Planning our return to Seattle, we had to determine where we were going to live. Since we had earlier downsized and sold most of our possessions, we were basically living out of two large suitcases, even after the trip. Given that, we decided to move into Alice’s downtown one-bedroom condo. We thought if we can live out of our suitcases, a condo must be luxurious!
Keira liked the location too, because it was right across the street from a fun park and walking distance to the Seattle Children’s Museum. Alice liked not having to pack and unpack constantly, instead having a permanent place to call home. Plus, she welcomed all the easily accessible organic fruits and vegetables available in Seattle. Me, I loved the condo’s close proximity to the waterfront. It motivated me to get out and take care of my body with runs along the water. As I had learned, I had to invest in maintaining my health and couldn’t take it for granted.
The condo had super-fast, free Internet in the lobby. I was jumping on Skype chats there with David in Vietnam, talking about the progress of the prototype that would eventually become TINYpulse. Since I was so committed, I decided to bring on a local developer to accelerate progress. His name is Zach, and he helped launch the beta version of TINYpulse from our condo lobby.
It’s the People, Stupid
Looking back on all of my interviews, no matter what country, what industry or what size company, the critical factors in every business were hiring and retaining great people. How leaders train and nurture those people define a company’s culture, and these practices make each company unique.
But back in 1999, when I started the Wharton MBA program, I thought I knew it all. If you asked me to jot down the most strategic assets or competitive advantages for an organization, I would’ve listed things like:
Thirteen years later, I realized how I got it all wrong. Success starts with people and culture. If I take care of my people, they’ll take care of customers, and customers will then take care of the organization. It’s that simple.
Finding my Entrepreneurial Happiness
Interviewing entrepreneurs helped focus my personal introspection in a very cathartic way. I saw pieces of my own burnout in those that I spoke with, and I could empathize with their struggles. Almost all the entrepreneurs I interviewed had a few things in common with each other:
a) Their main competitive advantage was their people
b) They experienced pain around managing their people
c) Each recognized the need to maintain a positive culture
It was clear to me that happier employees lead to less-stressed business owners. Happy employees are more productive, have fewer absences, deliver better customer service, and stay with the organization longer. When you couple increased productivity with happier people, the result is typically a more profitable business.
But the striking thing I discovered is that happier employees make happier bosses!
My proof is looking no further than TINYhr. I’ve never been so happy, and I know my team is one of the happiest in the world based on TINYpulse benchmarks.
Meanwhile, I’m now active on the board of BuddyTV without playing a direct role within the company, and they are thriving in a new direction. I’m glad that I could be honest with myself and Andy so that they could bring in new energy.
For me, I know hiring and keeping the right people and creating a healthy and energetic culture that enables those people to thrive is my most important role as an entrepreneur. Like our values state, I jealously treasure and guard our culture because great cultures can erode over time without the right nurturing, investment, and vigilance. My vigilance is not always easy to uphold, but keeping this fantastic culture is rewarding, and it makes me happy.
Walking the Talk
I’ve tried many of the tips shared by the entrepreneurs from my interviews. As a result of these best practices, our TINY team excels as we focus on making employees happier.
Within months of launching TINYpulse publicly, we had hundreds of paying clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to startups to non-profits to governmental agencies. Over 1/3 of our clients are outside of the U.S. which highlights that employee happiness isn’t just a Western management issue—it’s a global problem and opportunity. I’m humbled by all the thank you notes we get from not only CEOs but employees on how TINYpulse is sparking positive change at their workplace. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. I’m loving it!
It reminds me that there’s never a perfect time to do things that require time, risk and sacrifice—but not taking the shot only leads to regrets. If I didn’t go for it, TINYpulse would just be a fantasy.
If there’s something you want to do that makes you anxious or that your friends think is crazy, it’s probably the right time to jump.
Sure, I was scared leading up to our flight to New Zealand. I thought of all the loose ends, letting an au pair into our lives, the unfinished projects at work, the possibility of getting sick abroad, and other risks. “Are you crazy!?” began creeping through my mind. But you know what? I didn’t get all the loose ends tied up, we did let an au pair into our lives, I didn’t finish all the projects, and I did get sick in spades, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Thank you for coming along on my journey. I hope you enjoyed the insights, experiences, and tips that I gathered from entrepreneurs during my careercation. Finally, feel free to reach out to me personally at david@TINYhr.com to share your thoughts and feedback. Thanks again, and here’s to your journey to find happiness!