Years ago, I worked for a very successful consulting company.
We worked crazy hours. The pressure was tremendous. We were just cogs delivering results in the shortest time possible.
I still remember the blackboard where different things were hand written.
In the upper left corner someone wrote “shortest time resignation” marked with a red pencil. It was two hours. In just two hours someone started a job and resigned. That was the harsh reality of that place.
But despite all that we were successful. Ambitious plans set up at the beginning of every year were always achieved. And even exceeded; usually by more than 50%.
Yet every year we ended up empty handed when it came to bonuses.
I didn't mind that at the time. I knew the trade-off for me was getting as much knowledge in shortest time possible. You couldn't expect that road to be easy, could you?
There was just one thing I wanted in return. To expand my expertise with some top-notch courses. To absorb best practices, speed up my work and connect the dots that might have been missing.
One day after delivering on a big project with huge success I recognized the timing might be right.
Our head of department was smiling and pouring himself an 18-year-old whisky which he kept for victories like that. He went around the office patting us on the back and telling a couple of awful jokes.
So, I took the risk.
I showed him what I wanted – two-day seminar on advanced financial modeling in UK.
He looked me straight in the eyes and said calmly “This is a very good course you're looking at. It would help us tremendously. In terms of time savings and expanding the knowledge base of the team. “
I started to smile. Already thinking how it's going to be there. Already hearing that famous Star track saying ... “To boldly go where no one has gone before. “
Then he continued “But you're not going there. “
“Why not?” I said, before even thinking whether that's the appropriate thing to say.
Then he put his hand on my arm and said – what will stuck with me for the rest of my life – to me: “Because you might leave the company and take that knowledge with you.”
And that event rolled in front of my eyes last week at a lunch with an executive of a well-established Slovenian company. At one point he said to me “I don't want to invest in education of my employees. Or just as little as it is required by law. “
Amazed by his view I asked what were the reasons for his decision.
“I don't want to invest in something that they could easily take with them if they decided to leave” he replied.
I tried politely: “Don’t you think advantages of educated employees outweigh the costs?”
He answered: “But what if they leave the company one day?“
At that point he stopped. He was waiting for me. For my approval. For my nod. But I couldn't just go over that hump.
So, I told him the ugly truth regardless of the consequences. This was just too important to me.
“In our company we go first. We show our confidence, faith and trust in our employees to send them to all courses they or we see relevant. No matter the cost. And with no (legal) obligations to stay with us for their life time. “
Someone must start with that. And since I am a co-owner I need to be bold enough to go first. Make a leap of faith and go first.
Or with words of Seth Godin:
“That's the key insight of the peer-to-peer connection economy.
Anyone can reach out, anyone can lead, anyone can pick someone else.
But if you wait for anyone, it's unlikely to happen.
It begins with you. “
I'm not going to tell you how my lunch ended that day. For me, it felt great telling him openly my view and my story. How we do things and why.
How about you?
Can you share your story with me?
I would be grateful if you could tell me about your experiences from both sides of the fence – being an employee or an owner. Maybe sharing your story will help others, too.