Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #74

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of startup Therapy. I'm wil schroder founder and Ceo of startups dot com and with me today again is Elliot Scheiner the ceo of startups dot com. Welcome Elliot, thanks. Will. Uh so Elliot today, we're gonna talk about what we owe our employees at our startups, you know, something we sort of all, No, but we don't really express in detail. Yeah, I think of it's kind of interesting that we kick off our relationships with employees talking about things like compensation and stock and benefits, like everything that's in your employment agreement. But after that we sort of never talked about it again, right, unless it comes up in an annual review or something. It's almost like if we were to get married, we have the one discussion of how the whole marriage is going to go and just never comes up again. Alright. No expectations, you know? But along the way, our team definitely has some strong feelings about what they're owed and kind of what's beyond their employment contract, you know, they're working really hard for us and they say you always these things, but there's rarely a forum to talk about them and founders together, Guys like us, we often don't express that, like, hey, what do you owe your staff? So yeah, I'll ask you because you're our ceo, you oversee a huge part of our staff, what kind of things do you think our staff is owed yet. Never really gets expressed.

Wil Schroter: Did I do something wrong recently. I mean this is another absolute hornet's nest that you're putting me through, especially as forward facing as I am. Um, so does any of our staff listen to this because if they don't, we owe them nothing. We're doing everything depending on what you're about

Ryan Rutan: to say. Our listenership may go up significantly.

Wil Schroter: Look, it's, there's a lot, right. There's there's a lot to this. There's a lot that I think employees rightfully, by the way, feel they are owed and I agree with you that we have these important upfront discussions, but oftentimes the dialogue ends there and it's certainly our job to continue to lead and push that conversation forward. So again, a lot of different things. Um, I would say we owe them a certain level of humility. We owe them a certain level of transparency. We owe them. Certainly we owe them a certain level of attention. Um, by the way, that's, that's, that's quite a bit to chew on right there in itself. Any one of those is

Ryan Rutan: his own podcast episode. Well, let me ask you this though, and we should unpack all of them. What would you say uh is preventing folks from even expressing this in other words? Like by definition, they're saying like, listen, you, you should pay attention to, let's say you always see your attention, Why isn't that ever conveyed? Like why don't founders ever have that discussion?

Wil Schroter: Well, this is an interesting one here and I want to, I want to stay with intention and shifted a little bit to the concept of validation. Right? So the reality is if you've been a founder or in a leadership position, you've seen a lot, right? You've seen a lot of situations unfold both good and bad and you've got kind of a contextual history to draw on, But far too many founders. Um, and and by the way, this was me to a degree, you know, probably 15 years ago are hearing these stories from your staff that have a legitimate complaint or a legitimate area, they need to be heard whatever it might be in 15 years ago, I'm twiddling my thumbs thinking I know exactly how this story ends. I know the entire story arc, um let's just move this thing ahead and get to an outcome. Okay, right, wrong fucking answer for obvious reasons, right? Because what I was doing is I was transposing my experience on somebody that's never gone through this process before. Right? And you know, there's this famous Jack Welch quotes about the concept of with employees, you have to wallow in it. And what he was trying to say is you've got to be able to spend time with people and you've got to be able to give people the appropriate empathy and attention that they deserve because as I said before, a lot of these journeys, they're going on our there first journeys and you should treat them as such. So to answer your question in a roundabout way, I think founders are so in some cases appropriately outcome driven, they don't see the value in wallowing in it when they know how a story is going to likely end.

Ryan Rutan: You know, it's funny, you should say so last night I was having dinner with a friend of our ceo founder of a large company. Um, he's got like most of us are fairly young staff, although he's actually fairly young himself and he talked about how frustrated he would get when he would be with a young staff member and they just don't get it right. She says, so this is what you're supposed to do, this is the outcome and they don't get it. And he's like, I just want to move on to the person that does get it. And I said, well, hold on a second man, I said, we owe it to that person to at least explain to them what they don't know, right? So in other words, if if you're in customer acquisition and you know, you make some horrible blunder or you kind of miss your marks, etcetera because you don't have the experience of life experience that have understood what you were supposed to do, you got to outcomes there as a manager, you can either say, well screw you. I'm just gonna find somebody who already knows the answer or you can say let's walk through what didn't work and kind of coach you up to the next level, which is a level of attention, right? Um, and I think it is part of the social contract between employees, uh, in a startup that you expect a certain amount of, hey, stop and focus on me for a minute. Would you say that's fair

Wil Schroter: without a doubt? And, and, and I think what, what the your your friend was saying and I know this friend, I get that too. You know, I, I get the other side of the coin where you're trying to, you know, kind of sprint as fast as you can into the dark and make as few mistakes as possible. And, and here's, here's the reality of it. Um, it's a longer term, being super pragmatic. It's a longer term R. O. I to coach through those mistakes, but I would argue a much larger R. O. I if you're hiring better than to just instantly correct them and move forward, right? You're playing the long game for a short game, you're playing end of the week versus end of the year here. So I'm 100% with you there. And I do, I do think that as founders gain a certain level of experience, they will see that the long term roi and being attentive far supersedes the concept of just trying to fix things on the fly all the time.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I agree. And I think like a man whenever I think about major problems that we've ever encountered, it's almost always mapped back to someone wasn't heard in other words, let's say, let's say I'm the person that made that mistake. You know, I'm the, I'm the young marketing person that kind of um, screwed something up. If I, if I'm sitting there going, well, uh, Elliot didn't listen to, you know, my side of things, then I'm going to totally overlook what I actually did wrong and I'm just going to focus on the fact that I wasn't heard

Wil Schroter: right instantly, you're going to be put on the defensive. And at that point, you know, earmuffs are on,

Ryan Rutan: right. And so I feel like again, back to social contract, I feel like when folks come on board, um, as the founders, we owe it to them, you know, just like we owe them a paycheck, uh, to be heard to, to get our attention to say, hey, look, if something's bothering you, um, you have my ear, I'm not doing it as a favor to you. I actually owe it to you because the converse is true. Oh, also, just as a reminder, you know, if you need help with any of this stuff, you can always email us at therapy at startups dot com and we'll help you figure any of this stuff out. You know, as you guys know, we've got full teams of people over at startups dot com that are dedicated towards figuring these kinds of problems out, so don't hesitate to reach out to us and let us help

Wil Schroter: another piece to this is and I said, I I glossed over it, but if you hire right, you should want to do it right. I don't want to get too mushy and gushy, but we generally really like the people that work with us at our company, is that fair to say. Um and I know you guys have spent countless hours and other podcast talking about how important it is to build a team that you actually really like. And in these situations, you know, the there's a blurry line between kind of a friend and a teammate and I gotta say in these situations it's okay to go a little further towards the front side of the continuum uh because you just flat out like that person and you want to see him succeed.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And I think it's a part of it too, is your you want to listen. I mean, isn't that kind of what we're talking about, we owe them our attention. Like you're saying, ah if you've got somebody who's just annoying as hell, and last thing you want to do is listen to them. They just want to tell them like what needs to be done and kind of get to that outcome, then yeah, like, you know, things aren't going to be uh you know, rosie on both ends, but I don't know, I think over the years I've come to learn and this has been a transition for me that it's it's not a luxury or the employee shouldn't feel like it's a luxury for me to listen to them right? In other words, like like I've done them a favor in some capacity. Um I feel like like it's a right now, I'll also say from the employee's standpoint how you wield that

Wil Schroter: right?

Ryan Rutan: Um You know, we've had no lack of situations that I can think of a lot of them but don't want to implicate anyone uh where someone's wielded that right in the wrong way, you know um like I demand to be to be heard and what they really mean is I demand to be agreed with ah and and it's it's your job to listen whether you like it or not, um not the best way to confer that type of attention. Um but I also think I've seen the opposite from from a founder and manager standpoint where we we as as leaders. I feel like uh we're just placating people by listening to them, right? You know, by giving them more attention. That's kind of a dick move

Wil Schroter: totally. It can come off. Yeah, you can come off in a very pejorative manner. Um if if they feel like you're just kind of sitting there because you have to sit there um and that you're just placating to your point in regarding this concept of this contract. This, this unwritten contract if we owe you our attention. Yeah, there will be edge cases, But you don't build this contract for the edge cases, right. Um, you build it for hopefully what's the bigger concentration of employees who treat this dynamic appropriately.

Ryan Rutan: So stick with that. I think that for all of us, um, it's number one, this is hard to do. This is way more friction than just telling people what to do, right. In other words, if if someone screws something up in marketing, it's way easier for me just to, to bitch at them. You know, hop on slack or something and and yell at them or hop on the phone and yell at them, uh, than to actually take the time to have it back and forth. But here's what I've also seen every single time we've taken the time to spend time and ask questions and kind of walk through the problem together. It's brought so much trust both ways that it was worth its weight in gold every single time. Even for people that didn't stay on board. By the way, I still appreciated that level of back and forth to say that even if we don't agree, you're always heard.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And and the reality is there's benefit on the leadership side as well. You know, you talk about the blue, the view from the balcony versus the view from the dance floor and they're going to give you a very honest, appropriate view of exactly what's going on in their life and what's going on in their position and you as a leader can take that intelligence and make better decisions as opposed to somebody that's going to give you a cryptic or polarizing feedback, right? They understand that you're gonna take whatever you guys talk about it and you're gonna take it seriously.

Ryan Rutan: Well, I think there's another side of it too, is you'll take it seriously and you'll have the self confidence to admit maybe where you were wrong or hey, it wasn't that I was wrong in what I was trying to get done, but I went about it the wrong way.

Wil Schroter: So yeah, and going back to kind of the way we communicate with our staff, I also think, and you know, this better than most because you grew a very big company and for good or for bad, you guys hired a lot of big co managers, right? There's this bizarre um, paranoia. I want to say paranoia about the concept of communicating honestly or communicating in a transparent way, right? It's like, hold on, if we, if we tell them too much, they can overthrow our fiefdom.

Ryan Rutan: Ok, so stick with that. Um

Wil Schroter: got to be the transparency factor.

Ryan Rutan: I think transparency is new and, and a lot of people listening will be like, oh no, it's been around. It's just new to you and that, I'm sure there's some truth to that. Uh however, I feel like organizationally within the startup world, let's say, I won't, I won't talk about big corporate, that's the world, I don't even understand. But within the startup world, transparency has become more and more commonplace and it's it's opened up so many doors and I think e between you and I and how we've managed the company with Ryan, I honestly feel like um, we have dramatically changed our level of transparency over the past eight plus years to increasingly better effect. And I gotta tell you it's one of the best movie ever made.

Wil Schroter: It is, and it, it feels good to do it. There's no question about it. Um, you know, there's, there's an appropriate amount of transparency and and probably an inappropriate amount of transparency, but not worth going down that road. Um one of the things that I think we've done, well, a little bit of an Atta boy to our team is we never make decrees. So the way we frame things is, here's what will was thinking or here's what Elliot was thinking or here's the assumptions that I'm making right instead of this is how we do it right? So when people are coming to us with questions about comp or questions about resource allocation, um, you know, every unit is, you know, basically trying to get the same amount of resources and fight for the resources appropriately. So being able to to not be cryptic and say, okay, look, here's the hierarchy of bets were making and here's where we're spending the dough and spending the time and here's why we're doing it. What do you think? Which is by the way, the question that nobody asks after that, what do you think about that play?

Ryan Rutan: Well, okay. So yeah, and building that, I I always see three components to this to like how we lay this out Component one is this is what we were trying to accomplish, right? And let's assume here that whatever we're about to explain went horribly wrong, right? Just make the worst case scenario. Here's what we're trying to accomplish. So that's one I think everybody needs to understand what the goal was, what the intent was explicitly because sometimes they just the outcome of the second is here, here was the set of decision criteria and information that was available to us at the time, right? And the third is and here's how I process that information to make a decision, right? So I'll give you kind of generalized example, uh you're you're the you're the coach of a football team and it's the last play of the game and you completely screwed it up and you lost the game. My explanation is right. I was trying to get a two point conversion. That was the goal right? Based on what I saw in the lineup. I thought for sure I could run straight up the middle. So I choose, choose chose because that was my best player handling the ball to run straight up the middle. Yes, we got clobbered. Yes, clearly lost the game, but that's why I did what I was trying to do. Uh, you're only seeing we lost the game. You need to understand why we lost the game. You know what I mean?

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. And I like that you're, I like that you said this is, this is my hypothesis, this is the data or the intel that was readily available. I mean I can think about and something within our company last year where I was trying to lead this the expansion of scope of services on a specific product, I had a certain amount of intel, we made a bet. I dragged a lot of people into that bet with me, you know, dollars in time. Um, and ultimately the bet didn't pan out and I fell on that sword. You know, and I, and everybody, I think everybody was pretty appreciative that throughout the entire process I was communicating very honestly and I was being very transparent and saying this is the feedback we're getting, this is what I'm trying to react to. Do. You guys think this is appropriate? And at the end of this thing, you know, six months later when when dollars and time was wasted, although I'd argue hopefully we learned something from it, nobody was like, dude, fuck you, Elliot the entire time, they knew exactly what the game plan was and why the game plan was

Ryan Rutan: and I think there's something really powerful about that, I think at its core, going back to what we owe the staff, they felt they were rewarded the transparency they deserved, right? In other words, that was adequate compensation around transparency and the way they felt they deserved it. I think one of one of the powerful constructs we're talking about here is that there are these inherent needs, again, often unexpressed within the organization that our staff feels and when they don't get them and sometimes they don't recognize what it is, but you can tell when you don't have it, it starts to piss them off and, and so you'll have folks that are well paid, they've got a lot of upside. They've got, you know, all of these things and yet they feel shitty, right. They're angry and it keeps coming back to a handful of these core constructs of things that you can just tell when they're not there. And I think a sense of honesty and transparency, it's just is exactly that here's a great way to look at it. What if we could say over the next year, you know, we could go forward and say the next 10 things we're gonna do, we're gonna do wrong, but everyone will know exactly where they came from in every detail. They may not love the outcome, but there will be absolutely no question how we got there. I feel like that's a very different staff behind those initiatives.

Wil Schroter: I totally agree. And by bringing the staff into those conversations, you make them feel like teammates instead of cogs. Right? So going back to your, your employee that your pain incredibly well, that continues to move through the organization. They still may feel like a cog, right? They may feel like, okay, I just gotta put my head down and do my job. But all I'm really good for is paid acquisition. That's all I'm good for, right? As opposed to that person understanding where you're coming from, from a strategic standpoint and participating in those discussions in allowing you to see, you know, you know, I'll use the football analogy allowing you them to see you throw touchdowns and throw interceptions,

Ryan Rutan: Right? Agreed, agreed. Uh, it's one of those things where like the armchair quarterback where someone's like, well I would have done this, I would have done this. It's kind of funny. You're also, you know, not a coach, so you're not on the field. Um, however, it's really hard for for folks to take that position if they're also part of the decision.

Wil Schroter: Exactly. That's exactly right. Exactly right. If if everyone and you're not putting them there right? You're not hanging people out to dry. It's authentic. I mean, I think some of the best progress we've made as an organization honestly comes from the intelligence gathered and the instincts from our teammates.

Ryan Rutan: Right? Right. Well then that's sort of the thing. I think part of the transparency and to what we talked about a moment ago, the attention is this feeling that when you're getting it, it is a very real form of compensation or again, like I said earlier, when you're not getting it, it really feels like something is off. And I think that historically organizations weren't inherently transparent, right? Organizations were incredibly opaque and that was all these different levels of management that you had to go through. And you got basically a press release version of what the company is actually doing and you got used to

Wil Schroter: it. You got you got a memo and an indication that there's cake in the break room. That was it.

Ryan Rutan: That's it. Right. And then all of a sudden you just had these kind of tectonic shifts in management. And to be fair, it definitely came from startups where people just started a lot of times the founders would just raise their hand and say, you know, I funked up, you know, and here's why. And I think those founders, I think those folks that, that kind of leaned in early, you know, probably got their teeth kicked in because the world wasn't ready for that yet. But I don't think that's the way anymore. In fact, I've watched my own transition, you know, over the past 10 years, whereas 10 years ago, I probably would have issued a company wide memo, you know, to explain to them to folks what happened or what changed. And now I don't even consider

Wil Schroter: that, you know, that I got to say is your partner, you have grown a tremendous amount. And I'm not saying that as if I'm the arbiter of growth, I'm saying it's been a pleasure to watch you grow a tremendous amount.

Ryan Rutan: I appreciate that. What do you say that?

Wil Schroter: So let's look at, you know, let's look at this, this, you know, the first concept of attention you early on were basically if somebody, if somebody didn't do their homework right, instead of going through their homework with them, you were like funk it, give it to me. I'll do it. Let's keep moving.

Ryan Rutan: You're right. That was my move

Wil Schroter: Big time. You're like, I got it, I'll do it. You can't write that copy, I'll write that copy. Uh, you want to run. I don't like this design. Let's just finish this design dude, by the way, I'm not beating you up. I mean, you were like a 22 year old.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I'm not wrong either.

Wil Schroter: And that's actually a perfect segue into really what fuels some of the decisions around lack of transparency and lack of humility. I'm sorry, lack of transparency and lack of attention, which is ego.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah. Not not being willing to, uh, you know, having the baseline humility to say, I'm willing to, to walk you through this right kind of the way parents would just say it goes because I said, right, I think anymore, that has, that has become such a weak argument that whereas before it was a sign of, of power. You know, you do it because I say now I believe it's a sign of weakness.

Wil Schroter: I think power

Ryan Rutan: comes from, yeah, it's lazy. Power comes from this vulnerability to be able to show your work, to be able to kind of bury your soul and say, look again, here's what I believed in. Here's why I made the decision. And by the way, holy ship, I might be wrong, Right. You know? Whereas 10 years ago, I would have never admitted I was wrong and it wasn't just purely because of Ego, it's just not how you did things. I'm saying, I'm sure some people did, but boy, I met with an awful lot of companies, it was generally not how people interacted it would change,

Wil Schroter: its almost contrary to what the, I'd say late nineties, early 2000 founder persona was, Which is this 16 hour day, get it done, uh, ship code on weekends, Put the blinders on, let's just push an outcome, right? A bit of a master of the universe in the concept of showing any type of vulnerability, showing any type of humility. Um, not moving as fast as you can, basically meant. You were a shitty founder

Ryan Rutan: right, agreed. And I think that now we've got this other side, which is if you can't attach humility to your leadership, you really start to lose credibility, right? Because I think by now there's been so much exposure in a good way and so much transparency from enough good leaders that is starting to become obvious that if this person can't admit some of their flaws again, which comes with with, you know, kind of deconstructing my ego uh and embracing some humility um that I'm not sure I believe in them, right. If this person is saying this is always the path because I said so, but they can't show any of their work or they can't ever admit that maybe we took the wrong path. That's not really somebody I want to work with, you know, and that's a huge change.

Wil Schroter: How do you even in today's, I mean by the way, we're not out of the woods yet, by any means right with this, I do agree. There's a shift, but let me ask you this. So How do you tell a 23 year old founder That just raised $400 million dollars right to sit down with one of their marketing coordinators to talk through what went right or what went wrong with the content.

Ryan Rutan: Look, I think at some level e you could actually just bulldoze everybody right? No lack of leaders have done it right? Um I don't know Elon musk, but I just don't picture him sitting down with his marketing coordinator and spending time trying to figure out where their emotions were at. You know, in the last launch of a, of a Tesla, right? I just don't see that happening. Um, it is possible to have enough momentum to just motor through everybody and yes, you can get the job done. I just don't think that that's the future of leadership, right? I, I think that that comes at the expense of so much anymore. And I think the social contract is so dramatically different than what it used to be used to be. Uh, you pay me, I'll get the job done. That's the end of the discussion. And by the way, things that break along the way, whether it's your marriage, your personal life, your mental health, your physical health, etcetera be damned. That's your problem, right? I wish to thank God we're not there anymore. Not, you know, not that is the future roles for,

Wil Schroter: you know, it's, it's interesting you say that and I think some of the big catalysts for this transition have been proof on the other side. Right? So you start a startup, you raised, oh, you have an idea. And the concept is, we're gonna go from idea to exit in seven years. And the only way we can do that is on my own personal horsepower and all these cogs that I hire. Okay, that was, that was the way it was done. Right. I mean, I'm even thinking, you know, gates and jobs back that far, right? Get on my shoulders and let's roll then you have other companies will use like base camp as an example that shows that you can be a highly successful profitable business with an incredible product and not treat people like assholes,

Ryan Rutan: right? Imagine that. Imagine that. I also think with within that you also had a highly dynamic market as far as folks, particularly engineers. If we're talking about tech companies who just didn't have to put up with it anymore, they were so sought after that they could just go to whomever wasn't pulling that ship anymore. And, and, and you know, marketers were the same. Uh, prior to that. The only people that had a lot of mobility, we're salespeople, you know, if you're a top salesperson, you can just go anywhere and try to kind of write your own ticket. Well that, that, that agency started to float down into different parts of organizations and it started to bubble up to where if you were creating that, that old school draconian type of work environment, you just weren't getting the top talent anymore. And let's be fair, you shouldn't have, right? That's where things actually went where they were, they were supposed to go. Um, but I think the bigger part of it, what you're getting at is we're also getting to a point where the, the employers that the leaders, the founders would have you, um, are also getting to a point where they realize I can't drive an organization by myself, right? This isn't the will show, right. Um, I might have the CEO title, but I'm one of 200 people and if all of them are on the same page, we're screwed.

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we still, you know, even with our, you know, current methodology, which I think more and more companies are adopting, we still move fast. We still build cool shit. In other words, we're not losing much because of that. And I like what you said around kind of the scales, tipping in the favor of the employees or the teammates more before. Um, I agree. Man, people, people were leveraged before, right? They had six different shops to work at. And if you weren't gonna go play this, you know, if you weren't gonna go sprint this playbook than your host, right? I, I like that. That's changing quite a bit.

Ryan Rutan: And it's also, it's the kind of thing that tends to only go one direction. You know, every time you kind of peel back the onion on some of this old school draconian style. It's not that anybody ever longs for it to come back. You know, no different than, you know, as we're recording this in 2020 we're in the middle of covid and everybody's home, the probability that we're going to change and everyone's going to want to go back to a tall office building on an hour long commute to never see their families again probably isn't going to happen. I think every step, you know, in this social contract, whether it's towards humility, attention, transparency, you know, whatever we cover on is a massive step in the right direction. You know, not only do we do, we owe it to the folks on our staff. I think we owe it to kind of the business world to really make that change. You know what I mean?

Wil Schroter: And look, man, I'll be honest in, you know, as the C 00. A lot of the changes we've made institutionally everything from our at work policy even before. Covid from the level of autonomy we give people, um, from how we communicate. I was kicking and screaming a little bit, right? I was, I was certainly brainwashed coming up in kind of a leadership structure that was a little bit different. And if you remember every stage, you know, you and I and Ryan will get together and we'd say, let's try this, right? And we all, if we're being honest, we winced a little bit, were like, well, you know, how will people respond to this? Are they going to take advantage of this? And at the end of the day, every single time, every one of these bets we've made, I'll say specifically bets around how we approach our staff and how we approach our business and life, um, have turned out tremendously and uh, and then you get to the point on the other side when you're like, what was I so worried about? Right? You know, people are people are happier at home, right? People love the autonomy, folks are coming up with great ideas. I'm really enjoying the dialogue I'm having with the staff yet getting there. What it wasn't easy.

Ryan Rutan: Well think about how much it cost us, um, by not having gotten there right in other words, think of how much consternation there is within our team at any given time when they don't feel heard or they don't feel there's there's some transparency or we seem to be taking credit for their work right now. Think about how long that's been going on across the world for business since the dawn of time or, and if we're really progressive and thinking about it, How Cavemen is our present day thinking compared to where we might be 10 years from now, like what are we missing now?

Wil Schroter: No, that's that's a great point.

Ryan Rutan: That's a great

Wil Schroter: turkey. It's, you know, I think when you start to get to the other side, you see that this approach is actually a more natural style. Being kind to people listening in the approach before was a learned style. That's good point. You know, that that that feels great to unlearn

Ryan Rutan: it does. And you know, there's something interesting, I've been thinking a lot over the past year or so about how dramatic these changes have been for us. Um, but I've also been trying to think through, uh, what inspired those changes because I'll be honest, had we not made any changes? Had we not added more attention to our style transparency humility? What have you? The business probably would have done just fine. And yet I feel like there would have been an implicit cost that we would have put on the entire staff to get there. That would have been a huge, huge miss. Does that make sense?

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. It makes sense in the how we got there for certain, you know, for certain processes or certain new um new policies we instituted. We're so damn organic. The reason that we wanted to be at the office less well is because you and I had just had kids. Right, right. And we were like, we want to be there for our kids, we want to enjoy this process. So right. We said, okay, how can we actually make that happen? So a lot of this wasn't us working with some think tank on how to work with the company and how to how to be a better servant leader. It was reactions to to real life, right? Real organic learnings about how do we want this, How do we want this whole thing to to look and feel going forward.

Ryan Rutan: I agree. And you know, I think what opened my eyes up the most is I started to think about if I were on the other side of the table, if I was sitting where my team is sitting right now, what would tip me off? Like, Like what would start to make me say? Well, these guys, right? Um, and I, and I really, really, really tried to kind of put myself in everybody else's shoes. Um, and it's tricky because my life experiences are so dramatically different, right? So things that would never bother me but would bother someone else. It's really hard for me to empathize if I've never had those feelings, but I think we started to do that better. I'm sure we've got a long way to go. Um, but what I'm watching is just the, the energy within the company now that people feel like, like, again they're heard and, and uh, and they understand what's going on is so much different and here's the other side of it and I've got to give it a different caveat, how much easier is it to manage this company than it ever has been in the past given these changes.

Wil Schroter: That's exactly what I was alluding to. That's the kind of kick myself moment for going through this process and in feeling like I had to be dragged or sold on some of the new things that we've instituted. It is a remarkably different feeling as far as kind of leading the organization from an operational standpoint, there's more honesty, there's more levity. Um, people just seem to be generally happier. Oh, here's the other side when they're not happy they tell us?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, Imagine that.

Wil Schroter: Dude, that's a big deal though. I mean, in, in, in the old days it was that person is going to stew for six months and then do a panic, quit in your host right now. People feel comfortable enough to say, hey, you know, I'm, I feel this way, I feel like I'm not getting the appropriate amount of attention. I feel like I'm not being heard or I feel like this process needs to change or I feel like we're over paying for this. They'll have those conversations organizationally with leadership without any hesitation, which is so cool and so helpful for us.

Ryan Rutan: You know, there's another side of me that I think that's, that's pretty powerful that we've also seen when we provide these things like attention and transparency and humility, you know, who else provides those human fucking beings to each other. Like it, it starts to take the organization away from just being, it's me against the org vs. It's just will and Elliot that I'm dealing with this, this issue with, right? It's not the organization or this kind of amorphous. Uh, you know, the man behind the curtain, so to speak. I think the more we've stood out in front and said, look, there's there's no crazy weird trend conspiracy behind what you think is happening. We're just going to tell you exactly what's happening and you can make your own decision by the way. That is 1000 times easier to do right? That required so much less work versus trying to tap dance and create stories in propaganda. You know, not that that's exactly what we were trying to do. But we always thought it was in the best interests of the company. And in the end it just wasn't,

Wil Schroter: yeah, it's, there's a tremendous amount of, of truth to that. It's, you know, the good

Ryan Rutan: actually, I think that for, um, for two parties right to parties were typically, it's kind of like what you saw your parents, right? There was just this amorphous authority figure and they would tell you these things that they came down from the hill and you would just agree with him or disagree with them. But you really never knew why they were true or why you were being told that you couldn't go out tonight. You just, all you knew was the outcome. And you never built like a real relationship, um, like person to person at any kind of peer level. And there's, they are your parents, There are some authoritarian things similar to being an employer. But I think it was always a bit of a hack. And I always thought it was a bit of a miss, how powerful would it have been growing up if your parents could explain the region and rationale behind their decisions and not just tell you to believe them because you said them

Wil Schroter: right? Like I do because I said so,

Ryan Rutan: yeah. yeah. And again, it's also a very weak argument, but at the same time, I think what's what's happened is we've basically taken the parent child relationship and I don't mean that in a negative way. I actually mean, I mean, you know, and something you should get away from um and created more of a peer relationship with peers, whether their spouses, coworkers, etcetera. Of course you explain ship, of course you're transparent and of course you've got a level of humility and you listen, that's what human beings do with each other. And I think what we've done by kind of rethinking how we we express ourselves to the organization and again, that social contract of what we owe, I think has created a more human relationship and that's why people are less stressed. That's why they're happier. Even if they don't love the outcome, they feel like they're being treated like a person and not an employee.

Wil Schroter: Are you ready for me to just gross you out right now? I think this goes, you're gonna hate this. But I think this goes back to the fact that there should be a metric around happiness. He grossed out already.

Ryan Rutan: I'm already

Wil Schroter: okay. But you and I do talk about this all of this stuff. The happiness metric a new book by Stuart Smalley. Um but but you and I more than ever are very cognizant of this concept of do you think so and so is happy or do you think people are overstressed? Um and we're saying that and we come by it honestly now because again we we like the people we work with but all of these things you know the autonomy, the transparency that the humility, you know respecting the people you work with makes for a happier organization And that's become a big part of what we've tried to achieve is let's make this a great place to work. Like people are gonna be at this, you know six, hours a day and we want to make it somewhere they want to be my what my biggest fear is if somebody says how do you like working at startups dot com and they say it pays well like then we missed right? I like that we pay well. That's that's great but I want people to say it's fucking awesome. Um I have a tremendous amount of latitude. Leadership, super open and honest with us. I really like what we're working on like to me that's the win.

Ryan Rutan: I agree, I agree. And you know what? It makes it 1000 times easier on us as leadership, right? In other words, people tend to forget that like as leadership, you're not just sending commands down the hill, you're constantly dealing with every single problem in the organization if you work at google and you have a problem with your coworker that's you and that coworker you have one problem if you're five levels up the chain, every single person's problem is your problem, right? And so the point here is the more opportunity we can create to have less problems amongst everyone, the easier it is to lead the company and if that means showing the appropriate amount of attention, the transparency humility etcetera, then so be it like, like, like what a win on both sides I'm saying as leadership, it's a hell of a lot easier to to treat your your staff this way. Not to mention the fact that you owe it to them.

Wil Schroter: I agreement. I think we're a reasonable case study in the experiment to say we made a lot of these bets and we bet on the concept of this kind of long term r. O I of having a better place to work and we're now at a point where we can say the bets worked, you know, to your point, it's a much better place to work. It's it's a much easier job to lead and move and and do things with as much agility as we have to do because we made these bets Over the last call at three or 4 years. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us, Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rocks. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b E G I N. You'll thank me later. Before we go on. I want to remind

Ryan Rutan: folks listening that a lot of what we help with here on the podcast, we also help with at startups dot com with our coaching team. And if you're listening to this and you're like, hey, you know, I really wish I had these guys on my team. Don't hesitate to reach out to us at coaching at startups dot com. Let's get somebody on your team that already has the answers to all this stuff and let's help you out

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