It was the best of companies, it was the worst of companies. One built something that the people loved. It poured energy into delighting customers. Eventually, it was rewarded with a great fortune. The second company disregarded people. This company was mischievous and greedy. While it succeeded in the short-term, customers and employees eventually revolted. The company lost trust, along with its great fortune.
Pushy sales people. Marketing claims that hover somewhere between an overreach and an outright lie. You know the kind of company I am talking about. Sadly, there are too many organizations that encourage employees to do or say anything to grow, grow, grow sales. I am sure you can imagine the closed-door conversations: “Who cares? Sam, just get the money!”
A friend just recently helped raise money for a fin-tech startup. Exciting times with lots of numbers to watch. Especially when it relates to having money in the bank to push that end-of-business death cliff out another 18 months. But all he could talk about was that it was an “up round.” (Barely, but still up.) I reminded him that for private companies there is one number that people obsess over, often causing more harm than good — valuation.
“Think like grandpa?” That may sound like backward advice. Times have changed. What could our grandparents possibly have to say about running a business today? Well, I think they have plenty to say.
People are unhappy at work. That is obvious. In a recent post I strongly suggested that leaders have a responsibility — to treat everyone with respect, set a positive example for the team, and create a framework for what success looks like. But what happens when leaders do not own up to that responsibility?
Nap pods. Stairs replaced with slides. A full-size Ferris wheel. No, I am not talking about an adult arcade hall. These are all real ways companies try to keep people happy. I even know someone whose company installed a ball pit. He said it was fun for a moment. But it ultimately became an office joke (and a great way to hide colleagues’ pens).
I love being outside. Just last week I went snowshoeing with some friends in Yosemite. But when I told a colleague about my trip, she wrinkled her nose. Snowshoeing? No thanks. Curling up indoors with a good novel is her idea of a good time.
“The epitome of power.” I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that proclaimed this was why we should care about building a legacy. It gave me pause. The word “power” suggests that legacies are about leverage and status, reserved for company founders and CEOs. I know that is not the case.
Is there a fee for being happy at work? I recently saw an ad suggesting that there might be. A software company promised to boost employee engagement and retention with its powerful analytics platform — all for a small monthly fee. While the technology might be impressive (and there are certainly benefits to HR software) I had to shake my head at the pay-for-happy thinking.
I remember the first time a customer yelled at me. I was a senior product manager and the company was working on a new network optimization device — one we promised would save costs and reduce network congestion. Unfortunately, we hit a couple of roadblocks in the process. The first was that we delivered the product months late. The second (and worst) was that it crashed the customer’s test network.
So you want to start a company. You have done your research. And you know it will be hard work. You probably found the oft-cited statistic that 80 percent of startups fail. You may have even read a few post-mortems — the retrospectives company founders and investors write about their startups’ demise.
There are 450 million active users on LinkedIn. And I swear half of them want to take me out for coffee. I get these requests on a regular basis and I always find it strange. Mostly because I do not know most of the senders. It is akin to a stranger on the street asking, “Hey, how about a quick latte?”
The word “hack” has a colorful history. Not so long ago, if someone had suggested you had hacked your way to the top, you probably would have given them a sideways glance. The word described someone who performed mediocre work — not someone to emulate.