Nathan Sykes

March 25, 2021

We Reimburse Our Employees' Opera Tickets

I'm a huge fan of the opera. I was dragged to the opera as a kid, and really hated it, but I started appreciating it more these past few years. I've started listening to it as I work, and have found that it really allows me to zero in and focus for long periods of time. As I'm writing this piece, I'm listening to the first act of Carmen, played by the Berlin Philharmonic. Magdalena Kožená in the role of Carmen, if you're wondering. Beautiful voice.

Some of our staff love opera, too! We recently did a group watch of Madama Butterfly from The Met: Live in HD to support their efforts to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic is lifted, a few of us are heading to various opera houses around the world to celebrate (we're a remote company), and you bet that we're paying for every one of those tickets.

At Howdy Interactive, we're trying our best to really separate ourselves from other private equity firms. Our deal sizes are smaller, we employ trust-based due diligence, and instead of associates, we have project managers. We hold companies for the long term instead of selling them 3-5 years after acquisition. We don't take outside investment, and we just have a rolling fund. One of the ways that we also like to make ourselves different from the pack is by not overworking our team to death!

I know. We're crazy. It's a crazy concept.


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If you're not keeping track of the finance world, a Goldman Sachs survey was leaked that showed associate investment bankers working 100+ hour workweeks, with mental health taking a significant dive. There's a difference between investment banking and private equity, of course, but they're both under the finance umbrella, so it's an apt comparison. There are plenty of cases in private equity where similar workloads are encouraged and expected.

Not here! At Howdy, we follow protected weekends as is standard at finance firms - you better have a damn good reason to be working on a weekend, or I'll (virtually) yell at you over Basecamp when I get back in on Monday morning. In addition to protected weekends, we also ask our team to only work 40 hours a week, which is almost unheard of in private equity. We do our best to provide benefits and perks that maximize that experience.

Our benefits program isn't as established as a company doing billions of revenue and with thousands of employee, but our emphasis is on providing perks that get folks out of the office. There's a cynical reason that Google and the big tech firms provide all of the free food, free shuttles, and free everything - it allows their workers to spend more time at the office.

One of our biggest perks is reimbursing media tickets. Opera's my favorite, but we'll reimburse anything reasonable that focuses on your personal development. It could be a museum tour, or a cooking class, or any other number of things. We haven't had any employee ask to reimburse anything to hit a concrete limit, but we think a few thousand dollars per year is reasonable. We, of course, reserve the right to modify or cancel the perk, but we don't anticipate ever doing so.

We're not working on world-changing stuff here. We're not building rockets - we're buying and managing companies. There is no reasonable explanation for my staff to be working 100 hour workweeks like they do at Goldman Sachs. We keep it to 35-40 hours per week. Any work that's not done at 5:00pm is picked up again the next day at 9:00am. There's no reason for us to work more unless we're currently involved with a live deal, and even then, our hours barely go above 60/week.