12 – 12 – 12

So that’s it for this century, the last time the day, month and year line up. In honor of this auspicious occasion, lets consider the question “How do we know we have done a good job?”

I’ve worked my entire career in what the locals call “Silicon valley north”. The best part about that is that I have been able to work with some of the smartest minds of my time. Each of these characters has their own views on what constitutes a good job. If I pull these views together and weight them based on the most successful outcomes, I end up with the following.

It is important in any company to communicate to each and every employee that the success or failure of the company is in their hands. In all of the companies I have been involved with, every employee has shares and is an owner. I have found myself reminding people over the years to view the company as their own. This creates a mindset of sacrifice for the greater good that is one of the key ingredients for success.  You can’t be successful if you are not doing a good job.

In a startup, everyone works with each other. I made the mistake once of saying that I worked for my boss at the time. He corrected me saying that we worked together. I still work with the same guy and thirty-two years later not much has changed. Both of us love what we do and have no plans to retire. I tell people that I retired in 1981 when I graduated and have been having fun ever since. For most people, you have to enjoy what you do, to do a good job.

It doesn’t matter whether your company is a service company or a product company. People have to see and believe that what they are doing is making a difference. This comes back to communication. All of the companies that I have worked with have had regular town hall meetings where the executive are completely open with all aspects of the company’s business and operations. Everyone is a shareholder so everyone has a right to know. You have to be informed to do a good job.

Several times during the last 32 years I have been told the order of responsibilities in a company are:

  1. Shareholders
  2. Customers
  3. Employees

Given that every employee is a shareholder, it follows that employees are the top of the list. That always made me feel good about myself and helped me contribute that much more.

There is no doubt that everyone is different and is motivated by different things. I am a generalist and enjoy learning and applying a wide range of knowledge/skills. I am slowly becoming an expert in a large number of categories, but will most likely never become an expert in any one category. Other people need to be an expert at what they do as soon as possible. The point here is that I have observed that at different stages of a company’s life, companies need different types of people. For a company to be successful, everyone has to recognize and accept the contributions of others. You have to understand and respect others and know your limitations to do a good job.

There are many factors that contribute to answering the question I have posed. For me, I have to enjoy coming to work each day and I have to know what I will be working on before I get there. These two things will focus me and maximize my contribution. In the summer the thirty minute bike ride to work allows me to plan my day so I arrive ready to go. In the winter I tend to plan the night before. I have to know what the company expects from me to do a good job.

So in summary then,

  1. Invest in what you do, be a shareholder.
  2. Encourage communication. Know what your company is doing because that will help you make decisions that keep everyone pulling in the right direction.
  3. As an owner be prepared to sacrifice your time and salary to make the company successful.
  4. Work hard and have fun.
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