If you didn’t recognize Bill S in the title, it’s also my philosophy on business and HR:
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…
Yesterday was a rather bittersweet day at ExchangeDefender, it was a celebration of the last of my big generals from the ‘08-‘12 moving on and leaving our business on to the next generation. These folks sat around the table with me when I explained our business model change and the new things we were about to do. All of those business lines went from nothing to millions of dollars, all those people went from making very little to becoming executives and not only did we produce incredible value for all our clients and their users but we also impacted way more than just the quarterly agendas.
Small business is not all about maximizing profit
I know I always say that “your only responsibility as a business owner is to maximize shareholder value” and I completely believe in that 100%.
I also happen to own 100% of my business, and always will, so I’m not too concerned about what happens month to month because the balance is not the end game: I am constantly spending on what I believe is important and it goes way beyond me. If you don’t see it that way I feel truly sorry for you and I understand because I’ve been there because at some point the goal of my work was to own a Ferrari in every color of the rainbow. Sadly, eventually you run out of parking in front of the house.
As someone who isn’t simply climbing the ladder, my name is on the business and my loyalty is to my clients and to my employees. Because without them I’d have no money, or worse, I’d have to do all the work myself. And believe me, that sucks, trust me because at some point I did all the jobs myself.
It’s back then that I realized that the true service was something entirely beyond me because service isn’t just a matter of accomplishing the task. It’s about studying it and having a passion for it. About constantly improving it, growing it, scaling it and making it more than an annoyance in between the parts of the job you truly love.
My promise to that team was quite simple: Here you have an opportunity to do something great that you will likely never have anywhere else: nobody is against you. Nobody is after your job, nobody is after your headcount, nobody is after your salary, nobody is going to fight you because we are on the same team. That’s not typically the case in businesses, particularly profit obsessed ones, because greed becomes a factor and it becomes a tactical game with warfare, politicians and peons.
About half a dozen people sat there, listened to my BS and turned my dream into a reality. Their own ambitions, ideas, suggestions and projects always (much to chagrin of some of our partners) saw daylight.
As of yesterday, they have all moved on. All of them far better, far more experienced and far more efficient than they were when they got here. Part of a successful business is that it looks at all the parts of it and tries to make them all better: I’m confident that all of the folks that worked with me from those early “cloud” days are better off. They worked extremely hard, they hustled, they put in crazy hours.. and they managed to be a part of something truly incredible that doesn’t happen every day.
Yet, it’s bittersweet for me personally. Even though without exception every single employee or team that has come after them and replaced them has so far proven to be much better. Better coders. Better designers. Better marketing. Better business management. Better support engineers. Better network engineers. Better because they got to benefit from the hard work the people before them put in to give them that opportunity. Yet it’s bittersweet for me because over time people become a family and you get a sense of comfort and familiarity even when you know you could do better.
I wouldn’t trade what we’ve built and how far we’ve come with this magnificent group of people for anything. Most people that suck you know right away – everyone can fake it for a week or a month and they are gone in a virtual business instant. People that stick around for years are the unicorns, those magical beasts that see things more than a day at a time and can build things that take forever to do.
I really hope my team understood how much I appreciated them all. Early on in my career I was told that I don’t say thank you enough to which I responded with “I say thank you thousands of times every two weeks.”
As with anything, some things are bigger than money. I appreciate the commodore. I appreciate the support. Physical, emotional, virtual. I’ve texted people after midnight about as many times as I’ve dragged their drunken ass out and off the floor.
It’s hard to say goodbye to so many great people but I’m happy that they have given so many an opportunity, built so many great businesses, impacted so many small businesses… and we’ll always have great stories and a corporate Amex to drop some shananigance on whenever we get together.
And we’ll always have the security camera footage. Cause if a picture is worth a thousand words, those drives and their distributed replicas..
Goodbye Agent Whereisbigtitsthatlikesitintheass. To the next chapter.