The things you learn in tough environments
Most of what I learned about operating startups I learned from the really tough years at my first company from 2005-2007. That is when no customers wanted to work with Third-Party subcontractors because we as an industry had burned so many customers. No employees wanted to join startups – they were all looking for stable jobs. My company was small and funded by owners with a small setup in April 2001 but we were told that there may never be any more coming. I was paid less in salary in 2005 than I was paid at the job I quit in 2003
But in these years I learned how to sell and market – necessity is the mother of all invention. I learned how to better run a Recruitment & staffing process. I learned how to integrate customers into our products/Consultants. I learned how to better set goals for employees and reward those that performed well. I learned how to retain employees when stock options were no longer a real currency. I learned how to get press coverage when we were no longer “hot.” I learned how to manage costs effectively. I learned that I had a lot to gain by not being so adversarial with my competitors.
I never built Google. I’ve acknowledged that many times. But in our first year of sales (and those were really shitty years to be selling IT consultants), I generated $2.1 million in 2005, then $5.9m in 2006, $7.7m in 2007 and that is when i decided to quit my job and start my own business by giving 24 million revenue in 3 years. I learned about revenue recognition. I learned how to establish a technology center in India and how to manage disparate development teams (and this has drive my thoughts also about what does NOT work.). I learned how to establish sales targets and how to manage a sales pipeline. I learned how to do a pipeline review with salespeople without getting bullshitted to.
Listen, I’m not telling you these experiences are for everybody. But these are things you could never learn in 36 months. These are things that my team learned with me by sticking around. No doubt they have more intimate knowledge of these processes since they actually ran them. We let everybody “punch above their weight class” in terms of roles & responsibilities. We all learned. And eventually many of us also made money.
The relationships you build will be enduring
One of the things that Jason Calacanis talks about in his post on the topic is the value of personal loyalty. He’s right about this. The people that I’m closest with in life are my family, my high-school & college friends and the people that I worked with in my startups. We were all at each other’s weddings, brit milah / baby namings and unfortunately a funeral. We were family. We ARE family. I would do anything for these people. I wrote a large check to one of them for a startup with no product and no real plan. He was there for me when I needed it. I sent numerous emails for another for a job opportunity and he is now a senior exec at a very prominent startup. He’s family and he knows it.
We were in the trenches together. We fought for every customer together. Hell – we fought against the VC’s together! And we all worked on the exit together. Like many of you, I have many friends and close relationships. But to anybody who has ever been on the startup battlefield with other people who all stuck in it together, I think they’ll likely understand where I’m coming from. Loyalty in times of adversity separates out your true lifetime friends and colleagues. And to be clear – I was loyal back. I think leaders who quit in times of adversity and leave the teams to fend for themselves are no better than employees who quit easily and early. Quitting would have been the easiest thing for me to do.
I’m not saying that means that all people at startups were treated like family. If somebody at a startup mistreated you then I understand you’re not sticking around. And I’ve already stated that I understand sometimes it makes sense to go elsewhere and learn from new companies and new management. But if the reason your bailing is simply because somebody has offered you a 20% pay increase, I would ask you to consider the following:
Short-term vs. long-term benefits
Yes, you can always earn more by quitting. I said this all the time to the employees at my companies. “I know you can earn more by leaving. I hope that I can convince you to stay every year by making your resume more valuable in the long-term than the immediate bump to go where the grass is greener.”
Loyalty Matters !!!
Happy Job Hunting