Thursday, August 2, 2007

Can you say "yes"?

The crucial decisions facing startups usually involve HR issues. The first few hires are especial crucial in how they either free up the principals to get more, high impact work done or handcuff them to the new hires and actually slow the business down.

My philosophy has always been to 'hire myself out of a job'. In the beginning I took at a look at all the jobs I was doing as a bootstrap startup and put a $ per hour price on each one. I tossed out the ones that didn't matter and looking at the ones that did, I created a few job positions to take over those tasks. My task list continued to shrink and float up to the highest dollar per hour jobs to the point where I wasn't involved in most day to day operations.

This created the opportunity for me to work ON my business instead of IN my business. I finally had time for strategic work but I could always inject myself into daily business operations as needed.

Key to this strategy is empowering ALL employees with the ability to say "yes" and also give them autonomous capabilities on an at will basis. In most companies, every can say "no", but very few can say "yes". Companies that harness this ability can out turn their competition and operate with fewer employees and thus greater profitability. My rule to employees is, "Go ahead and do what you have to do in order to get your job done. I'll tell you when you've gone too far or need guidance. In the meantime, just use your head. If I didn't trust your judgement, I wouldn't have hired you in the first place."

I travel a lot and when I'm out of the office things keep trucking as if nothing happened. Sure there are issues that need my attention, but things keep rocking and rolling regardless. Some might argue that they work better when I'm not there, and I have to admit I can't completely disagree with them. And that's a good thing. ;-)

What were to happen if we didn't work this way and I was unable to work as a result of an injury or worst case, death? Part of my responsibilities is to create an organization that continues to function without me. I have to admit that I've never read "Built to Last", but I'm certain this type of philosophy is in that book somewhere.

Are you surrounded by people who can say "yes"?


Ann K-L said...
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Ann K-L said...


It's this philosophy that led me to take the steps to apply to work at MailFoundry. I agree wholeheartedly that empowering employees makes them better at what they do and increases profitability for the company.

You're looking for a Marketing Coordinator. I'm looking to do the work. I'm good at what I do. And, bonus! I'll increase your profitability in the process.

My resume is with your HR.
Ann K-L