8 thoughts on “Get Personal”

  1. True.
    Also, not only will this save your job, it will often end up saving you the stress of employees leaving at short notice.

    I’ve been lucky to see how my dad operated his business … being the MD, he still bothered to order and serve coconut water to his staff during the hot Indian summers.
    It wasn’t the fact that they were getting something refreshing … just the fact that the boss took time out to actually deal with what they faced on the shop floor.

    Those same techniques help in the IT world too.}

  2. Vinit,

    I 100% agree with this approach because in the end we are working together, and are a team. people appreciate the human touch, not the robotic way to deal with the whole situation.

    I think the biggest issue is how do you keep maintaining the personal touch when the company grows up.}

  3. Om,
    It is difficult because there are more people to talk to, listen to and work with … however, as a bigger company, there are more resources available to understand the employees’ problems too}

  4. Great points above. Personalizing business is a powerful principle (often overlooked) for businesses at all stages of growth, and I agree that it becomes more challenging in more mature businesses. A couple of thoughts . . . The challenges that come with growth put an even greater premium on developing the right practices and laying the right ‘tracks’ while the business is still small and the clay is still moist. Most managerial dysfunctions originate not because of growth per se, but from ineffective seed-stage habits that increase in scale and impact over time.
    Each early stage conversation (or non-conversation) sets a tone for what the future company will look and feel like. An example comes to mind where a founder was confiding in me (an advisor) of concerns about her CFO not pulling his weight, but she was not having the tough conversations necessary to confront him on his contribution. She was avoiding the awkward conversations (the ones she most needed to have) and like any founder she could lift a hundred ‘priority’ tasks in front of this uncomfortable one. Extend this pattern over time and you end up with a 200-person firm where you get the real ‘skinny’ through the grapevine and in backrooms but not in meetings, which have evolved into dilbertesque charades. Nobody plans it this way. It’s the natural extension of thousands of smaller choices to engage or to not engage people on the things that matter. On the positive side, the simple ways of connecting with employees and partners that work in small firms will take on even more power in larger firms as long as they are consistently practiced and evaluated for impact.

    It does take time — lots of it — and I guess with growth there are more opportunities for mgmt. teams to invest less time in creating emotional alignment and more time to the crises du jour that stream and scream toward the business.

    I have seen one leader in particular maintain, even strengthen, a culture of emotional attachment and alignment among employees (in a business that grew from a blank sheet of paper to a 600 person business in 4 years). His solutions were (1) investing his personal time in these efforts. He “bucketed” his calendar into 4 basic activities, one of which was communicating, developing people, building the culture, etc., and he spent a good 25-30 percent of his time on these activities in a disciplined way. He was able to invest at this level only because of the high level of talent he brought onto his management team — they ran most aspects of the day-to-day biz allowing him to focus on people, talent, strategy, markets, etc. (2) the business also cultivated important rituals to build and feed emotional attachment. The business paid for professionally photagraphed portraits of all headquarters employees’ children and loved ones. In addition to giving copies of these to the employees, the framed portraits were all hung together along a prominent hallway in the headquarters building. This became a touchstone of the culture and added a lot of perspective a depth to interactions in the building. That may sound like a corny example (it was one of set of consistent practices), but you could see the fire in the eyes of people who worked at this firm — just as you can see the vacant eyes of so many people who show up and go through the motions in too many workplaces.

    I didn’t intend for this to be so long… hope it adds value to the discussion.}

  5. good post,

    in starting metroproper.com the main thing i told my lawyer was to make sure i can’t get kicked out.

    and i also don’t take peoples money in any of my businesses (coffee shops / music venues) unless they really really get that i do and why i do it and why i will do it with or without them cause it would sufficate me if i was taken off my flow. I’d rather start a new project:)

    my projects are very personal, everyone takes care of each other and leaves each other alone as long as they are doing their job and if vibes are off somethings gotta change fast. The quality of life is the most important, happy people better company period(.)}

  6. There’s no question getting kicked out of one’s own company is an entrepreneur’s worst nightmare. Particularly when you’re a small start up; you essentially ARE your company, living and breathing it 24/7 until it either takes off, is sold off, or ultimately fails.

    I think this post speaks to the parallel marketing advice of, “be a part of the culture you’ve created.” It’s just plain good business sense to be involved with your own community, whether you’re talking customers or co-workers, rather than serving as a benevolent (but out-of-touch) “dictator from on high.”}

  7. Really good article, and lots of interesting comments. If there are multiple founders, their relationship is so critical, and I don’t think it can ever recover from bad gut feelings or doubts in the early stages. They also need to present a united front to employees. The worst scenario is to have the company divide into camps associated with each founder, thereby fracturing the entire organization.

    Co-founders can disagree as much as they like in private, but should present one coherent direction for the business to their staff.

    I worked with my current business partner for about a year before we started our new venture, and that allowed us to understand each other’s was of communicating and get to the point where we can have major disagreements but resolve them and move forward.}

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