The CFO asked: What if we invest in our people and they leave?
To which the CEO responded: What if we don’t and they stay?
You’ve read that before.
I started wondering about the answer to the title of this post after I researched Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, for a post. His page on Wikipedia showed this:
In 1995, he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in computer science. ...After college, Hsieh worked for Oracle Corporation. After five months, Hsieh found himself dissatisfied with the corporate environment and quit to found LinkExchange.
Yeah, so what?
Here’s the kicker.
Hsieh co-founded and sold the internet advertising network LinkExchange to Microsoft in 1999 for $265 million.
That was before he founded Zappos and sold it to Amazon for, ahem, $928 million give or take $80 million in 2009.
So, he graduates from Harvard with a degree in Computer Science and joins the hot, hot company Oracle. Works there five months and leaves. Starts his own company and four years later sells it for $265 million. That’s $65 million per year in value he created.
Do you wonder if anyone at Oracle noticed? Did Tony’s manager revisit with anyone those policies that inspired him to leave and take his value creating genius...elsewhere?
Ok, maybe he didn’t notice this news about the sale of Link Exchange.
However, who didn’t see the news about Amazon and Zappos? $928 million for a shoe company who invested their advertising dollars in creating outstanding experiences for their employees and customers?
Now, when Tony left Oracle he took his box of belongings and created $1.25 billion in corporate value...elsewhere.
Granted Oracle’s done just fine without Tony. Their stock split a couple of times since Tony left.
On the other hand, did anyone at Oracle ask:
Hey, ‘member that guy...Tony Hsieh...’member him? [No]. Yeah, he worked here and left because we were too bureaucratic, too cumbersome in our decision-making processes. And, uh, he built two companies from scratch and sold them for, I don’t know, ‘bout $1.2 Billion as in B...illlyuns.
What if someone had listened to Tony?
It’s hard to imagine anyone not listening to him now. But, what if someone had listened to Tony?
Asked him what he wanted to do and figured out how they could do it?
Or what if someone had asked him:
What’s holding you back, Tony? Let’s say we tasked you with adding $1 billion in value to our market cap. And you have 10 years to do it. How would you do it and what do you need from us?
You might say that’s crazy talk. I understand. Businesses have rules. Employees are supposed to follow your rules and politics policies and process flows and meeting agendas. Otherwise...who knows? You might have an employee create $1 billion in market cap within 10 years. Huh?
Not every employee is a Tony Hsieh. But, you don’t know that do you?
What if you sat down with your employees, one by one or even in a group, and asked them:
How fast do you want to grow this company? What do we need to do that? What are you willing to do that? What policies can we change, must we change to do that? What are you willing to do, to learn and change and grow...here’s what I’m willing to do.
You might find a Tony Hsieh, you might not. Maybe, you find a bunch of mini-Tony's...each of them with a good idea by themselves that upon hearing the others combine and refine themselves...into one half-sized Tony Hsieh worth $500 million in market cap for your company.
You might find a lot of good ideas that keep your employees with you.
You might find a list of politics policies and rules and meetings that at best interfere with making their company the kind of company that inspires them not only to stay but to bring some excitement and emotion and enthusiasm. A more clinical term is discretionary effort. You might find ideas that inspire a great...discretionary effort.
You might find a new core of leaders, waiting for the chance to be asked to offer an idea and lead its execution.
You might find a lot of ideas that kick everyone’s excitement and engagement back to what it was that first day, like Tony’s first day at the cool company...gonna put his Harvard degree to use like they promised.
What's it worth to keep your employees?