As I prepare to launch my media company next week I’ve found myself wondering what it is that defines me. Most people who know of me online, or even people who know me personally call me a ‘traveller’ first and foremost. I don’t like to be labeled but if I have to be, then a guess that label’s not too bad. But it’s also not quite right. Then I thought maybe I’m an entrepreneur, a business man even? Businessman? Nooo, I haven’t earned that. I wear flipflops 300 days a year….

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I’m currently making the finishing touches to the ‘about us’ page on my company website and I realised that there are 10 staff members on there, 7 of which are full-time. Ten, wow. I caught myself thinking ‘that’s almost like a real company’. Then I shook my head, disgusted at myself for almost succumbing to a system designed to maintain the status quo.


‘Almost like a real company’? Of course it’s a real, bloody company. I’ve made almost $500, 000 in the last 12 months. That’s as real as it gets. It’s a company represented by the 21st century, with 10 staff members from 7 different countries, all working from their laptops, free to live where they want and work the hours they choose. That, I think, is how a company should be. Forget the old school, forget their antiquated systems and horrific work/life balance. It’s our time to shine.


So with that in mind (as much for myself as for you guys), I wanted to dispel some myths and point out 5 things that a ‘real company’ doesn’t have to do in order to be considered ‘real’. It’s time to let the old school hate, and watch us soar:


1)   Formalities

Don’t let the system tell us that we have to begin our emails with ‘to whom it may concern’. Nor do we have to sign them off with ‘Your’s sincerely’, cos let me tell you something there’s nothing sincere about that. You wanna do business with me? Connect with me. And I’ll do the same to you. Drop the formalities, just because we’re dealing with cash doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, be laid back and get to know each other.  If you can’t be totally yourself in your job, you’re in the wrong job. Get out now before it’s too late. Be free, be fun, be yourself. 

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2)   Business attire

It’s 2009, I just passed the interview for the only office job I’ve ever had. It was based in Sydney, Australia in a sales role. Everything was great, the money was good but I was told to take my travel bracelets off, wear a shirt, trousers and shoes even though the role was phone-based. And, like the puppy I’m ashamed I was, I acquiesced. Ridiculous.

Times are changing, perhaps not fast enough, but the movement’s underway. My staff will never have to dress like that unless they choose to, even if they’re meeting clients. It’s bullsh*t. What? You can’t be a good designer/programmer/salesman because you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt? If you believe that I don’t wanna work with you anyway, see ya. We should be able to express ourselves in any manner we choose to and for an employer to wield their authority over you and make you wear/not wear certain clothes is a liberty I don’t think should ever be acceptable. Wear what you want guys, it doesn’t reflect your ability. If they tell you otherwise, quit.


3)   Life first, business second

If you’ve been reading my motivational Monday pieces you’ll know I don’t apologise for the fact that I wanna be rich. I grew up pretty poor, no central heating, no family car, no washing machine for the first 10 or 15 years of my life. My mum was the most awesome parent imaginable but I wanna make sure her, nor my sister nor my future family ever want for anything. So yeah, money is important. However, it’s not everything. Life comes first.

I travel around the world while I work, and I encourage my staff to do the same. People talk about a work/life balance and the only true balance to be found is when you prioritise your life first, and your work second. If it doesn’t look like that, then you’re not balancing it well enough bro.

Old school firms, multinationals, – they hire you and they think they own you. Forget that, don’t sign up. They haven’t done you a favour by giving you a job, and never let them think that they have. Your life comes first.

Johnny on Mt Kinabalu 

4)   Working hours

9-5, Monday to Friday, 2 to 4 weeks holidays per year is yesterdays schedule. This was probably the number one reason why I could never work in a ‘real’ job, this sh*t terrifies me. You seriously mean to tell me that you’ll literally go to the same grim office 48/52 weeks a year, Monday to Friday for 40 years!? THAT IS PRISON. Not a metaphorical prison folks, an actual f*cking prison. Don’t do it. LIFE COMES FIRST. It’s your birthday midweek and you party until sunrise, but you have to wake up on Thursday morning to report to the office. You can’t tell your boss that it was your birthday and you’re not coming in until later? Well you should be able to. Flexi hours, flexi days, working from home, working from a laptop. It’s that or it’s nothing for me, and my staff. Done.

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5)   Autonomy

Protocols, HR contracts, business processes. Pigeonhole yourself. Know your role, follow it religiously. Repeat. Even typing this out makes me wanna gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

It’s a paper work labyrinth, stifling anyone with any ambition, convincing us that whatever path we choose we’re stuck on, so make the best of it.

I honestly believe that most people can do most jobs. If we apply ourselves, are eager to learn, hungry to achieve then there’s no reason why we can’t diversify. I live for this, micro-management is over. Companies need to give their people autonomy. Give them a license to show initiative, to reach out and get what they want. Support their effort, help them succeed.  Don’t box them in with overly restrictive job titles and contracts. Freedom is beautiful.

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I’m so happy to share this with you guys. Business is not conducted by 50 year old men with expensive suits in Hilton hotel business lounges, not anymore. Believe that it can be you and me, wearing what we want, talking how we want, being ourselves and being successful. It’s not about what school you want to anymore, it’s not about your accent, your surname or your nationality. Those days are ending. And I just love the look on the old boys faces as I check into the 5 star hotel in my worn flipflops and backpack, lonely planet in hand. “Can I help you sir”, “hey mate, yup johnny ward checking in please”. Happy travels 😉


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