Like a Family or Like a Sports team? - Part 1
There's lots of experts willing to tell you how to run your business. Run it how you want to, just be clear. As CEO, it's your job. Don't leave it up to your culture department.
There’s probably going to be more than one article that I write about this as my thinking evolves and examples emerge to help clarity. So I name this as part 1, and apologies if it’s a bit scattered. Got more perspectives? Add a comment!
So, to the topic. … what is the right way? … it is whatever works for you as a CEO. It’s up to you to be clear with what you want so that you can attract those that subscribe to your thinking. Do what you feel is right. Just be clear about it. And be consistent.
As CEO, do what you feel is right. Just be clear about it. And be consistent.
The worst thing you can do is to tell your team one thing and then do another. Many CEO’s get caught in this trap because they want to be nice, but their hand is forced by economic reality and their boards. And I think there’s also a lot of ‘bro talk’ about running a company like a sports team. It feels great to say that, but I also think about all the discarded athletes that maybe had a bad year or an injury and were discarded by their teams. There’s very little loyalty in sports, and if that’s your model, be clear and go for it. You’re all about performance and the outcome, without excuses.
Does that mean being all warm and cuddly on the other end of the spectrum is the right answer? nope, providing a false sense of security and entitlement is just as dangerous, I would argue even more dangerous because it can kill your business.
It’s your model, own it.
Running a company one way or another isn’t right or wrong - that’s the beauty of the free market. Run your model, how you like, with integrity and attract those that want to work with you, in that way. There’s some folks that the mention of family at work will run for the hills, and others that will rush to join you. You will never win everyone.
Run your model, how you like, with integrity and attract those that want to work with you, in that way.
It’s also OK for your model to evolve over time, again, be clear about it. As we would say internally at ServiceRocket, Be Deliberate and Decisive.
At ServiceRocket, we have many Rocketeers that have been with the company for 10, 12, 15 even 20 years. Each of us goes through our ups and downs in life, myself included, and I like to think that we’re supportive of their situations as best we can. Does it impact our bottom line - sure, in the short term. But my bet is that other high performers see how respectful we are and will choose to stay because we can provide them a foundation to build their families on. And does that impact our bottom line - yes, positively in the long term. And we’re playing the long game. Is there a limit to our compassion - yup, there is. Loyalty goes both ways and is a form of respect.
It runs like a family or feels like family?
One common nuance I see is whether a business is run ‘like a family’ or of the employees say ‘it feels more like a family than a job’.
The two things are very different, and both can be true. The latter, where an employee expresses how they feel is actually a sign of psychological safety - you’ve done such a good job earning trust that the employee feels safe. And that’s why being clear and consistent is so important. You’ve earned trust, don’t betray it.
So what do we do?
I run our business like a family, because I care and because I can. I show as much compassion for the human element of our company - we’re a people first business.
I share my vulnerabilities and my challenges.
I can because (at this stage) we’re self funded and 100% employee owned and we aren’t beholden to a board of external fund managers looking for a return (those folks will do things like drive the team into the floor looking for billable utilization).
I treat my team as best I can according to our well documented Rocketeer Promise and I make decisions for the long term. That doesn’t mean that I don’t or won’t fire people, and doesn’t mean that we don’t hold accountability and drive for high performance.
There’s no rule that says because you treat your team with respect and like real peers that you cannot also drive performance and set professional expectations.
They say the CEO’s job is the loneliest
I have made and continue to make more than my fair share of mistakes along the way, but my team also has my back when I do. The number of reach outs from Rocketeers I get, both current and past alumni (#oncearocketeer), reinforce to me that we’re doing some things right, and at close to 400 Rocketeers in 12 countries, I think it’s working well for us and it can also work well for you - if it’s true to what you actually want and can do.
How you drive performance is up to you. But I’d rather my team focused on our customers vs looking over their shoulders, worried if they’re going to be replaced by the next rising star...
.. and some thanks!
Shout out to the Rocketeers who picked this topic internally for me to write about. Thanks Lea 🇵🇭 and Andres🇨🇱!