For almost seven years my company had zero turnover. But don’t be fooled by how impressive that statement may sound. Just wait until you read the whole story. It’s a doozy.
In the Beginning…
When I say “zero turnover” what I really mean is nobody quit or left the company of their own decision during the initial, almost seven years of our company’s existence. Yes, we did choose to part ways with 4 or 5 individuals during this time for regular, run-of-the-mill sort of stuff. But even that was minimal, considering the seven year span. My point here is no one chose to leave — no one quit.
As I sit here today in 2019 and reflect back on those early years, I have to admit it was a pretty wild ride. We averaged more than 200% growth year-over-year in both revenue and in staff. We won all kinds of “Best Place to Work” and “Fastest Growing Company” awards, once ranking #3 in all of Oregon (for growth) by one outlet, #6 in all of Oregon by another outlet, #2 in Portland, and #317 on the global INC 500 list. It was crazy. We would regularly receive more than 300 applications for every new role we posted. People with college degrees and sometimes applicants with more than ten years of experience were literally willing to intern with us for no pay. It felt like a rocketship. It was wild.
We were quickly making our mark within our industry too -- all of a sudden doing Super Bowl commercials, working with all the big brands and ad agencies, getting nominations for big awards shows, and working with A-list clients all over the globe. The speed of which we achieved success was mind-boggling. It still doesn’t feel real sometimes. Most importantly, the energy, camaraderie and positive vibes during this time were contagious and surreal. It felt special.
That said, I’ll be the first to admit things were far from perfect. We had some pretty glaring issues and short comings like any start-up: poor internal processes, few written policies, immaturity (me included), low accountability, and low pay. Things were held together by disorganized Google docs, used IKEA furniture, kombucha and duct tape. We were young, naive and had some pretty big blind spots. As a leader and entrepreneur, I was very naive and inexperienced — I’d never done this before. And the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” could not have been more true. I was drinking from a fire hose. We all were.
“I’ll be the first to admit things were far from perfect… Things were held together by disorganized Google docs, used IKEA furniture, kombucha and duct tape.”
Reflecting on the good energy and contagious vibes, it’s clear to me now that a lot of the early magic we experienced was because of our approach to people and work. From the very beginning, my co-founder, Brian, and I committed to building a company formed around a deeper meaning — something we hoped would contribute light and positivity to our community. A place where people’s lives, their family’s lives, and their well-being mattered far more than any transaction or the bottom line. I even gave a TED Talk back in 2014 about it. While we haven’t always hit the center of the target, still to this day, this is the ethos we’re aiming for.
Brian and I were keenly aware of how demanding, unhealthy, dark, and dysfunctional both, the creative industry and music industry, can be. Everyone knows that — it’s no secret. That’s why turnover in these industries is about two years on average. And we just couldn’t stomach that kind of existence. We were bent against it, bent against the typical industry BS, and we promised each other we would find a better way to do it.
For me personally, launching our own little company presented an opportunity to work through some of my own life’s baggage. It was an opportunity for me to hit the reset button and create something new. New ways of being and living — a workplace and a community focused on health, high function and a higher purpose — something I’d long searched for in my own work career, but never really experienced it prior to this. I’d worked for a long list of mostly dysfunctional, self-serving companies and bosses, who mostly churned, burned and failed their employees. It’s as if they all wanted to squeeze every last drop out of energy and life out of their employees during the work day, without any care for people’s lives outside of work.
From day one, it was critical for us to do things differently. Our focus is quality of life, health and high function, transparency, vulnerability, and trust. These are the table stakes — the non-negotiables for us. Those were, and still are to this day, the center our target in terms of our ethos.
“Our focus is quality of life, health and high function, transparency, vulnerability, and trust. These are the table stakes — the non-negotiables for us.”
Reflecting back, the ethos of our organization back then is sort of hard to articulate with words. It was surreal — both bizarre and wonderful. In some ways, it felt like it was a shelter and safe haven for artists, musicians and other like-minded people. A place where creative people could be understood and celebrated — and most importantly: employed. A place where people could have flexibility, understanding and paid time off to do art, to tour with their bands, to be with their friends and families, and for self-care. It felt like a foreign concept. Few employers were doing that.
On the other hand, maybe we weren’t that special. In some ways we were pretty similar to many creative shops or tech start-ups. I guess the biggest difference from Silicon Valley or big creative agencies and us was that we are 100% bootstrapped — self-funded. There was no deep pockets or generational wealth behind us. We didn’t have a big pile of investment cash to spend on fancy offices, big comp plans and bougie catered lunches.
We started from the basement of my tiny North Portland Hobbit house, where we literally had to duck our heads so we didn’t hit them on the floor joists — and later worked out of an 900 square foot industrial office space, where one day some random dude literally once fell through our ceiling. Our situation was a bunch of old desks from Craigslist and broken Ikea furniture. A token foosball table and an old leaky kegerator. DIY AF.
The Hockey Stick
If you know our story, then you know we weren’t in my basement very long. We grew fast, and before long, we got better digs. And then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were somewhere in the middle of our seventh year, quickly approaching $10M in revenue with almost 40 full-time employees. It was the hockey stick type of growth you read about in business books and “How I Built This” podcasts.
And then it occurred to me: no one had left. No one had ever quit. This realization sorta weirded me out. At its best it felt more like a big family or a social group. Or at least that’s how I saw it back then. It was common for people’s friends and social groups to almost exclusively be made of co-workers. Unfortunately, it got pretty homogenous there for awhile — a big friend group of like-minded, similar people. Thankfully, that’s not our story today.
“And then it occurred to me: no one had left. No one had ever quit. This realization sorta weirded me out.”
Soon enough we stacked enough cash to offer some pretty good benefits that supported the ethos of the culture we had all built together, nearly all of which remain today:
Unlimited Paid Time Off.
High flexibility for personal needs, where people are encouraged to take any time needed during the day to attend to personal needs.
Sabbatical after 4 years.
3 months of fully paid parental leave.
We contribute to your 401k whether you do or not, and if you contribute, we match it.
Health & Wellness Benefit (Gym membership, Yoga, etc).
Paid time off to volunteer.
Paid time off to take personal “creative days.”
Mass Transit Reimbursement.
Bicycle Commuter Benefit.
Concert Tickets Reimbursement.
Technology Benefit. We pay 50% of any technology you want, like a laptop, iPhone, fancy ergo chair, etc. and the best part is: you get to own it.
Hardship fund. We regularly pay for the random things that life occasionally throws at people like when your car stops working or your dog breaks a leg or you accidentally drop your phone in a toilet.
Healthcare, dental, life insurance, disability insurance, etc.
Believe it or not, “Paw-ternity Leave” was once brought up for consideration, to help pet owners navigate the ups and downs of puppies. Ultimately we decided against it — but the spirit of the suggestion tells you a lot about us.
The upside of all of this is we developed a workplace that supported people’s holistic lives, not just their work lives. The core philosophy driving everything is knowing when people are seen and heard, cared for and supported in all aspects of their lives, they’ll do better and perform better while they’re working. And I still 100% believe in this philosophy and operate with this philosophy today.
The Turnover Myth
Today, as we approach almost ten years in business, I’ve gained a new perspective about those seven years of zero turnover. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed and humbled about the topic — because I used to be so proud of our low turnover. Thankfully, I’ve grown to learn a little embarrassment and humility can be good for one’s soul. Thank you to Richard Rohr, for pointing that out.
If you spend a couple minutes on Google and search for “zero turnover” you might find an ego-drunk entrepreneur or two, sharing five easy steps for having strong culture and low turnover. But then if you take a closer look at the actual search results, you may be surprised at what else you’ll see. Go ahead and try it.
I have a hunch you’ll see more results about why turnover might not be as bad as you think it is. To be clear, I’m definitely not advocating for high turnover here. That sounds terrible. However, what I’ve learned in my own experience, and in hearing with my own ears the first-hand stories from dozens of entrepreneurs and leaders, is there’s sweet spot for most companies, somewhere in the middle, where turnover isn’t too high and also isn’t too low. I suggest we may want to call this sweet spot “healthy turnover.”
And if only one thing sticks with you after reading this essay, please let it be this: some degree of turnover is good. Turnover is actually quite healthy for any organization or large group of humans. If you want to succeed over the long-haul, a healthy degree of turnover is necessary, especially for a growing, early phase company that’s evolving and rapidly changing.
“ If you want to succeed over the long-haul, a healthy degree of turnover is necessary, especially for a growing, early phase company that’s evolving and rapidly changing.”
Here’s why: Some of the people we started out with in the early days of my company were great people – especially for that point in time, when we were a small and scrappy, five to twenty person company. But as soon as we doubled our size... and then doubled again… it got hard. As with any team or workgroup that needs to grow and evolve, people can far too easily fall out of sync or lose touch with the big picture and an evolving vision. In fact, I’ve learned that while most people will tell you to your face that they like change and believe it’s generally a good thing, when the rubber meets the road, most people are actually quite resistant to change. Most people are afraid of change.
One of the biggest take-aways I’ve learned on the topic of turnover is this: a growing, evolving organization is not the friend of individual comfort, self-interests and change-resistant people. These forces are diametrically opposed. Without exception, early-stage, growing and evolving companies are critically dependent on the ability of their people to be open by default, driven by learning new things, flexibility, adapting, growing and probably being uncomfortable on the regular. There’s virtually no way around it. And when this happens — when companies are growing and evolving — as simultaneously their people are digging in, exhibiting fear and resisting change — healthy turnover is a natural by-product. It’s unavoidable.
“When early stage companies are growing and evolving — as simultaneously their people are digging in, exhibiting fear and resisting change — healthy turnover is a natural by-product. It’s unavoidable.”
As my friend Bob Glazer explains in his concept, The Experience-Capacity Paradox, if a company is growing at a 30% year-over-year rate, you need your key people growing at a similar growth rate. Our company averaged a 200% growth rate during this six year period. It was unreal. As I reflect back on it, there’s no way our people were growing anywhere close to the rate that's required for the growth rate of the business. I’m sort of blown away we even made it as far as we did. This was a surprising and unfortunate lesson I had to learn about the realities of business and people.
A Hot Mess
As our business grew and evolved, so did the complexity of our roles and the work we did. Unknowingly, I continued to promote my early hires into increasingly challenging and more complex roles — roles most had zero experience in. Some of those were leadership roles. All of these were great people — most of whom I respect and admire to this day. But many of them were in over their heads. Way over their heads. And no awareness or understanding of what was happening.
Taking full responsibility for this season of my business, I have to confess that I didn’t teach, mentor, or develop any of them very well. I mean, it was hard enough for me to keep up my own growth and learning, let alone train and mentor others. Though I was modeling it — regularly pursuing learning, classes, lectures and burning through the latest business and leadership books, I found that my staff had little interest or time to follow my lead.
What happened next is what’s known in business school as “The Peter Principle” — when you promote someone based on their success in previous roles, until they reach a level at which they are no longer strong or competent, as skills in one role do not necessarily translate to another. I naively kept promoting people until they failed.
As I reflect back on these times, I had no idea this was happening. I hadn’t yet learned these crucial concepts of business and leadership, nor had I experienced the hard lessons and experiences necessary to really understand how healthy turnover can be. I was scared of turnover. I was certain it was bad. And I wrongly assumed turnover was just a sign of bad leadership or of a bad company. I was so naive. This is the hard thing about hard things, to borrow a line from Ben Horowitz. These kinds of lessons cannot be learned by reading business books or HBR articles. Nothing can replace the experience of actually walking through the fire and learning the hard way.
“I was scared of turnover. I was certain it was bad. I was so naive.”
The Shadow Side
In addition to all of this, there were other tricky dynamics cropping up among our people too. Like lack of accountability. Entitlement. Core values that weren’t lived or enforced. Core values that were twisted to serve their own comfort. An unspoken, but expected internal culture of chill vibes and a resistance to anything that felt too corporate, too business-y. And the shadow side to a friends and family work atmosphere: nepotism. We had that in spades.
The hard part for me is I got emotionally involved. In my heart, I knew these were the same people that took a risk with me in the early days. Many of them started out as unpaid interns. They joined a scrappy, rag-tag operation with a naive, inexperienced entrepreneur running the show. They accepted jobs at a laughable pay scale -- all because of their love and passion around music, community and a workplace with good vibes. Making it even more complicated, I developed personal friendships with most of them, often making decisions with too much heart and not enough head.
Things got especially problematic when I needed roles to evolve and change. We needed to grow and raise the bar -- and some people weren’t into it. When we needed to change someone’s role or move someone to a different team, it was common for them to ask me if they had a choice in the matter. They’d ask me, “Do I have to?” Folks got really comfortable and it was clear they didn’t want their role to change or evolve. The company needed open, highly adaptable, “in it to win it,” fire in the belly types of people. But we’d created a culture of so much comfort and “chill vibes” that people became resistant to change. Naturally most people aren’t as into change as they say they are.
I remember a couple people essentially telling me “no” when I added new responsibilities to their roles. They didn’t want to make phone calls to clients. They didn’t want to do any new or “extra” work that wasn’t originally part of their role when they were first hired. They didn’t want anything new or extra added to their plates. Some didn’t want to write handwritten thank you notes to clients or do anything that felt like sales or business development work. I remember one employee telling me I should watch Mad Men to see how it’s really done — I should hire sales guys to do the sales work and leave the creatives alone to focus on the creative work. A valuable lesson I learned from this is if these sorts of behaviors are left unchecked — resistance, insubordination and internal dysfunction can grow roots and spread. Like wildfire.
Core Values Gone Bad
During this time we had a core value: “Take care of our people: our staff, our artists, our clients and our community.” At some point, we made the mistake of shortening it to simply “Take care of our people.” This was problematic because the only time anyone ever referenced it, it was to protect or defend someone’s individual comfort and their individual needs. This led to a “me first” mindset within the organization — something that still may take some time to undo.
Another story worth sharing — I remember one of my key people telling me they wouldn’t go on a pre-planned, regularly scheduled business trip to Detroit in January because, as they told me, “Detroit isn’t safe in the winter.” They very point blankly told me they wouldn’t go. Mind you, during our first five years I traveled all over the country in all seasons and never had any trouble, nor really thought twice about it. Snowstorms in Minneapolis and Chicago or heat waves in Atlanta — I was never really fazed by it or felt like anything was dangerous. So then I wondered how the 4.3 million people who live in Detroit manage to get by and do their work? Does Detroit close down for the winter? Does business activity cease? The same person also complained that our 8am to 9am flexible start time was too rigid (they weren’t a morning person). In retrospect, these should have all been red flags. We needed highly adaptable, “in it to win it,” fire in the belly types of people. But instead a precedent was being set that you could openly complain and tell your boss no. But I digress.
As you can see, through one lens we looked like a dreamy place to work. And through another lens, we were a hot mess, full of dysfunction.
“As you can see, through one lens we looked like a dreamy place to work. And through another lens, we were a hot mess, full of dysfunction.”
Looking back now, the hard part is I created the mess. It’s my hott mess. And I take full responsibility for it. I was leading all of it -- I led us down a path where we focused more on our own individual comfort levels and our own individual needs, rather than pushing our people toward learning and evolving in their roles in ways the company as a whole really needed. The truth is, I also cared too much about what people thought about me. I cared more about being a well-liked, popular boss than running a healthy, high functioning business. That was a hard, albeit valuable lesson, that I had to learn the hard way.
Core Values Really Do Matter
One of my single biggest takeaways throughout my entire journey as a leader and entrepreneur is how having clear, strong core values absolutely have to matter within any organization. They’re one of the most important things. No matter how much you may roll your eyes or think vision, values and purpose are some kind of corporate BS — I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Moreover, whenever it’s clear someone on the team isn’t aligned with our values or isn’t on board with our vision or our purpose or our core inner philosophies, that’s an opportunity to review how they fit into the organization and consider if a transition is needed. Once you have a clear and consistent framework to work within, people matters suddenly get very objective and easy to manage. Making the necessary, hard decisions get much easier.
One of the most impactful things we’ve done recently is taking a closer look at our core values to see if they still represent who we are and what we believe in. Our core values were originally established shortly after we started, about 9 years ago — so we knew they were ripe for some re-work. In reviewing them, we followed a new process (thanks to EOS, via Traction) for getting clear about our core values. It was an illuminating exercise that gave so much more meaning and practical use around our core values. If you’re curious about them — our revised, reframed, and remixed core values can be found here. In short time, they’ve been hugely impactful. It’s as if we were feeling our way around in the dark and then suddenly we found the light switch and flipped it on.
I also learned that when people decide to regularly complain, gossip, backchannel, and behave insubordinately, against the parts of their job they don’t like — that’s a clear and obvious sign that our company probably isn’t the best place for them to be. And when someone writes on their exit interview or anonymously on Glassdoor that they think DISC assessments are creepy… or they think our morning stand-up huddles are lame… or they think occasional (and totally optional) meditation sessions feel cult-y — these present some pretty clear and obvious affirmations that we weren’t the right place for them to work. The good news is there’s an abundance of jobs and places to work in the world, and unemployment remains at record lows. So odds are pretty strong that most people can eventually find their place in the world.
At this point, you might be wondering how we’ve been so successful, given everything I’ve gone to such lengths to describe in this essay. The truth almost plays out like a story problem case study from business school. The truth is our hockey stick, our sustained high growth and continued success is literally THE THING that masked our internal dysfunction and failure. It certainly blinded me. Because things were going so well for so long from a key metrics and financial standpoint (ie: revenue, profit, cash, growth), it was far too easy to ignore the shadow side sneaking up from the inside. It was almost like a story of a physically fit, healthy person who’s feeling good and is completely unaware they have a serious illness growing inside of them. Sustained success can mask a lot of things.
“The truth is our hockey stick, our sustained high growth and continued success is literally THE THING that masked our internal dysfunction and failure. It certainly blinded me.”
You can learn more from failure than success.
As you know by now, Marmoset experienced wild and unprecedented success for about eight years. It was constant and non-stop highs. Nearly every quarter was a record breaking quarter. Then we finally had our dark moment — a run of about 6 months in 2018 that got hard. For the first time in the story of our company we had to actually manage our expenses, tighten the belt, make some budget cuts, including staff. For the first time, things got hard. And while it feels weird to say this out loud, I’m thankful for all of it.
The beauty of that hard run in 2018 was for the first time it brightly illuminated some problems we needed to see. We became aware of a cancer growing within us.
As legendary computer scientist Fred Brooks once explained, “You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you’re forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality.” This is our story of 2018.
Getting the Right People on the Bus
While I’m thankful to say we’re back on track now, I will forever be grateful for the hard lessons failure taught me. The single biggest thing I learned though all of it is how crucial it is to have our Purpose, Vision, and Values be crystal clear, consistent and strong among our people. For recruiting and hiring the right people. For developing and growing the right people. And for retaining the right people.
Along these lines, Jim Collins presents one of the most brilliant business concepts of all-time in his best-selling book, “Good to Great.” Collin’s framework is about “getting the right people on the bus.” Technically speaking, he says you have to determine “who first, then what, ” suggesting it’s futile to work on business plans, strategy, brand or anything before you first focus on your people. As Collins presents, it’s about getting the right people, into the right seats, doing the right things. First who, then what.
I believe with my whole heart, mind and soul that the single most important factor for the success or failure of any business or organization is their people. And more specifically, it’s about Jim Collins’ “people on the bus” concept. Some of the most brilliant business ideas and innovations in the history of humankind have crashed, burned and faded into obscurity because they failed to understand the importance of people first. It seems so obvious, yet I’ve found far too many people truly don’t get it.
“I believe with my whole heart, mind and soul that the single most important factor for the success or failure of any business or organization is their people.… as Jim Collins puts it — having the right people, in the right seats, doing the right things.”
You’re only as good as your people. Full stop, no exceptions. In 2018 I experienced this truth the hard way...and we’ve spent the past 8 months doing the hard work necessary to turn it around. The impact so far has been incredible and I continue to learn a ton every day.
Expectations for Career Growth
While recently taking a continuing education course on MIT’s Executive Education campus, I learned about a concept presented by author and frequent HBR contributor, Whitney Johnson, called “The S Curve of Learning” -- highlighted in her new book, “Build an A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve.” The concept presents the growth curve for most people in professional roles, and Whitney explained it takes most people about 3-5 years to complete the curve, assuming they enter their role relatively low in experience, with high potential -- and assuming we develop them well during their tenure. Once they achieve a level of mastery in their role, the options are to find a new role (ie: a new challenge and growth opportunity) or be prepared for them to leave. I may be oversimplifying Whitney’s concept here, but I believe it to be true no less.
Another challenge today is much of the emerging workforce has unrealistic expectations of what their timeline for growth and development should be. I regularly encounter young people who believe their two or three years of experience has suddenly taken them to a high level of mastery in their role, making them ready for a promotion and a big raise. I’ve come to learn that for some younger professionals, the thought of being in the same role for more than three or four years is a scary concept. While I appreciate the fire in the belly many of these types embody, this mindset ultimately sets them up for disappointment, frustration and mis-guided expectations. Patience it seems, is becoming a lost virtue. In a world with Amazon Prime, Caviar food delivery, and virtually on-demand everything you can imagine is becoming the norm, it’s easy to see how some people have come to expect things to happen fast — even career growth.
That said, I’m happy to report I’ve found just as many young professionals who are able to catalyze their fire in the belly in positive ways. They ask if they can take on additional work, contribute to special projects, and learn new skills. They read books. They seek out continuing education opportunities outside of work. They volunteer at relevant community organizations that correlates to the work we do. The develop extracurricular hobbies and activities outside of work that compliments their career path. And at my company, they volunteer to join our special teams; our Sustainability Team, our Diversity and Inclusion Team, our Safety Team, and our Greater Good Team.
A message I work to remind all self-driven, high achieving, fire in the belly young professionals is if you want to be truly great in your career, you’ve got to do a lot more than simply meet the expectations for your role or job. To be truly great, you’ve got to push yourself far above and beyond what’s expected. To be truly great, you probably can’t take most evenings and most weekends off. Go read some autobiographies of professional athletes, entertainers and successful people if you find yourself disagreeing.
“If you want to be truly great in your career, you’ve got to do a lot more than simply meet the expectations for your role or job. To be truly great, you’ve got to push yourself far above and beyond what’s expected. To be truly great, you probably can’t take most evenings and most weekends off.“
While it’s possible to reach a solid level of "good” in your career taking most weekends and evenings off — and there’s nothing wrong with that — you’ll likely never truly reach a level of greatness following that path. In order to be great you’ve got to put in extra time, extra work to set yourself apart from everyone else — you’ve gotta push yourself to learn, develop and grow outside of the 9-5, Monday thru Friday work week. Now keep in mind, this is a personal choice — whether or not you want to be good vs great in your career — and that depends largely on your own personal values. It’s not necessarily a good vs bad choice. It’s a very personal choice, based on one’s own priorities and values in life.
More importantly, it’s not solely on your employer to grow and develop you and your career. Your career is YOUR career. It’s on you to take ownership of it, to invest in it outside of your workday and workweek, and seek out growth and learning opportunities on your own. One way to go about this is finding hobbies, volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities that dovetail with your work, adding value and upside to your career, while simultaneously doing something fun and outside of the workplace. Finding workshops, reading relevant professional development books and seeking out learning events are all good options too.
In sharing my experience in navigating seven years of zero turnover, I must also share some of the most valuable tools, teachers and resources I’ve picked up along the way. The most foundational frameworks and philosophies that have helped propel us forward have been the work of Patrick Lencioni (The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player), Kim Scott (Radical Candor), and Brené Brown (Dare to Lead, Daring Greatly). These titans of culture, leadership, and people matters have given us the core philosophies and tools we now practice everyday within my company. Lencioni in particular has published a series of eleven books that all drive toward to central framework — a framework that’s been transformational for me as a leader. Kim Scott’s Radical Candor is a must for navigating the hard conversations, conflicts and feedback necessary to stay healthy and high functioning with day-to-day matters. Brené Brown’s secret sauce is the power of vulnerability and how to leverage that in leadership and in life. If you haven’t yet watched Brené Brown’s Netflix special -- go get that!
With new found clarity and the wind back in our sails, I’m also thankful to have found EOS -- a foundational framework for running a business. More specifically, I’m thankful for the EOS approach to people matters. EOS has a “people analyzer” concept -- a wonderfully simple tool for regularly and objectively assessing the alignment of individuals to our core values. It’s quickly transformed the way we frame conversations, staff reviews and has simplified our processes around people matters.
For anyone wanting to go deep, there’s no better resource than Jim Collins. His books “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” are hands down the best research-driven business strategy resources ever written. His concepts “The Flywheel,” “Level 5 Leaders,” “The Hedgehog Concept,” “The 20 Mile March,” and “SMaC Recipe” are all tools we use in my company today. Chapter 3 of “Good to Great,” about “First who, then what,” may be the most foundational and most necessary philosophies required for any business to reach a sustained level of success. It’s the one step one cannot afford to skip.
A Strong Magnet
One big, overarching concept I’ve developed through all of this is how each and every organization on the planet can develop the qualities of a strong magnet. Through strong, clear and specific purpose, vision, values and core philosophies -- the ethos of a company will resonate strong with some people and it will turn others off. The stronger and more clear an organization can be with these things, the stronger pull or push effect it will have with people.
“Through strong, clear and specific purpose, vision, values and core philosophies -- the ethos of a company will resonate strong with some people and it will turn others off. The stronger and more clear an organization can be with these things, the stronger push or pull effect it will have with people.”
Every single day I’m working to fine-tune the inner magnet of my organization to make it stronger — to increase that push or pull power. Turnover is a natural result of this effect. Every time someone leaves, it presents a powerful opportunity to find someone who will better connect and align with the core purpose, vision and values of my company. The stronger a company’s inner magnet can be, the better and stronger their people, culture and performance will be.
And the good news is a strong magnet will help retain your best people who are aligned with your purpose, vision and values, and in turn, they will help guide and nurture newer employees as they grow. As I reflect on the hard work we’ve been doing internally over the past 8 months, I’m reminded that nearly half of our staff have been with us at least three to four years -- and a quarter of our staff have been with us for more than five years, with several in the 6 to 8 year range. We’ve only been a company for 9 years — so that’s not bad.
I am eternally thankful for those who’ve maintained the drive, resiliency, the ability to grow and evolve, and the commitment to both, hold fast and simultaneously rise through all of the seasons and cycles of our young business thus far. It’s been quite the ride. And we’ve got some truly amazing people on our team today — at every stage of their career, from newbies to oldies. I’m also grateful for each and every person who’s ever taken a leap of faith in working for me, working with me at my company. Virtually everyone, past and present, have worked hard, have contributed greatly, and have made a tangible impact along the way. For that I will forever be thankful.
As I wrap-up this essay on this warm and sunny July day of 2019, I’m able to reflect fondly on the hard lessons I’ve learned over the years. And I regret the pride I once had about my company’s zero turnover rate. While it’s not an easy path, I’m thankful for the knowledge and tools we now possess to help nurture a healthy level of turnover — one where our people are aligned and committed to our common purpose, vision and values.