So, there I stood, in front of my whole team - it was 8am, and people strolled in for our monthly team meeting. The projectors were fired up to bring in Aleyda and other folks from around the country/globe from the SEER team. It felt like any other day, any other team meeting, people yawned a bit, you’d hear the frantic feet as they hit the old wooden steps from the few people who showed up late, peeked into the auditorium, and quietly took seats.
Our leadership team, we were prepared, and we started talking about our business lines, how they were doing, what we were doing to grow, hire, etc. We updated the team on how we did last quarter, we shared the numbers with the team, and talked about upcoming projects. Nothing out of the ordinary. We discussed new team members coming, where we could improve, again nothing out of the ordinary.
As I looked at my screen with my notes on what I wanted to cover in my evernote, there was a reminder to shout out Crystal for her 6 year anniversary. Nothing new.
So I look over at Crystal, who is the quiet spine of SEER Interactive, she’s been my rock since her first day. Here she was 7 months or so pregnant, moving into motherhood.
So I quickly said to my team, a few things I had written, but this was different, something felt weird…my stomach started feeling all weird and I could feel it.
Mentally I’m like…are you fucking serious Wil?
But I guess that is the beauty of emotion, even the toughest of us, with the most pride sometimes can’t keep em down. My nose was wet, I started sniffling as I spoke about how Crystal is a big reason why I grew SEER (I would have stopped long ago, because without leadership to help handle it, it wouldn’t have been fun). Sniffles kept coming but no one noticed. I thought I could wrap it up and get off the stage, but I had another point to make.
I started listing out some people by name and saying, hey without Crystal being here I don’t know if I would have met “you, and you, and you, and you”.
Then something started creeping up in my voice, which is often stern, direct, and has an intonation that is pretty sharp, not now. My voice was all muddled.
Then there was the last straw, I had a flashback of my recent trip to Europe with my wife and thought, that might not have happened without the comfort of my leadership team, and my most tenured member of the team, Crystal.
And then I felt the warmth of a tear roll down my cheek (Crystal was stoic, no visible emotion). Here I was unable to hold my emotions in when speaking of the impact that a person had on my life personally and on SEER and so many SEER people.
I felt kinda naked, not that my exterior is some kind of persona, even my DISC profile nails me at a person who is tough but has deep care for people, I was standing in front to 50 or so people and it was obvious that I had a bout of deeply felt emotions coming out of my nose, eye and voice.
After it was all over I joked about how no one better tweet about it before I do damn it! But that night I started wondering…was that a good thing, nothing, or a bad thing. I think that was the wrong lens to look at it. It was the right thing. It was hard to hold my head up for a few minutes after that, but it is what I felt.
I learned that this business is EXTREMELY personal to me. Crystal and many others have made major sacrifices to join me on this journey and to me that makes me thankful, DEEPLY thankful. When reading this article about the CEO of Sriracha over on Mark Suster’s blog, the thing that stood out is how the CEO looks at his business.
This quote especially stood out to me:
“This company, she is like a loved one to me, like family. Why would I share my loved one with someone else?”
So I guess that is where I am too, this company, SEER that is, is so much more to me than an enterprise that makes money, and does marketing, it took standing in front of my team and in the process of thanking someone for their contribution to remind me that yup, that feeling is still there 10 years later. It was also my gut check that, showed me and the team that this business is a lot more than a business to me.
Isn’t it time we make offer letters non-negotiable? Companies, isn’t it time we just make true offers? Companies want people to come in day 1 stoked to work there and adding value, yet the path to get to day 1 often requires negotiation, beating each other up a bit, its bullshit.
What does a company gain, when they hold back 5-10% on an offer? If I think this job is worth 10% more than I am going to offer you, that is kind of a slimy thing to do, save 10% but start off a relationship on the wrong foot.
When offers are given out, companies should start giving them in a way that they are non negotiable, and the company says, this is what we value you in this position. Maybe you negotiate some extra vacation time or something, but a company’s primary goal in hiring is to get great people. So why in the process of getting great people would you try to cut great people out of 5-10% you have that you COULD offer but you want them to negotiate for? I see no upside.
By not taking this approach what companies have bred is the common sentiment that you shouldn’t take the first offer you are given. Heck, even Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In mentioned that her husband gave her a hard time on negotiating her offer for Facebook, saying you never accept the first offer. She negotiated and got a raise. Zuck, what did that communicate? If you had the extra to give her, why not just start off at what you think she is worth? You don’t need the money. You wanted her bad. Just doesn’t make sense to me to take someone you want that bad and start off the relationship holding something from them, you have no problem giving them.
This story just perpetuates the cycle, sadly. Let’s start a new cycle.
Because the company probably has more it won’t give you unless you ask. Or in other words they are trying to low-ball you.
No one likes being low balled, low balling doesn’t build trust, yet it is a common practice for companies to “low ball” or at least not show the max offer they could put on the table.
So as companies we reap what we sow. Employees often don’t trust us and I think the first way to start building trust is in offering people offers that are based on how you value the position and their experience in that position, not on that estimation minus 10 percent.
Offering people what you think they are worth to your company communicates that your company isn’t trying to squeeze every little bit out of an offer and starts off the relationship on on of honesty and integrity. It says something about the company.
Companies, managers, etc we talk about people not being loyal and being skeptical, I think this is the first step we can take in mending that bridge. GIVE REAL OFFERS!
To me, turnover falls into 4 categories (there can be some overlap between #1 & #4)
1 - People you’ll miss, leaders, potential leaders - people who if they were in your company today would be doing amazing things, helping you to see new things, new business units, etc. (Note to me this is the ONLY turnover that matters). They chose to leave, and you wish they did not.
2 - People who left before you fired them (they probably saw it wasn’t a good match too). Note: These people left b/c you probably saw they weren’t right, put pressure on them and they realized it was not what they wanted.
3 - People you had to fire
4 - Life changed - Strong performers (not always people in #1, might be) but people who’s path changed so much you couldn’t help (family, wanted to go back home, new career path, etc).
So over the last 5 years we’ve hired about 80 people and had about 30 leave.
Here is how they break down into the categories above:
#1 - The people who we are worse off for them not being here - 4 (10%)
#2 - People who left before we let them go - 8 (30%)
#3 - People who were fired 14 (46%)
#4 - Life changes 4 (13%)
In the last year people hired in 2012 we are closer to 15%, so we are getting better and better. If your business in year 1 has the same turnover in year 5 you are either a GREAT judge of character or you aren’t pushing yourself to greatness. New businesses, new managers often settle, or we convince ourselves of people who aren’t right for us.
I used to always try to see the best in people in interviews and that is NO WAY to hire, being overly positive in your thinking causes you to ignore the bad parts and focus way too much on the good.
I phrased the 50% turnover # wrong (I meant people who left or were fired) over a 5 year period. So Its really 23 of 80 or 30%, but I will say that in the earliest years voluntary turnover was non-existent, no really it was ZERO, involuntary turnover was like 65%). I sucked at interviewing, and the cost of being a bad interviewer is having to look a lot of people in the face and say sorry, and that sucks. So I have gotten a lot better.
I could hire a LOT better now than I could 7 years ago, 7 years ago I had NO experience hiring. Sometimes you get lucky (Like I did with Adam, Crystal, and Rachael, all at 5+ years at SEER) but those 3 out of maybe 10 made it from my first 10 hires, now remember I am great friends with 2 hires from back then, but 5 were complete disasters.
I don’t have the data going back to 2005-2008, so I am trying to look at the last 5 years super quick if numbers don’t add up LMK. I am pulling interns out, since they have a purposeful limited life span.
Are people scared for their jobs?
Unfortunately sometimes, and i fucking hate that!!! But I understand why, 3 team mates in the last 4 weeks brought this up, and I asked them how could I fix it, help me. I don’t want people worried or nervous and one of them said that if SEER implemented a more direct “warning system” people would know…oh if I have never had an official warning, then I am good. So I learned from that and I trying that. I’ll let you know how it goes.
NEVER EVER APOLOGIZE for trying to build the best team possible, that will be your guide when tough decisions have to be made.
The sooner you can get your company to the point where you can get people to relocate several states away… YOU WIN! (62% of SEER’s hires in the last 18 months relocated, form TX, CA, SC, MA, IL, MN, GA, KC, FL etc etc). The 102 months before combined… ZERO.
Clients hate project turbulence, but if you articulate your vision on building the best team possible, I have found they put trust in YOU / the team / the system.
Open another office if you feel you are tapping out of local talent or can’t get people to relocate.
“If you are running a business for the first time, and you last more than 4 years, if you have too many of the same folks you hired in the beginning that is a problem.” That is a quote from one of my advisers she said that to me many years ago when I would brag that voluntary turnover was ZERO. Since I didn’t know squat about hiring, it should be expected that I made some mistakes right, turnover that low was a PROBLEM, and I had to have the cajones to fire.
Beat yourself up over category #1, those are the people you couldn’t retain but if they were with you today would be KILLING shit. Of the 30 who are not here, its the 3-4 in that top category that I beat myself up over.
Its ok to have high expectations. Every morning I go through my team by name and see who I remember and what I know unique about them. Its just one of the many pressures I put on myself to create a great company. I personally invest a lot of time in knowing people personally at SEER, I push my leadership team to do the same, and knowing how we can help them achieve their goals is KEY. I never had a manager ask me what I wanted to accomplish in my personal or professional career.
If I am going to see you as more than a way to make $$$, then I don’t want to invest that time in people who I don’t feel make an equal investment back.
Be resolute in your beliefs…people who are crappy to other people here gotta go, period. Whether that is you spend all day taking smoke breaks and chit chatting while not helping your colleagues who are swamped or if you are a bad cultural fit.
There are a limited number of people who strive for greatness everyday, I want them HERE, not because its “safe” but because if they are good to each other and good to our clients they’ll always know there is room on the SEER bus…indefinitely. The world is full of people who interview well and have temporary hustle.
IS THIS BAD PR for SEER?
Maybe. But its the truth, my team knows this already, and they still refer people like crazy, they see the insides of what this company’s heart is.
Have you ever had someone give you one perception of a company and then when you get there its different? We’ve all been there.
Wouldn’t the world be better if people told you the truth about their companies vs. trying to convince you of all the good things? I tell every interviewer what causes people to NOT work out at SEER, why? Because I have to be honest with them, about our good and bad. In that way I never mislead them.
The cool part is that I go OVERBOARD for every employee that I can, I attend funerals, baptisms, weddings, I front load raises as bonuses so they can pay down debt, give 5 figure bonuses several times (and that doesn’t get them to stay FYI), my average annual raise the first 5 years of our existence was 22% (those days are over, but for our first 9 years of existence we budgeted double digit raises). I fly people to places they’ve wanted to go to see family members, I build their links when they go home for emergencies. I have sent their mothers thank you notes, I’ve paid for parent’s hotel rooms to come visit their kids who have relocated, I fire the clients who treat them poorly. The monsters at SEER know I’ll die trying to make this the BEST place to work, but there is an equal responsibility back to be the BEST they can to our clients and each other.
So I think my desire to only work with the best, is because I want to be the best boss anyone has ever had. I want to care more, take more time to know what makes them tick, etc and I guess what I want back are people worthy of doing that for.
I think deep down my clients appreciate my unyielding desire to put the best people I can possibly get on the front lines.
Keep in mind guys, I could blog about our vacation policy and how awesome it is, the intent of this site is to be the “anti-cheerleading entrepreneur“ that tells you how awesome you are, that you can go build great stuff and make millions like instagram, or that 17 year old kid who sold to Yahoo for 30 MIllion, it is is to talk about failure, mistakes, and the hard road of running a business even with an amazing team. There’s enough of the rah-rah blogs out there that inspire me, I just decided to take a different bend.
If you have people that are more gritty, and real, let me know, I find that I learn more when people tell me their mistakes, then when they tell me their successes and I hope this blog serves that purpose for people like me.
That quote is from Bram Cohen, founder of BitTorrent, see it in the video above. I loved hearing him say that it is so succinct because it is something I have written thousands of words trying to convey.
This quote from Yvon Chouinard the founder of Patagonia has always resonated with me:
“I had always avoided thinking of myself as a businessman. I was a climber, a surfer, a kayaker, a skier and a blacksmith. We simply enjoyed making good tools and functional clothes that we, and our friends, wanted”
Reading let my people go surfing has really given me the ability to say it too.
I have been reluctant for a long time to tag myself an “entrepreneur” or “CEO”, b/c I believe the shit is over hyped. Its like nails on a chalkboard when someone says it along side my name. CEO of SEER Interactive….yelch!
I don’t like talking about entrepreneurship, which people ask me to talk about all the time. I decline it in most instances or change it to what I like talking about…doing what you love in a way that lets you live the life you want to live with the people you want to live it out with. I prefer to talk about failure, maybe its because I am insanely hard on myself.
I hang out with company founders all the time, so I don’t have a problem with it, it just doesn’t fit me. I don’t wanna sell, I don’t wanna go IPO, I don’t have an exit plan, I don’t have a get to 20 million by X date goal, I just wanna wake up and love what I do and the people I do it for and with.
My business cards have showed my reluctance from day 1, they just say associate. I once had cards printed up, and someone allowed them to be printed with CEO, I threw them out and ordered new ones. That is how much I detest it.
I guess I am trying to avoid the things that let people start down that slippery slope of thinking they’re awesome. Big dreams for instance, everyone talks about dreaming big. You know what…I dream small. I dream in taking care of one client at a time. I believe with ever fiber of my being that if we do what’s right by our clients, the growth will take care of itself. It has so far.
Who are the other CEO’s/founders/associates that you know that have a contrarian view on entrepreneurship? I’d like to meet more of them.
I am so lucky to have met Brad, and thank my lucky stars that he takes time for me from time to time. He is who I aspire to be in so many ways. Brad cares about people, and as an ex-CEO of a multi-office, 150 person, multi million dollar search company back in the late 90’s - you would think that when we get together, we would talk about growth and expansion. He’s been there, he’s done that, so he is a wealth of knowledge. But what many people don’t know is that he worked in a group home as a counselor to kids before starting this business. So he has that volunteer and business side.
Yet so often our conversations go from Revenue to Relationships. What people don’t know about Brad is that he started off
Brad has grown a business, sold a business, hired, and fired, he’s made tough decisions that people may not have liked, so he’s no sap, he is tough on me on firing quickly.
I wanted to write this little quick piece to remind people of this…
For anyone out there who has a mentor or is seeking out mentors, my advice for you is find balance. Keep in mind mentors also give bad advice sometimes, and don’t follow it blindly.
Surrounding yourself with people who only talk about revenue growth is fine, if growth equals happiness for you. For me it does not, so while Brad drills me on revenue growth, he’s equally as interested in my relationship growth.
He knows how to probe on the revenue side and he knows how to probe deep on the relationship side too. For me happiness is about balance, its not becoming a 10 Million dollar company if that gets in the way of my happiness. Happiness is about helping people and if my mentors were focused on revenue growth only, I think I’d need new mentors.
While Brad is the “super mentor” because he:
- built and sold a business that is in my industry
- lives 10 minutes away
- makes himself available often
- big on family
- big on volunteering, community impact
I would recommend that you don’t look for super mentors, instead find the things you need advice on, the things you need to be kept honest on, and find mentors who fill those gaps for you.
Now I gotta figure out how to take the 42 little things and implement them, for my clients, my team, my wife, and my family. Nora and I just has a conversation last night about traveling, and I think I might be able to take 1-2 of his ideas and turn them into something that can bridge that gap when we are apart.
If you don’t bite off more than you can chew sometimes, how will you ever know how much to bite next time?
So, I was looking at my travel schedule last night, and Nora could just tell I was exhausted just thinking about it. Its NYC -> Philly -> London -> Amsterdam -> Phily -> Munich -> Croatia -> Instanbul -> Philly -> San Diego (Driving to open our new office) -> Philly -> Boston -> San Diego. That is over a course of 8 weeks. Its exhausting, but Nora and I are “Hitting it Hard” before she won’t be able to travel with me as much due to her work.
So I sit thinking, OMG did I just bite off more than even I can chew, AGAIN? Answer is probably. Will I get through all of this? DEFINITELY!
In looking at this crazy schedule I got to thinking…its good to bite off more than you can chew sometimes. You learn a LOT about yourself. So go for it (once in a while).
The key when you bite off more than you can chew is you MUST continue to get everything done or else you risk breaking trust.
So go for it. Here are just a few things you will learn.
1 - You will learn your breaking point.
Its good to know that as early as possible. For instance I know I can work off of 4 hours of sleep, 2 nights in a row, but never more than that, how did I learn it? Its critical to know your breaking point, we all have it, go find it.
2 - You will learn to delegate.
There is something about looking and saying “This is too much, but I don’t want to change course” that causes you to look around at your team, identify the people for whom you can share your load with, who care as much as you do, and will be rock solid. People who don’t
delegate well don’t have enough work! Load them up until they say “UNCLE” then have their back to show them that when they ask for help, they’ll always get it.
3 - Your team mates will develop new skills & grow professionally.
See that is the beauty of delegation! By sharing your load with others who are often eager to help, you get to see them grow professionally and personally and being a part of someone’s path, even if they leave is very fulfilling. I learned a whole new way to manage my inbox, by this method, and it helps me feel less stressed every day.
4 - You will place a MUCH greater premium on your time.
Which means those whom you share it with realize that they matter to you.
5 - Leaders in your company will emerge.
Good people want to help, you just gotta let them.
Leaders see you holding on to too much, and if they have a long term track record of performance will see you struggling and they will help. It never ceases to amaze me at how hard people will work to help me out before I even need to ask. I think this happens for several reasons, but I think its important that you have broad shoulders, no leader wants to help someone who poorly prioritizes their time, who isn’t willing to go the extra mile, and doesn’t consistently goes the extra mile.
6 - You will learn that you are better & stronger than you think you are
Once you decide to stretch yourself thin and stop playing it safe, you see that you got through something super difficult just fine. You might decide to never do it again, but you gain confidence in YOURSELF! Knowing that you “did it” regardless of what that challenge to yourself it.
Once you get through biting off more than you can chew, take a break. The goal is to get some level of light at the end of your tunnel even on the way into the tunnel. So for me, its mid may. Up until then, its MAD hustle. Its super important when you have bitten off too much, to be able to look objectively at your situation and say I gotta put something in place to bring light to the end of the tunnel.
After a little bit, go bite off more, each time you do you’ll learn more about yourself, I have found that I’ve learned the most about myself when I have gotten in over my head.
All the while never lose sight of what really matters, if my wife wasn’t able to travel with me on much of these trips, I wouldn’t do them, or I’d be home a HECK of a lot quicker :)
So I was in Nicaragua a few weeks ago as many of you know. While most people said, it will be good to have a week of extremely limited Internet, when I asked “why” no one had a good reason, it was all about recharging and being immersed in the experience (which I did) But I actually did learn several things by being unplugged, it wasn’t about recharging it was a lesson in how I could increase my focus.
So you are thinking of creating an unlimited vacation day policy at your company??
First step don’t listen to your friends - when I mentioned to friends that SEER was moving to unlimited vacation time, people often were like dude, you are making a big mistake. I get you wanna trust people and all, but how are you going to pull this off. We’ve had unlimited sick days for years, so this year we are rolling out unlimited vacation, and in its first 17 days I already see a potential snag.
Second step, find some parameters and get them down in writing, how long you can take off consecutively, when does managers discretion come into play, how much lead time you need to give when taking a lot of time off, how long you need to NOT take time off in between other longer vacations, etc.
Third step, when people abuse it, don’t change the policy, change the person!!
Welcome to the club, unlimited vacation is NOT commonplace, you are already well on your way to communicating to you team that you trust them! The fact that you are even thinking about it makes you a good egg, even if you don’t do it.
But don’t be naive like me, expect abuse. It’s going to happen, the real question is what are you going to do about it?
Say someone does freelance (which personally I have some issue with if it is not disclosed and they take advantage of unlimited “vacation” or unlimited “sick days” telling you they are going to recharge or take care of a sick parent, when in actuality they are double dipping, getting paid while off, and then getting paid for side work. That is a lapse in character.
As John Wooden said…”The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”. So hire people for whom doing such a thing runs against every fiber of their being.
Abuse of policies like that are the kind of thing that causes a company to not do unlimited vacation policies. I would have never thought of this as a threat if it wasn’t for something that opened my eyes to the potential for abuse of an unlimited vacation policy.
Someone who does this, and has their teammates cover for them or put in a couple extra hours are being very poor team mates, but that is for another day.
So looking back at why I put an unlimited vacation policy in place, its because people work really hard at SEER and I wanted to signal that with policies, we TRUST them and in turn they will not abuse it.
And this is that inflection point in running a business, it stings. It stings so bad that many people abandon these policies, keeping with tradition, because its easier. Its easier to give 5 sick days and 3 weeks. Its easier to treat your people like widgets as if they don’t have their own hopes and dreams. FIGHT THAT! Never allow cynicism to taint the way you look at the people you got into battle with every day.
When you hit these forks in the road, don’t take the easy route of ending the policies that make you unique, start firing!!! Its funny how we overreact to the negative, I think its natural to want to remove perks and go with something that is easier. Yet when you get rid of the perks for 99% of your company because 1% of the jerks abuse it. You lose. Your clients lose. Your team loses. You become just another “good” company vs being an exceptional one.
Never let one person break your trust to the point that you remove the perks for the 99% who don’t abuse it, because most don’t. Don’t let that make you jaded. You lose part of your desire to do whats right for your team when you let things like this eventually chip away at you. That is for ANY policy, sick days, vacation days, professional development budgets, anything.
I hope this post ranks well for unlimited vacation time policy (so if you are linking to it gimme some love on it), because I think you guys, the people who get to this page because you were looking for policies are most likely considering it. And if you’ve read this far, I hope I opened your eyes to the abuse that can happen (don’t be naive), and I’m here to say DO IT ANYWAY!
Saturday I fly to the most remote place on the planet and drive on the worst roads, all in the name of clean drinking water for all, and showing my wife that I got her back.
(Villagers digging 3 ft trenches to lay the pipe to run the water from the mountains to the tap, if you’ve ever donated to water for waslala, your $$ goes to the hardware and tools you see here, not labor).
Not only do I love the challenge of being the best manager, friend, CEO, etc, I often ask myself, am I being the best husband, am I doing what I can to make sure Nora and I spend quality time together, and that this business doesn’t consume our lives.
Do I get consumed by work, then come home and sleep, only to wake up again the next day and do it all over again? Its harder than ever, and I think that is why I smiled when Nora and I compared frequent flier miles to see how we fared this year, she was at about 51k, and I was at 68k…as I looked at those numbers side by side, I smiled a bit. It was my reminder and my proof that although this company takes me all over the world that I keep Nora as a priority and try to move dates around to ensure we get to spend time together as often as humanly possible.
Luckily Nora is getting her PhD in Urban Education at Temple University and that her dissertation work allows her to do some work from anywhere, but she also has made sacrifices (yes traveling the world to Nora in many ways is bittersweet, its a sacrifice too) like not teaching this past year so she and I could be together more, but that is for another day…something many people don’t know is that my wife has a startup as well, its been around a little longer than SEER, as she started it while still in college.
Nora and I never lose track of the fact that we are wickedly lucky, we travel like crazy and have seen so much of the world in the last 2.5 years (I filled a passport in that time) so it came as a shock to me one day in a London hotel, as Nora and I hopped from flight to flight and train to train she turned to me and said… “I don’t want my life to be following you around the world.” - If you know me, you know I react quick, but this time I listened. She went on to explain that if we don’t take time while we are traveling to enjoy where we are, that she might as well stay home.
Let’s put the 800lb gorilla on the table….People are skeptical of companies, so expect people to come in your company having LOW expectations and low TRUST, its important for companies to begin extending that olive branch from day one, chipping away years of disappointment, resentment, and dishonesty.
How do you do that? Invest time and money in actually building a culture that shows that you have a team of people who care about each other, more than just the work, but about each other as people. This must start from the top.
For SEER, I believe you can communicate this from day 1 with policies:
- unlimited sick days (we trust you),
- unlimited vacation days (we want you to enjoy life),
- a very progressive health insurance plan (we don’t want you to worry about $$ when you are sick),
- investments in people’s learning (we want you to grow professionally),
- investments in team events (we want you to have FUN!),
- firing bad teammates (we want you to enjoy working here w/ people who you feel have your back)
- firing bad clients (we want you to work with people who respect you and are fun),
- doing the RIGHT thing for clients (we have integrity to do whats right),
- volunteering (we care about others)
These are all examples of the kinds of clues you can give your team from day 1, that they are more than “human capital”.
For instance you want people to feel this way when they take vacations, or have a family issue, right?
Imagine what we as a company can accomplish if we all felt this way? If we all hired people who thought this way?
How do you think Ethan & I and others are going to act when Adam takes his honeymoon later this year? Yeah you know! That is the intangible…that is caring about the individual when people step up to help others enjoy their vacation or spend time grieving over family losses (heck, I’ve even gone to funerals of people I never met just to show support for people on my team & their families).
I talked about this in my best wedding gift post, the bonds with those people who stepped up so I could enjoy my honeymoon is exactly why when it is their turn to honeymoon or take time off I’m working OVERTIME to help keep them from having to worry. Those bonds are TIGHT, because they cared about me as a PERSON, not a boss, they wanted to see me enjoy myself w/ my new wife.
Companies need to create THOSE bonds if you want to minimize unwanted turnover and make it hard for people to recruit away your team!
In SEER’s time a lot of people have come and gone, and my feelings on them range the gamut, while I am not proud to say it, it ranges from “wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire” to “I hope you get the best this world has to offer”. I wish I didn’t carry the first sentiment, but I’ve invested heavily in some people only to be screwed by them. The important thing is that I invest .000001% (still too much) of my time thinking about the negative, and it only happens when a name comes up, or reviewing old phone lists.
I really believe in only giving mind share to the things you can change, but I am also realistic to say “look does that name or face flash into my mind, yes, and do I think good thoughts, no” - I am human.
So I am writing this because I have recently re-connected with the first person who ever worked with me, Joe. As SEER transformed and changed Joe did too, and after a 3-3.5 year run he moved on. I made the mistake when he left that so many young managers do with their first teammates, I got sad (not mad), I was sad b/c Joe was going to explore different projects, he was a GREAT person, and I was sad that he didn’t want to work with “me” anymore. I took it personally, I thought I had done something wrong. I never let that on because I LOVED working with Joe and even though I was sad, he had been so great to us that I couldn’t be angry, only supportive.
So I start there, 3 people who are no longer at SEER, whom I hope are getting the best this world has to offer, and I wish nothing but the best for and what they’ve taught me.
First off, one of my core beliefs is to create happiness where I can, I want people to be happy, I feel life would be better for all if we were more positive. Below you can see a pic of Patrick and I …7 years after it “didn’t work out”… :) We seem pretty happy huh? (in Tamarindo where he lives, he showed me & Nora all around Costa Rica)
So if you are not happy at SEER, so be it move on and find that thing that will make you happy and that is what Joe, Patrick, and Mark have done, and in reflecting on those three dudes I thought, HMMMMMM what is it about working with them that makes them fall into that category, where I LOVE meeting up with them, helping them when I can, they help me when I need it, when I see them…I hug their wives and are interested in how their lives are, if their new endeavors are panning out, and how I can help if they are not…its like we’re old friends, not bitter ex-employee/employer BS.
It all happened this year funny enough…Joe came to our office grand opening party (meant a LOT, my mom ran over and hugged Joe as soon as she saw him) and I’ve seen him twice since including today, I saw Patrick & his wife while in Tamarindo for a friends wedding, and I saw Mark & his wife just a few weeks ago in San Diego as we looked at new office space. There are definitely others (Staci & Bonnie - both left for families, etc) but these three guys will be my focus today:
So here’s my 9 takeaways if you wanna part ways on AMAZING terms, with your teammates (both employee and employer):
1 - You gotta actually care about each other personally and professionally
So I gotta be HAPPY for Mark when he told me he was moving to SD and to go working for an AWESOME company, not sad that I was losing him. I cared about Mark personally, and because I did, the personal side kicked in over the business side when he told me he was leaving. I was like OH crap, how can I ever replace him was my next thought! You aren’t truly wanting happiness for someone if when they discover that “thing” that will make them happiest and it happens to takes them away from you, you get angry.
2 - You have to respect each others paths
Even when you have to let someone go, they should respect that your company has a path and that they may no longer be right for that path, in the same way that they have the right to have a path and even after 2, 5, or 10 years they may choose to change paths. That happened with Patrick who moved out of the country altogether after we parted ways, today he runs a kick ass agency and he too, like Mark, is surfing on the regular (check out this video) I’m PUMPED for him. Having the time (after 5-6 years) to reconnect was awesome and time that I truly cherished, heck if I was able to change my path from teaching to SEO, how can I not be happy for someone else who changed their path!? That even reminds me of Leslie, who left to go back to school to work in non-profits…again how can I not be happy for that?
I think learned this in part from John Pogas & Sharon Cohen at AON (not my direct boss), whom when I told them I was leaving…John seemed truly happy for me - he just gave me travel recommendations yesterday actually! His “boss” Sharon asked me to come into her office and said she heard I was leaving…as I prepared to shake hands and get my cube all packed, she called me a “mensch” (which I was like umm what is that?) Sharon said, its just a “good egg” someone who is a “good guy!” I thought whew! The way I left AON to start SEER, left behind a trail of positive thoughts…why? Hopefully because first they saw my path was taking me in a different direction that would make me happier, but the time while we were together I did everything I could to make sure that for what I controlled I did an AMAZING job for them. How people treat you after you work for them says a LOT about how they thought about you while you did and to this day I love it when I bump into Sharon or chat with John via Facebook which we do often :)
3 - Be flexible on the way out
Give more than 2 weeks if you can, or at least make yourself available to help afterwards if its at all possible. Friends don’t leave each other high and dry, its not about 2 weeks, it’s about getting things to a point where the timing is right. I owe it to them to not drag it out, friends want to see friends happy, so its my job to appreciate the willingness but also expedite the process. In a company where you had impact there is a GOOD chance that your impact can’t just be wrapped up in 2 weeks and passed on to someone else.
4 - KICK ASS for your clients
You gotta leave behind you a bunch of clients who are sad to see you go…not thrilled they’ll get someone else. That is your legacy, you want your clients to be like OH NO. I’ll never forget one day I called one of Marks clients saying “there will be changes to how we are structured at SEER” before I finished he said…”You aren’t taking Mark away from my account are you?” in a panic. At the time the answer was no, but as a manager I said holy shit, he’s adding a ton of value, his clients are loving him!! Wow he’s gonna be hard to replace someday. I have a few people who have left a legacy so great that people who were hired after they were gone still hear about their impact. That’s how you want to leave things, on top!
5 - BE GREAT AT YOUR JOB
As an employee, you have to do a GREAT WORK and be a person of high integrity, integrity means you work your fingers to the bone your last 2 weeks to make sure your current friends still at the company and your employer aren’t left holding the bag. No one misses sub par employees, actually when they quit you think…thank GOD I don’t have to get dinged for unemployment. But if you want to leave an impression on those around you, go out with integrity and helping make their lives easier.
6 - Minimize “Healing” time
Work to make it non existent, with Joe it took me a year to no longer feel regret that I had let him down or didn’t offer him the right opportunities at SEER, with Mark it was instantaneous happiness. The difference was about 7 years of learning and watching people come in and out. Today people like the above, are the kind of people you are happy for first. Staci, who is my ROCK, started off managing my schedule, then managing payroll, then our books, is leaving to start a larger family. I got the call that she wanted to talk, took a big gulp and returned it from my hotel room - I knew what was coming … I was immediately happy for her, TRULY. Then I thought … oh shit, I’m losing one of the few people who has been around since the beginning, which was a bit sad. I’ll miss her, which is why I had a guy record a BAD rendition of please don’t go girl in a gorilla suit on Fiverr. :)
7 - Continue extending the olive branch
Due to my travel schedule I find myself in the cities of ex-teammates all the time, I still try to hit them up when I can and if I can squeeze it in we meet up. These are PEOPLE, not widgets…just because you don’t work with me anymore shouldn’t stop me from caring about how you are doing and if you are happy. Again this is for the people for whom we ended on good terms obviously.
8 - Don’t hire people you dislike, fire the ones you work with and find over time you don’t like
This sounds obvious, but people get hired all the time by people who don’t like them. Its usually the “I need someone to do X for me” approach, that leads to this or the “they were really good at X part”. Hire for cultural fit first, always. Fire the people you don’t like, no one says be friends with everyone at work. If you work with people you seriously don’t like who don’t fit your culture the damage they do is widespread. If you don’t like them, you probably don’t invest in their happiness like you do others, so why be someone’s anchor? Cut em loose and let them start the process of finding the right match.
9 - Don’t look back in anger…I heard ya say
Once you minimize “healing” time, you’ll start to look back not with anger or sadness, but with happiness, you’ll be happy that you got to know that person, still know them, and still stay in touch, as that gives you a sideline seat to watch them as they find their happiest place. There are tons of other great reasons to love the employees that leave, as my mentor Brad Aronson has said.
Patrick, Joe, Mark, Bonnie, Staci, and so many others have created things or taught people things that are still helping us kick ass for clients today, or helping us in how we manage people today. I’ll tell you this, I’ll take being with them for a time period over never having met them at all, right?
As Joe and I left Kraftwork for brunch we hugged, it was long enough that someone beeped at us. We laughed (Joe has a funny laugh), thinking they either could feel the love, or they thought we were gay! Joe walked down Girard Ave and headed home, I jumped in my car, we both knew that we’d see each other again and that when we did it would rock.