A couple of weeks ago, I read this post from entrepreneur Daniel Jalkut (inspired by these posts) about entrepreneurship, ambition, and whether to keep your startup small and just you, or grow it into something much bigger but with different responsibilities.
When I started NewsGator, it was just me, plus some outside help from whoever I could talk into having a burrito with me (you know who you are!). For the most part it stayed that way for a year or so, I enjoyed it immensely, and it had become what the cool kids are calling a lifestyle business. But for me, personally, I had bigger plans, and took on outside investment in order to build it into something larger, with a scope so much wider that I just couldn’t do it all myself.
Now, the company is about 100 people, and I’m tremendously proud of what it has accomplished.
But somewhere along the way, something touched me in a profound way. One holiday season we had a week where everyone had an envelope with their name on it stuck to the wall in one part of the building. The idea was to write anonymous notes to other folks, presumably saying nice things about them, or thanking them for something they’ve done. At the end of the week, everyone took their own envelope and read the things people had said. In my envelope was a note I will never forget. Paraphrasing:
“Thanks for starting this company. Because of NewsGator, my family has been able to afford a home.”
I’m not one to get all sentimental, but reading this note choked me up.
Up to that time, I had spent a lot of time thinking about we were affecting our customers’ lives. But I hadn’t really thought a lot about how we were profoundly affecting our employees’ lives as well.
An unexpected benefit of starting and growing a company.
Nice to see you blogging again. I remember the year of those envelopes…
Thanks for starting up Newsgator. As one of your first vendors, I’ve got say, you’re one of the best and most enjoyable clients I have ever had. I enjoyed watching the company grow when there were only 22 of you. A couple of my favorite highlights – the “mysterious” tape recorder, the desks in the hallway, the “shag” carpet in Walker and Ronnie’s wing, the first time I experienced getting mud in my ears for doing a fundraiser with my client, your first official first smart phone and of course helping fund your first year happy hour. Truly an honor and pleasure to have worked with you.
And, if I can add, you are an inspiration. Yes, kind of “touchy feely” but you helped motivate me to start my own business.
Thanks for posting this and being a good friend,
Wow, thanks Mike. And remember, those super late nights working on your new business are the fun part! :-)