in Building a company People Management ~ read.

On loyalty and scaling a company

I'm still reading Patty McCord's Book – "Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility" and came across this quote:

Don't Expect that your Current Team Can Be Your Team for Tomorrow
Another mistake I've seen in building teams is assuming that current employees will be able to grow into responsibilities of the future. This is especially an acute problem for start-ups, because founders often feel a strong sense of loyalty to their early team. When I'm consulting to start-up founders, I often have to tell them that many of their people aren't going to be competent in the new world order they're heading into as they scale.

This hits close to home because I am fiercely loyal to everyone who has been with me from the beginning.

And let me tell you about how we began: we operated out of a 3-bedroom residential condo in Mandaluyong and the young pioneer team had to put up with a lot of shit in the beginning.

We're talking about shit like being regularly sent home and needing to pick up work elsewhere because the residential DSL line hit the bandwidth cap; or shit like needing to interview a palpably hesitant candidate in one of the bedrooms we turned into a makeshift conference room.

The team had to deal with shit like this everyday while most likely needing to, everyday, sell themselves on the idea that remaining employed with the company is a good idea when there are much better places to work at.

But a lot of the pioneers did stick with us 3 years later and continue to work with the current version of Growth Rocket.

I don't get to regularly tell these guys how extremely grateful I am for their loyalty and how I too am fiercely loyal to them. I really am and would do everything I can on a personal and professional level to make sure they succeed.

However--and I said this in our most recent town hall--I am not going to let my loyalty blind me from the fact that we have an executive and leadership gap. And these are gaps that I know some of the existing team members can probably grow into someday, but nobody in the team can fill right now when I need it.

I learned about how dangerous letting loyalty drive employee movement can be the hard way when I was grooming one of my pioneering team members to be a senior manager for one of the company's departments.

The role was critical to the success of the company and I desperately wanted that team member to be the perfect candidate whom I can simply paradrop into the fray.

I desperately wanted him to succeed. I wanted him to succeed because I am loyal to him and I owe it to him to make him successful.

My expectations were ridiculously high as it should for a senior manager but the team member was clearly not ready for the role. He has yet to develop the requisite skill set for the role nor does he have sufficient experience that would allow him to meet the expectations. But I refused to see it for what it is because I didn't want to give up on the person. "He was with me from the beginning, I need to make him successful. I owe it to him!"

This resulted in tremendous frustration and stress from my end and the team member's to the point where the team member ultimately broke down emotionally. And I honestly felt responsible for it. I was guilty of actually breaking someone.

Today, I need a COO, and this is a role that I need to hire externally for because none of the 38 team members I have on the roster can fill this role today--loyalty notwithstanding.

Being able to afford a competent COO at this stage is a different problem, but the difficult conundrum of needing experienced managers as an early-stage company but simply not being able to afford them is a topic for another day.