sacrificing your daily fun to further your business goals. Rather, having a life outside of the office was part of their grand design, without letting the standard of the work slip. Their marketing company has made its name not just by being good, but also by being fun.

The company was founded a few years back and have carved out a niche for themselves by providing training and mentoring for small businesses. Their workshops are divided into stages for those who want to advance on their knowledge, and co-founders Franziska Iseli and Christo Hall are also busy doing speaking engagements. Amongst their accolades are numerous people writing testimonials on their site. 

For many owners of smaller businesses, "fun" just doesn't come into it. Everything is poured into the business, and so much has to be sacrificed that a work-life balance is nowhere in sight. For entrepreneurs the story might be slightly different as they're more likely to be involved with a business they're passionate about. Speaking as a writer, the line between my work and my life is incredibly blurred, if not non-existent.


SMEs finding the balance

Fortunately for us, Australia is a little bit better a finding time for other things than work. Giving yourself time to pursue wants and goals that are unrelated to work is a way to return to work with more focus. Your need a clear view of your goals in order to achieve them, and that is more or less impossible to have when you're overburdened with what is happening right now. SME owners especially are finding more time for themselves in Australia, but that's not to say things are perfect here, of course they're not. Sage Australia states that just over 10% of SME owners take four weeks holiday a year. So clearly, there is room for improvement. The question is, is this high number of people spending almost their entire year in the office due to real demands or imagined pressures? A Bibby Barometer survey from 2014 states that maintaining a work life balance remains a key issue for many SME owners, as does time management. A key issue may be delegating; and allowing yourself the time it may take to actually step away.

It's a shame if this is the case there are clear and proven links between the efficiency of your work and how skilled you are at letting yourself get away from said work. One feeds into the other by allowing some space for inspiration and clearing your head. Integrating this into a business is almost certainly harder work than it may appear form the outside, in terms of taking the risk to create the job you want when you could let yourself be led astray by 'fairy dust', as The Wolf of Wall Street's Mark Hanna put it.


Finding the balance of what you want and what you need

A recent MYOB study states that over half of female SME owners feel that they are happy with the work life balance they've struck. An interesting addition to this is that the female SME owners surveyed were much more likely to use social media and other online tools for their businesses than men. It seems to suggest that delegating is how you manage.

 I believe in empowering people and letting them do their work rather than micro-managing. That's the last thing I want to do, to micro-manage and be a control-freak!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Franziska Iseli


Extending your idealism to your organisation

Whilst many founders and CEOs allow themselves a bit of leisure time, Basic Bananas do not stop there, instead they bring their attitude into their office. They've built a company where space away from the job is woven into the structure, and in doing so have set themselves up to be successful. There are numerous articles and studies citing the value of work life balance, and not just in terms of your own health, but in the quality of the work you put out. No one benefits when everyone around is drained and unmotivated.


The Basic Bananas team are hell-bent on doing things differently. Their work culture is as dependent on what happens away from work as it is on how their office is run. Co-founder Franziska Iseli says they also value their team, and part of running a happy productive team is allowing flexible hours which lets their staff work more independently. The team is also guaranteed five weeks paid holiday and flexibility on unpaid holidays, giving their co-workers the chance to shape their own work experience.

Leading SMEs Basic Bananas And Finding The Balance

Franziska Iseli running a workshop (photo credit Basic Bananas)


Their team of less than twenty people, including a couple of interns and their founders are encouraged to take part in team building exercises; except they're the kind that people actually enjoy. There's surfing, mediating, and the occasional flamenco concert.


Finding the right people

When it comes to hiring it's obviously a necessity that you find people with the right fit. Especially with a company that is somewhat unusual in the outlook and in their operations, finding people that fit in with the culture can weigh more heavily than a CV. Franziska argues that finding co-workers that gel with the rest of the team is of much greater value than anything else. 

I believe in hiring for attitude not skill. I've made hiring mistakes in the past and they were usually because I hired based on skill rather than attitude and culture.


That's how you find people who can not only keep up, but contribute.

Lina Barfoot

Editor at SavvySME

All things marketing and advertising interest me greatly.

Comments (2)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Another great look behind the curtain case study. Although, I've vocalized sentiment previously I do not shy away from the fact that hiring on culture fit alone is just as dangerous as only hiring based on skill and/or experience. Sure you want a new hire to jive with your current team but if you do that at the expense of hiring someone that is knowledgeable watch out. Yes, some skills can be taught either quickly or over a short time (learning a new piece of software or app or even improving one's presentation or writing skills). However being a knowledgeable expert takes time, care and effort (hopefully passion as well). If you only hire based on a person fitting your culture you run the risk of having an employee that quickly becomes a "yes" person and drinks the internal kool-aid beyond what is reasonable. Why does this matter? If you don't have people that are passionate and skilled you run the risk of becoming an overly agreeable organization. This often leads to corporate "drifting" or apathy. People need to have passion for what they are trying to accomplish just as much as who they are trying to accomplish it with. Innovation happens through dissatisfaction and people who push for the best, not people that are agreeable.

Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot, Editor at SavvySME

Thanks Jef! That's an interesting point, I suppose it is highly relative to what your business is/what you're hiring for. It seems the essential thing is knowing your business well before you decide what would work best for you, and that's something the Basic Bananas guys are very adept at. I also think that hiring someone to fit your culture doesn't necessarily mean they will be a yes person; you might have a culture where giving feedback (positive as well as negative) is integral to the culture itself.