This week we had one of our best team members leave to join another startup. He was incredibly well-liked, was amazing at his job, and had a great future with Startups.com.
We couldn’t be happier that he’s gone.
Now to most that sounds counter-intuitive, or at first blush, maybe even like “sour grapes.” It’s not. We are incredibly proud and supportive of him.
We spent some time during our weekly happy hour meeting on Friday talking about exactly why we feel this way as an organization and I wanted to share some of that discussion with you. Perhaps it’ll shape how you feel about your own team and employee turnover in general.
Admittedly our world is a little bit different at Startups.com in that our “product” is seeing people grow into their dream jobs via building startups. So it would be painfully hypocritical if we held back the growth of our own people while we were spending our days and nights accelerating the careers of others.
But it’s more than that. We look at the progress of the folks on our staff as a badge of honor, and we encourage folks to feel good about taking a leap elsewhere if that’s truly the best move for them.
As an organization it’s important to embrace employee turnover including the fact that good people will graduate, and that your company shouldn’t be the “last stop” for everyone. That’s silly at best and destructive at worst.
Think about it like this: The growth of your staff aligns similarly to the growth of a student through school. Sometimes a recent graduate will treat your company like “first grade”, with tons to learn at every level. At that point you are probably the best place for them to grow.
Other times the best school for them to truly learn more isn’t yours. To think that you could possibly be the best school for every person at every level is fairly ridiculous if you think about it.
Our hope is that we’re the best place for someone to learn at the time in their lives where they need it most. We want to be the best grade for our team, not every grade for our team.
Not every person leaves for great reasons. Some people are just bad fits for the organization and other folks just have a serious gripe with how things are run. Embracing departures isn’t the same as ignoring the underlying reasons why people are leaving.
If we paid everyone half as much and everyone left in a collective “wage rage” we wouldn’t be sitting around “embracing departures.” It would be a sign that something is actually broken and it’d be up to us to address it in order to fix the employee turnover problem.
But our goal is to create “good exits” from our team where they use Startups.co as a critical step toward whatever their end goals are (hopefully starting a company!). We get excited when we see good exits because it means we’re doing a better job of moving our team forward, not just the company as an entity.
When we went into detail about how our team should feel about leaving we wanted to make sure people got the right message about how we feel as an organization.
We explained that when they leave our first question will always be “how can we help?” That’s not a hollow offer. It’s real. We legitimately want to help people grow on their next adventure as well as the last one.
When the team member I mentioned earlier left I was sending out intro emails within 5 minutes to folks I knew in the city he was headed to. I didn’t think twice about it and it wasn’t because I felt I owed him anything. I couldn’t wait to help and it selfishly it feels great to know I could be helpful.
Every person on our team is making a meaningful contribution toward our future. We feel strongly that our greatest thanks in return is to help drive them forward and reward their contribution as best we can.
It’s the way I would want to be treated on a startup team and I’m guessing it’s how others would want to as well. So that’s why we do it.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.