Applying this notion to your team will strengthen company culture, boost employee morale, and bolster the bottom line.
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One of the most gratifying aspects of success in business is watching the people who helped the company get off the ground grow right along with it and enjoy its success. However, I constantly hear from other entrepreneurs who are looking for a new flock of people that will take their business from where it is to new heights. Often founders complain that it is hard to find “A-level” people through recruiting or job searches and that “all the good people are taken.”
There is a common mistaken belief that “what got you here, won’t get you there.” Applied to employees, that concludes that the people that got you to the stage you are at are not the ones to take you to that next level. In my experience, I can say that I have not seen that. In fact, I’ve seen the opposite.
Shared history matters.
When we first started our e-commerce business, there were times when, thanks to spikes in demand, we had long nights when everyone, regardless of job title or rank in the organization, was pressed into service to pack boxes to fulfill orders. I often think that those early, “all in this together” moments were in fact the seminal, shared experiences that shaped our DNA and that drive our strategy, operations, and planning to this day.
It’s been quite a long time since the entire staff has had to create an ad hoc assembly line to ensure all our customers received their orders on time. But what persists is the very real sense that we are all in this together, that we can tackle new challenges, and that our team is the team that can do it.
As I look back, the times we spent together were critical to our current success for two essential reasons: they fostered a sense of shared responsibility on the team, and they made the connection between our team and our culture very real. When you’ve all pitched in to help when the company’s under pressure, you become more connected to one another. We became a collaborative community — the company, our culture, and our focus on our customers.
Individuals grow into new roles.
Today, I see many inspiring examples of people at FSAstore.com/HSAstore.com who personify growing to new heights. Our initial, part-time PR person is now the VP of sales, responsible for a large part of our overall revenue. Our head of training and staff development started as a customer service representative, where she saw firsthand what confused consumers about their FSA’s and HSA’s and developed our techniques for solving those problems. Our current director of product worked his way through our entire corporate hierarchy — from operations analyst to merchandising manager, to web product manager to his current role, with oversight responsibility for our entire product development process. Others who began in customer service are now innovators on our merchandising team, where much of their insight is derived from spending hours on the phone, talking to customers, and looking at the business from their perspective.
These are people who incorporated their direct experiences in the trenches into their whole approach to their work as they moved up within the organization. These are personal success stories to be sure, and the talent, dedication, and intelligence these people individually bring to work every day has without question contributed to their success. But these are also wonderful examples of how people in the right setting can excel to new heights. When a true understanding of what matters most, and the been-there, can-do attitude is what drives the work of people across the company at all levels, the prospects for success increase.
A hothouse for individual growth.
And it wasn’t just moving up within the ranks, it is also the tireless work of all the people who have excelled and grown as the company has grown. We continue to invest in growing our employee’s skill sets by offering educational reimbursements and free training classes. As the company grows and responsibilities increase, we’re confident that they too will rise to the challenge knowing that we invest in them: to grow, to learn, and to excel.
The experiences I shared early on with this team — with the people who got us here — helps us guide us toward strategies and decisions that will drive our success as a business. This team got us there, and I’m very certain as we make exciting plans to grow, they will get us there, too. So, next time you find yourself looking out your window, wondering who on the other side of that glass will get you from here to there, open your door instead and invite your team in.