A Good Place To Work

“We take care of the people, the products, and the profits—in that order.” It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of the people means that your company is a good place to work. Most workplaces are far from good. As organizations grow large, important work can go unnoticed, the hardest workers can get passed over by the best politicians, and bureaucratic processes can choke out the creativity and remove all the joy.

In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling.

In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked-up their situation is, the management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem. If managers don’t conduct a one-on-one meeting with their people on a regular basis, there is no possible way for him to even be informed as to whether or not his organization is good or bad.

You might argue that no matter how well managed a company is, it will fail without product/market fit. You might argue further that horribly managed companies achieve massive product/market fit succeed just fine. And you would be right on both accounts. However, while being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong. When things go well, the reasons to stay at a company are many:

  1. Your career path is wide open because as the company grows lots of interesting jobs naturally open up.
  2. Your friends and family think you are a genius for choosing to work at the “it” company before anyone else knew it was “it.”
  3. Your resume gets stronger by working at a blue-chip company in its heyday.
  4. Oh, and you are getting rich.

When things go poorly, all those reasons become reasons to leave. In fact, the only thing that keeps an employee at a company when things go horribly wrong—other than needing a job—is that she likes her job.

And, again, things always go wrong. There has never been a company in the history of the world that had a monotonically increasing stock price. In bad companies, when the economics disappear, so do the employees. In technology companies, when the employees disappear, the spiral begins: The company declines in value, the best employees leave, the company declines in value, the best employees leave. Spirals are extremely difficult to reverse.

Lastly, being a good company is an end in itself. It should be important to you that the people who spend twelve to sixteen hours a day at your company—which is most of their waking life—have a good life.

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