So what's it like to work at Dog and Bone?
Information about what we do at Dog and Bone is not hard to come by. Simply searching through this website, or following our Twitter feed, will give you a pretty good idea of what we do and how we help people.
What we’ve never really talked about is our character as a company, and how that translates into our workplace. After all, we here genuinely think Dog and Bone is a pretty tremendous place to work (and not just because there are faceless men in dark suits standing behind our chairs commanding us to say that). It’d be a shame if that wasn’t communicated.
We have a great office in a converted art deco bank on High Street in Northcote. It turns out a bank safe makes for a very secure server room (especially that one time when the key broke). We moved here in 2008, having outgrown smaller premises in North Fitzroy (I admit I miss the post-work kicks of the footy in Edinburgh Gardens).
In that time have seen High Street undergo enormous changes. If it was great before, it’s positively vibrant now. When we relocated there were only a few decent cafes and restaurants, even by a generous estimate. Now we’re spoiled for choice. On the other hand, the great stuff that was already here hasn’t gone anywhere. Institutions like the Wesley Anne and the Northcote Social Club have barely changed at all.
Within the office, there are the standard pre-requisites for any Google-wannabe: Coffee machine – check; standing desks – check; moat stocked with live piranhas – pending. Creative lighting solutions – most definitely (our lighting is supplied by Vintage LED, with whom we have a close relationship). There’s a fish tank whose residents we strive valiantly to keep alive; sadly the mortality rate in that tank is about the same as that of a WW2 bomber crew.
The table tennis (TT) table was acquired on a whim soon after moving to Northcote, and has been a fixture of the office ever since. The table was once a feature of the main office – visiting clients and suppliers were always encouraged to test their skills against our reigning champion – but has now moved to its own special room.
Of course, you don’t have to play 'TT' to work here. (AiLin’s engagement with the game largely consists of long-suffering head shakes whenever a ball caroms into her monitor. Come to think of it, that might be why the table now has its own room.) But, somehow TT has a way of getting its talons into even those who’ve never before hefted a blade (yes, ping pong paddles are actually called blades, which is just one of many ways that table tennis is cooler than you realise).
The extra room comes courtesy of expanded floor space. Gone is the dodgy financial advisor upstairs, whose primary management techniques consisted of bellowing at staff and very heavy stomping. Now Dog and Bone controls the whole premises and has conducted dramatic renovations. There’s a snazzy new entry hall. The new board room is particularly fine. The old board room is still fine, though it’s now full of desks, with people working at them.
The last few years have seen us sustain near-constant expansion. Since 2007 (when I started) Dog and Bone has more than quadrupled in size. Fortunately, we’ve never lost sight of the core principles that define and shape our workplace. I’ve personally never worked in a friendlier place.
We still all go out for a weekly lunch, though now thanks to increased numbers it more often requires a little forward planning and booking in advance. (Or Dan just makes a ‘captain’s call’, because when have those ever gone wrong?) Once there, standard practice is to carefully peruse the menu, make a show of considering all options, and then just order the burger. Sometimes Dan lets us try his salted caramel milkshake.
Otherwise lunch is dominated by the The Age quiz – or the Herald Sun quiz if we’re feeling capricious – read out in Michael’s velvet baritone. James’ speciality is any question about Bradman. Pre-1980s rock music and regional Australian geography sit right in David’s wheelhouse. Discussion of actual work is not encouraged.
There are also social functions, which have evolved from Pizza Meine Liebe around the TT table – kind of miss those, actually – to become movie nights and trips to the opera. (Ok, so far no trips to the opera. Yet.)
Our Christmas parties are invariably inventive and memorable. For example, last year Dog and Bone forewent the clichéd spread at the lawn bowls club, opting instead for a full Christmas week. The entire office relocated to Lorne for the week, working from a beautiful house high on the hills with a full view of the glittering ocean, culminating in our families joining us for a barbecue on Saturday afternoon. Another year we went yachting (kind of don’t miss that, actually).
Angus and Michael last year started Thursday Harvest, a weekly forum at which interested parties are invited to come for coffee and food before work to swap ideas in an informal though loosely structured manner. You can follow their musings at the blog here, and on Twitter here.
On a more structured though still attractively informal note, I mustn’t forget Dog and Bone’s annual planning day. Once per year all employees spend a day working with the Groupwork Institute at a strategic planning retreat. We break down into granular detail precisely how the business is operating – what is going well, what has been achieved, what can be done better – and where it wants to go.
It’s a great opportunity for all staff to provide valuable input into Dog and Bone, from the newest member all the way to the most senior and battle-hardened. By providing a facilitated opportunity to step back and examine the company, these planning days are instrumental in helping Dog and Bone become the company it is. Our very strong focus on customer service, for example, comes naturally from the very robust respect we have for each other, and a group-wide commitment to the improvement of ourselves and our services.