If you ask me how our business did in 2012, chances are I’ll pepper you with a story of amazing network growth and spectacular results. If you stop by our offices, you’ll see a constant buzz of excited activity – people tapping out code, or email, and phone calls, lots and lots of phone calls. Mostly with publishers in our network or those about to be. The engineering and product teams cover the whiteboards with scrawling process flows and architecture diagrams. There’s stocked food pantries and refrigerators full of soda and beer. Its a fun place to work where everyone feels the sense of cause and mission.
Along the way these past 12 months we had some unfortunate leadership turnover. That makes things tough emotionally and it requires a depth of organization to withstand that I don’t think enough companies fully realize. It can be a ball of anxiety to imagine what would happen if this key employee, or that key employee were to leave. But these things happen – all the time it turns out.
The measure of the strength of a business is its ability to keep moving, change and evolve as these employees leave, and embrace the quality of talent waiting to take up the fight. We’re fortunate to have a crystal clear cause and mission which keeps the fundamental value “core” of the business very strong, but its the way we operate that enables us to move through tough circumstances that makes us succeed.
The paradox is that its too alluring and easy to rely on the strength or skills of any individual to get things done. And in fact, I’m sure many startups are single-threaded in that way for exactly that reason. The trick is to get those same great people to operate in a system that transfers their value to the company as a whole.
Perry Quinn, my longtime friend and colleague is leaving the business after more than 4 years. He’s perhaps the most socially adept manager I’ve ever known and he’s a cultural magnet for the people who work under him. When he and I talked about him leaving I was both disappointed and concerned for a whole host of reasons. Owing to Perry’s credit, his lieutenants have immediately stepped in and up – with a vengeance. The foundation of processes and working relationships Perry put in place made his departure a seamless move where I’m proud to say not only did we not miss a beat, but this piece of the business is hitting all time growth numbers and record retention rates.
I owe Perry a lot. His team is stronger than he is as an individual. That’s his departing gift to me.