Late March, I had to let go many great people in my Seesmic team, unfortunately after having tried for months to find a home for the whole team as a whole and did not succeed.
What I decided to do was to publish on my blog the list of the employees and a link to their LinkedIn profiles and ask the Internets (that’s you guys) to help spread the word that there was a great engineering team available in Bucharest.
First, I was blown away par the word of mouth, my post got 300+ tweets and hundreds of likes, shares and plusses, so thanks for sharing to help the team.
Then, we were instantly flooded with emails of people interested to hire one, some or all the whole team.
Some of my engineers got up to 15 job offers (!!!) from top companies I can’t disclose but those are the Silicon Valley heavy hitters making the news daily. Interesting, though, most of the offers that arrived asked them to move out of Romania and go to Silicon Valley or London in most cases. I was not surprised by this given the shortage of engineering resources in SV.
I’m happy to report today that about 3 weeks after that post went live 100% of the team found a new job and for most of them it’s in Bucharest, where they wanted to stay. It’s home after all.
It’s very difficult to go public as an entrepreneur when you have to reduce the size of your team drastically. Yet, it happens frequently and what I dare to call this “experiment” shows that it can be done and end very well for everyone, the team has new jobs and my company runs with a much lower burn rate, focusing on less products and we also successfully monetized our Android app, more on that soon.
Thank you, everyone, who helped share this and find them new jobs. Looks like there is here a new way of reducing a startup size without going into a crisis for anyone, involving unions (hi, France!), lawsuits, etc etc.
Back to reducing the size of a company. No one wants to talk about that, but it’s something entrepreneurs have to do very often. It’s like the sails of a boat, you have to adapt the sales to the wind power. If you’re successful and your products in high demand, go hire like crazy and increase the sails size, get the spinnaker out. If you’re going through a thunderstorm and hell waves, reduce to the strict minimum. I know it’s tough to talk like this as we’re talking about people, and families, and jobs, and possible major problems and I am very aware of this.
Yet, I have always thought that TO BE ABLE TO HIRE FAST YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO LET GO FAST and that is a very difficult sentence to write for an entrepreneur.
That doesn’t mean you should do it in a crisis mode and you shouldn’t help your employees. I have had to reduce the size of my team many times, always sadly, and I tried to be creative this time and do it in a different way. Recommending them all on LinkedIn and going public created a whole new referential and the problem was solved in a matter of days.
Very unpopular. Think that I’m French and you get insulted in France if you dare to say that in media (as I have, actually) because people generally do not understand that flexibility is a key survival factor. If you can go light fast you can then hire fast because you’re not scared about being stuck in having to pay sometimes one year severance or more which literally kills many businesses in Europe. So you hire more and you create more jobs.
I know, this is very unpopular to say and I know, it doesn’t apply to most industries where if people lose their jobs, it’s a nightmare. I am very aware of that but I know I will still get reminded I am out of my mind writing this. We are very lucky in the tech industry that there is such a demand for engineering and product talent. We are even more lucky that instead of thinking in terms of the old “lutte des classes” in technology people think of their jobs more and more as the startup of their lives. They think as entrepreneurs with a customer, their employer and hope that one day they will have their own customers in their own business. I’m proud that tens of my former employees became entrepreneurs themselves.
I can only recommend my friend Reid Hoffman’s book, the startup of you. And good luck to all my previous employees and to you all in the startup of you, I wish you tons of success and keep in touch, it’s a small world out there.
Oh and don’t get me wrong, I wish I would have never had to reduce the size of any team working with me, at any moment, sadly failure is often part of the entrepreneur job and learning how to fail is as important as learning how to succeed.