May Lunch talk : Handstudio Representative Donghun Kim, a Story of a Company that Aims for 0% Employee Resignation Rate Rather than Attaining Huge Profits
On May 30th, Handstudio represntative Donghun Kim gave a lecture on the topic of “A Story of a Company that Aims for 0% Employee Resignation Rate Rather than Attaining Huge Profits”. Handstudio is a company that develops and provides multimedia/software.
Representative Kim started off his speech with the “5 Ws” (who, what, where, when, why). In most cases, people say that the reason for engaging in startup related business is just to ‘earn money’. Represenative Kim gave his own perspective about the reason behind the action of ‘starting a business’.
Long-Lasting Successful Life
At first, representative Kim was not interested in academics. He could not find any reason behind studying. Nevertheless, he was certain about what he wanted to do. He wanted to run his own music store and hence he decided to immerse himself in the world of music. One day, his mother promised him that she would buy him 1 music record every time his score rises by 1 point. Having found his reason to study, representative Kim raised is score by 150 points.
After entering his dream school and realizing that running a music store is not an easy job, representative Kim turned his interest to becoming a music magazine editor. Unfortunately, after his military service, all the music magazines have gone broke. After that, he decided to become a PD at a radio company, a career more recognized by the society. He contacted many professional producers and in the end succeeded in entering a broadcasting center.
One day, he came across a great opportunity. He received a request to sell a broadcast that is run by the company broadcasting center. Representative Kim, having earned a great amount of money by running a broadcast at a big broadcasting company, achieved the highest listener rating in 20 years, did a live broadcast of the Olympic games for 20 days, received a prize at headquarters, and was scouted to the United States with the condition of issuing a E1 visa. He thought that he achieved all of the things that he wanted to achieve. He could have never imagined a better life that this.
Restructuring, a Process of Asking ‘Why’
One day, representative Kim became aware of what was happening around him – he observed that the office was continually being restructured. All of the employees were dedicated and were talented individuals, but some were fired solely because there was a increase in wage. Representative Kim, after having gone through the situation where his boss committed suicide, thought that it was very ironical. The fact that some employees were fired just because of their age was shocking for him. He suddenly became unsure – would it be possible to find a compromise between the work that I want to do and the need for me to be in a certain organization? He realized that modern society simply ‘consumes’ and ‘utilizes’ people.
From this point, representative Kim thought about the question of what it is to be in an organization. People are not meant to live just to earn money. Rejecting an job offer from the United States, he came back to Korea and attended university for 4 years.
After giving much thought, he reached the conclusion that he had the desire to ‘live as a human being’. Representative Kim decided not to go to the United States and for 6 months, he put in effort in finding out about ‘what he was interested in’ instead of finding out a way to ‘enter a prestigious company’ like most other college graduates. He regretted the fact that he did not try to answer the question of ‘why’ in his life before graduating.
A Hierarchical Society that Considers Money as its First Priority : Why do we earn money in the first place?
During his trip to Europe, representative Kim noticed something about the toilets in Venice. People had to pay about 4,000 to 5,000 Korean won every time they used the toilet. After doing the math, he found out that toilet janitors in Venice can earn about 2.3 billion Korean won per year. He then thought to himself that it would be best to become a toilet janitor if we work just for the money.
The second company that representative Kim went to was a classical company. There, he observed a very strict hierarchy within the company’s community. The way the people of high status treated the janitors portrayed how ‘money is everything’. It was clear who were the ‘controllers’ and who were ‘the servants’ being controlled. The number of production facilities are finite, and people struggle in order to attain the ownership to these facilities. It would be best if the owners and the employees treat one another equally and create a good community, but in reality, this is hard to achieve. Capitalism considers manpower as a ‘resource’ and employees can always be replaced by another person with better skills or conditions. Representative Kim commented that it is important to think about who we want to be: a costly resource or a person who freely does the things he or she wants to do. He emphasized that before making any choices, we must clearly know who we want to be and what we truly want to do.
Handstudio, a Company that Thinks About its People First : The Growth and Decline of a Company
Representative Kim entered Handstudio, a company known to respect its people. He entered the company at the time when the teams were being formed and thus was able to share his life story with the other members. He enjoyed his work there and the company grew. From 2010 to 2013, the company grew twice the size every year. The number of workers also grew twice as much every year. As the number of employees increased, the young company gradually structured itself into groups and organizations. However, as smart televisions entered the market, the company started plummeting.
It is said that the true form of a company reveals when it is in danger, and Handstudio did not look good during its decline. Approximately 20 to 25 people resigned from Handstudio every year. As a result, it was difficult to maintain a strong connection among the employees. Representative Kim started losing his patience and started looking for other options, but he could not find a place that met his philosophy. In the end, representative Kim decided to become the head of a company that only had 500,000 Korean won left in its bank account. The following are the resolutions that he had when he started out as a company representative.
A Continuously Growing Company in a Humane Manner
Representative Kim wanted to create a comfortable company where the employees feel like they are at home. He thinks that an organization in which its members feel uncomfortable or unfortunate should never exist. As a result, Handstudio became a B2B company that had no operating costs and its sales increased by 60% in 2 years.
Soon, employees brought their siblings, friends, peers, and their spouse and introduced them to the company, describing that it is a great place to work in. Thanks to that, since the members in the group knew each other very well, things started to work well at the company. By applying the attendance notification system, the company let its employees to come to work after 9:30 AM if they send a notification in advance. Moreover, every Thursday, after the afternoon shift, the company held a Kartrider game league. The game league has already been held 12 times and employees are able to enjoy their free time by playing games. When a employee is found to have left the game room without turning the monitor off, he or she has to buy snacks for the other employees. When more than 4 people have the same hobby, they often form a mini club within the company. When employees get married, they are given a financial support of approximately 10 million Korean won. Parties are also held at least every month. For 7 years, the company has been raising a cat within its building and every half a year, the company conducts an internal survey about the welfare of its employees. The survey includes questions regarding the company’s working conditions and asks for any suggestions about the service or welfare the company provides.
Reprentative Kim receives a lot of questions about his expectations and the effects of the current welfare system, but he always gives people the same reply: ‘because it’s fun’. It is good to have a clear goal, but it is simply not humane if we have to give up so many things on the way in order to achieve that particular goal. We are not meant to sacrifice ourselves for something. He emphasized that we should think about the things that we want to do and make choices based on that. Moreover, he hopes that we think about how to make the company ‘human-friendly’ whenever we start a business and ended his presentation by describing his current goals.
The topic of representative Kim’s talk was a bit different from those of other lunch talks. It is true that creating a ‘human-friendly’ working environment is vital when running a corporation. Representative Kim reminded us of the most important things we have to remember as potential entrepreneurs. We hope that Korean companies provide a happier and more comfortable working environment for their employees.