A stakeholder, or someone who's in it to win it! I know absolutely nothing about the world of IT start ups but I do study their products and their business practices because I believe that thinking outside the box involves looking outside the box of one's own skill set and or industry for ideas. Today, I read this article, at a venture capitalist's blog and then I had read this article on Friday.
I firmly believe in the concept of employees and customers as stakeholders! I also believe in the idea that as a producer I am a stakeholder in my retailers! Its a very basic idea that the better we all do the better the whole does; or, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Just something as simple as a question, "...what do YOU think?" can create a bond to an outcome for the person who the question is directed to.
Now for me to claim to have any understanding about stock options and or vesting would be foolish, because I have never been in a situation where my dedication was rewarded! Honestly, I do believe I lay claim to having worked for the biggest con artist the world has ever seen; the P.T. Barnum of hype as motivation!
If promises were kept I would be, by now an equal partner in two companies, but when I was faced with the reality that I was never going to see the redemption of a promise made I basically stopped; I didn't quit but I stopped and did other things thus two very successful and growing companies ended up being shutdown and consolidated into other operations; which in a year led to their demise; 5 million dollars in profitable revenue in the first year of operations gone.....
I have made promises to employees that the company ended up reneging on and I ended up keeping my word out of my own pocket.
So, when I decided to go out on my own, who was the first person who jumped in excitedly clamoring to be a partner? Yep, Mr. P.T. Barnum himself! His idea of a partnership was that I do all the work, create the vision, implement the vision, and at that point I had put up all the capital and in return he was entitled to 80%! Sure!
My philosophy is not to make my piece of the pie bigger but rather to make the pie bigger for everyone and thus ensuring myself a piece of a bigger pie; that's the simple logic of "win-win."
The greatest sales people for a company are its customers and employees; great people make great companies! One time, with a start up that manufactured potpourri and scented gifts, I found myself with four trade shows going on at the same time, and I wasn't all that comfortable with our independent sales reps, so I sent employees to the shows to "support" the professionals! We achieved 10 times our normal results from shows and I had employees who were now stakeholders and each and everyone of them returned to their jobs and looked at things totally differently than they did before the shows.
After reading these articles about how Skype is treating their employees in regards to the issue of stock options, I think that Skype is going to find that their customers are not going to be all that loyal in the future; you do reap what you sow.
Mr. P.T. Barnum now whines because he is struggling; he is growing dizzy from the spin of the logic of a self fulfilling prophecy! If you want a commitment then you have to empower your employees, business associates, and customers; you have to make them stakeholders, which in turn makes the concept of commitment a two way street.
If you make promises you do not keep, then you can expect the same in return. If you tell someone you are going to do something then do it! Business is about winning and you cannot win if your customers and employees are not "in it!" Being "in it" does not necessarily involve stock options and or ownership, but it does involve being up front and truthful; hiding behind the fine print, or selling your employees out over your desire to get funding, or because it doesn't fit in your long term plans is really short sighted!