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The library of essays of Proakatemia

JANITOR AUTUMN 2022



Kirjoittanut: Kamil Wójcik - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 9 minuuttia.

Writers: Esme Luhtala, Kamil Wojcik

 

This essay provides a reflection on the janitor project that took place in the fall of 2022.

 

Proakatemia’s talkkaritiimi, a.k.a. janitor team has been under Esme’s management for the autumn of 2022. But she’s not been the only one in the project, Flip as a collective has been responsible for the janitor’s duty. Esme was chosen to be guiding the process. For the readers who are unfamiliar with the details of janitor team duties, the 2022 autumn agreement between Flip Solutions cooperative and the board of Proakatemia (JoRy) can be found here or in the picture down below.

 

When comparing to the previous, spring 2022 janitor agreement, we had a few big changes in the offer. We wanted to focus more on the value of what we could create and for that reason, we changed our mindset away from cheap is good. Originally we suggested 12€/person/month, but after negotiating with JoRy we agreed to come down on the price. The springs janitor agreement had been 8€/person/month and Jory was worried that a 50% increase in the offer would have caused a riot. To put it in a different perspective, it is rather amusing to see how much a 4€ change per month can cause conversations and meetings to push back. While many do not consider the time and the energy spent to save a few euros per person in the perspective of the fall period. In the end, the janitor team has charged 10€ per person to enjoy their mail being in place, quality, and locally roasted coffee, as well as other perks like green plants and empty trash cans.

 

Quality improvement

We raised the stakes when it comes to coffee. Instead of getting the coffee from nearby Lidl’s selection, we changed the supplier to Pirkanmaan Paahtimo which is a known local roastery. With accurate product quantity tracking, it has been possible to get freshly (in the same week) roasted coffee delivered weekly to our premises. With this change, we are now supporting a local relatively small business and helping the Proakatemia community towards more sustainable consumption habits. It is respectable to live as one teaches. As aspiring entrepreneurs, we expect to get the same type of support from the local community. We wish people would buy our products. Therefore, we believe it is our responsibility to imbed the mindset within ourselves that we would expect from others. To be blunt, we believe businesses should create value and their competitive advantage should not be solely relying on low prices.

 

It’s fair to say that this change was successful, but maybe some of us have had a grand vision of bringing a high culture of coffee to Proakatemia premises. This has not happened yet, but we will continue to champion it. To step forward, we could buy beans and have our own coffee grinder on the premises, as well as having different brewing methods better utilized. The advantage of such an approach is different flavor notes are created by different methods. These do not have to be expensive, brewers like AeroPress, Frech press, or cold brew could be a good start as an alternative to the currently much-loved Mokka Master filter coffee. At the beginning of our season, we tested out multiple different coffee roasts but we came to the realization that having only one taste, in this case, Tumma Loisto was the safest option. Some individuals highly appreciated having a selection, but collectively, the different coffee characteristics were not utilized. More about Pirkanmaan Paahtimo can be read here.

 

Case “milk”

According to WWF, the dairy industry contributes greatly to emissions of greenhouse gases. It has a considerable effect on climate change. This led the janitor team to widely noticed changes in the janitor’s shopping list. The cow’s milk, i.e. so-called titty milk has been removed. Unlike with coffee, this change brought up also some displeasure. Even some good-natured hallway debates around the topic were confirmed. Esme has personally avoided most of these debates by delegating them to Flip’s argumentative food sustainability experts Saana or Kamil. To some unconstructive conversation starters, she’s just stated that Jory accepted the offer so complaints can be given in that direction. Previous behaviour is not that constructive either, but sometimes it’s okay to put my mental well-being ahead of being a good person. This one time she’ll try to open some thoughts around the topic.

 

One of the three and often the first presented strategic views of Proakatemia is Sustainable Entrepreneurship. The strategic goal of the view in a three-year span has been specified as follows: ‘We have understanding, motivation, knowledge, and skills to build sustainable companies through the integration of sustainability into the core of the teams’ (Board of Proakatemia 2022). Sustainability or the lack of it in purchases and products provided to the community from JoRy’s decision shows examples of whether we are just talking about sustainable entrepreneurship or actually trying to live as we are teaching.

 

Proakatemia’s strategy is built under our vision to be a ‘Paragon of the new entrepreneurship’ (Board of Proakatemia 2022). If paragon as a word is still unfamiliar, it means something that is perfect or has an extremely large amount of a particular good characteristic (Cambridge Dictionary n.d.). In Finnish, it has been translated to the vision as ‘esikuva’ (Board of Proakatemia 2022). The vision is like it should be: bold and ambitious. To go towards it, we need to detect future trends and dare to hop along before they become mainstream. The trend in plant-based drinks is not something that we have to be guessing about, there’s so much data about it. At the moment 25% of Finnish are using oat milk regularly (Pietiläinen 2022). Milk consumption (liquid) has been decreasing for several years. In 2021, one person drank in total, an average of 96 liters of milk. This is a couple of liters less than the previous year. (Luonnonvarakeskus, 2022)

 

Many of us like to think of ourselves as the post-milk generation and we were picked up well by the Swedish company Oatly campaigning against milk production. We have heard opinions that cow’s milk can be sustainable. Well, it depends on what we compare. One cow milk can be more sustainable than other cow milk. Although overall forcing cows to get pregnant, stealing their babies, and taking their milk to humans doesn’t sound that sustainable to us.

In 2019 Oatly filled out a petition to make CO2 labels on food products and followed up with the campaign “show us your numbers”. The company has made a fair point. Since the food industry is obligated to report nutritional labels for our health on their products, why would it have to be any different for the health of our planet?

 

Despite everything, we managed to rise the problem of the milk industry and spark conversations. If we convinced one cow’s milk drinker to change their habits and swap to an oat drink – it’s a success. The positive impact is something we are looking to create a new breed of entrepreneurs. For many, it seems to be far away the problem, but more and more legislation changes are happening around the world to hit the net zero targets by 2050. Small actions we take each day matter, and they accumulate. As individuals as well as communities we can set better standards for a brighter future.

 

Managing janitors

According to the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM), the five functions of great management are planning, organizing, leading, staffing, and controlling (Davis & Reilly 2021). To have something to gather Esme’s our janitor teams responders’ thoughts around, next she will tell something regarding each function.

 

Planning

The biggest part of conscious planning during this project happened when writing the content of our offer. This document would be defining the backbone of our work during the autumn, so we had to make sure it would be both sustainable and feasible. The agreement was written in unison with our Kamil, Esme, and our business leader Sandy. With a versatile and competent group, we were able to avoid unnecessary misjudgments.

 

Organizing

After the backbone was set, it was time to focus on how to get the daily life of the project rolling. Flip was presented with the idea of purpose-made project management excel (later called a tracking list), alternating janitor shifts, and weekly meeting check-ups. Unfortunately, no matter how it is built, excel seems to be a boogeyman for some. Some sort of project management tool was critical for the project’s success and in the end, excel worked great on the purpose.

 

Leading

I led the project mostly through the janitor team as part of the weekly meetings. It provided an easy information channel for me to share some praises and also from last week’s respondees to share news for the new respondees. During the 10-minute slot, I got the janitor team’s tracking list was always screen-shared for everyone to see. A weekly five-minute recap with the latest tracking list information helped with two important things. Work motivation and accountability stayed high. Everyone knew that others would see next Monday how many hours they’d spent on the job. It also helped to keep the tracking list information updated and on point. Unmarked working hours were easily added at that very moment and the finance timeliness of grocery shopping was relatively effortless to follow.

 

Staffing

Like earlier mentioned, Flip had alternating janitor shifts. People volunteered in the weekly meetings according to their consciousness. One respondee per week would have probably reduced the total work hours. In pairs or three-person groups, people were using time for ‘unnecessary’ communicating and more manpower for one-person jobs than needed. I’m still glad that meaningfulness and project satisfaction ended up being more important than crude optimization.

 

Quality control

Janitor tracking list excels, our project management tool, was a great help in controlling the project. After every month we went through the expenses and profits of the month, hours spent, and to get things in perspective of what would have been the hourly salary (without salary payer expenses). In the first month, the hourly salary excluding VAT was only 13,15€ which was under the expected. Creating the tracking list and getting things started took a lot of hours. In the next month, things had already a good platform and structure to work around. Hours were halved and we had not only reached the expected profits but also extra.

 

Other responsibilities

Communication about janitor things to the Proakatemia community was mainly my responsibility, but sometimes janitor respondees of the week were updating Proakatemia Teams as well. Having this role felt natural for me since I knew the best big picture of the project and therefore most likely had the answers to different parties’ questions. But now when looking back, for sure this role could have been taken care of by someone else as well.

 

What for sure should have been someone else’s responsibility was billing. It added my working hours to the project significantly. Project money went as total to the cooperation, so evenly distributed work hours would have been desirable. I misjudged at the beginning of autumn that the billing would take only around 30 minutes on each month’s billing round. In reality, it took closer to 2 hours every month. The most significant delays came when fixing wrongly sent or paid bills. Teams were informed about the team size changes in their teams way too late which caused extra work and readjustments. From the picture below you can get a taste of the hassle. This message came from our official accountants – for which services we are paying.

 

Next janitor team

Our successors have followed with a new idea of bringing the community breakfast. We love the idea, and it will certainly make janitor work more of a community task as this kind of event can be time and resource-consuming. Business-wise it’s probably going to affect the profit negatively, but the community of Proakatemia will benefit greatly. We hope that this will also shine a bright light on the janitor team and bring some pride to it. Sure, no one likes to take the trash out, but it’s a crucial job to do. We should appreciate these basic manual jobs more as we would not be able to function as we do now without them and people doing them. Thank you in advance for the next janitor team!

 

When writing this reflection, we noticed that there can’t be found a single essay about the topic in The library of essays of Proakatemia. Perhaps this tells something about the respect, or lack of it, towards this project. Spring 2022 janitors were talking positively about the project as we were applying. The job was described as easy, non-time consuming, and profitable. The lack of offer proposals showed that the community’s interest in the project was woefully low. We assess that partially the reason was a lack of clear calculations proving the accuracy of these claims.

 

As we have promised in our janitor agreement, we have been creating extensive calculations and tracking the autumn activities and numbers. The original plan was to have these ready before the next janitor team was chosen, but this plan was not thought through. Since there are still a few weeks left in our season, the numbers are still unfinished. To show the overall picture, we want to add up the numbers for the whole season before publicly sharing the information. But to follow the original agreement, for those interested, we have of course been presenting the figures already collected. In the picture down below, there’s a small teaser from our tracking list calculations. For now, it looks like the numbers will just get better toward the end of our season. After we have all the information collected and we can publish the whole file, we are hopeful that future interest in the project will grow exponentially.

Final words

Overall it has been a pleasure to be running the janitor project. Flip has been ready to adapt to everything suggested and even though the project has been a money-milking cow (with a less negative impact on the environment), everyone has taken care of their part with honor and without complaints. This essay has been written from Esme’s and Kamil’s perspectives, but we are happy to claim that all Flip team members have had great ownership of the project. When things run smoothly, it is a pleasure to take part.

 

<3 Esme & Kamil

 

SOURCES:

Davis, B. & Reilly, M. 2021. 5 Principles of Great Management. The University Of Arizona

 

Global Campus. Article. Published 8.12.2021. Read on 2.12.2022. https://www.uagc.edu/blog/5-principles-of-great-management

 

Board of Proakatemia. 2022. Strategia Presentation.

 

Cambridge Dictionary. n.d. Meaning of Paragon in English. Read on 3.12.2022. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/paragon

 

https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/dairy

Pietiläinen, J. 2022. Tamperelainen. Maidonkulutus vähenee Suomessa, mutta yksi juoma nousee rinnalle – Kuulutko sinä tähän tyypillisten käyttäjien ryhmään? Article. Published 8.9.2022. Read on 3.12.2022.

https://www.tamperelainen.fi/paikalliset/5006064

 

Luonnonvarakeskus. 2022. Mitä Suomessa syötiin vuonna 2021?

Article. Published 22.6.2022. Read on 3.12.2022. https://www.luke.fi/fi/uutiset/mita-suomessa-syotiin-vuonna-2021

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