Brilliance Creates a Company; Structure Runs It

Lindsey Novak on

Q: My husband has a brilliant mind, and he created a startup tech company. It has been growing and his employees realize it will be successful. In the beginning they felt lucky to have their jobs. Now they are all asking my husband for raises. It is overwhelming him and it's time-consuming for him to have to speak to each individual. How should he handle this?

A: A brilliant mind can create amazing products and services, but that brilliance must be supported by procedures and policies. Your husband's employees now see his company will be successful and they likely feel their performance is responsible for the company's growth; hence, they have discussed their salaries amongst themselves and think they deserve increases. It sounds like your husband didn't establish the basic policies every company needs because he was focused on the product itself. Now he must deal with running the company as well as creating product.

He could start by sending an appreciative memo sincerely thanking employees for their efforts and commitment to help make the company a success, along with a notice of a company-sponsored lunch celebration. Studies have repeatedly shown employees value recognition, appreciation and surprise treats over money. A Glassdoor study revealed 80% of employees work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. More than 50% said they would stay longer at a company if they felt their boss appreciated them.

Because his employees have already approached him for raises, it's possible their salaries were lower because it was a startup. But he can't offer raises through spontaneous conversations with individual employees. Before your husband offers increases of any kind, he needs to establish a performance review and raise policy. Creating an employee or company handbook should not be taken lightly. In today's legalistic workplace, the safest path is to hire a lawyer experienced in creating company policies and establishing benefits, regardless of the number of employees.

Once a policy is developed and distributed to all, he can maintain a friendly and casual environment by sharing company news and developments to keep employees engaged in the goals and the outcomes. Issuing a formal handbook can initially take away from that comfortable work environment, so your husband might want to hire a human resources employee to maintain the atmosphere he wants. This HR employee can plan group events from bringing in doughnuts in the morning to pizza for lunch to keeping snack jars filled with candy in a coffee room. This would bring the "human" back into the title of human resources.

As his company grows and he becomes more involved in creating product, he may become more removed from the employees. The key is to carefully communicate his values in creating and maintaining the environment to all employees. Just as his employees felt comfortable approaching him for raises, keeping an open-door policy will encourage employees to openly report anyone who threatens that positive and accepting atmosphere. It only takes one difficult person to disrupt the harmony among all.


For example, a sales team grew large enough to need a few secretaries to assist their group. One secretary turned out to be a dud. She was difficult to work with, as she repeatedly made mistakes or claimed to not understand the instructions. Instead of taking the responsibility to reprimand or report her to HR, the sales reps simply stopped giving her assignments. This resulted in her not having any work, but she still collected her salary. Meanwhile, the other secretaries had more than their share of work. It didn't occur to the sales reps that this created an unfair and irritating situation for the high-performing secretaries. Soon they began to look for other jobs. No one wants to watch a co-worker sit and do nothing.

So now when your husband tells you about his employees, you will be armed with suggestions to keep his company on track. You may even suggest working for him as that HR person who maintains the positive environment so the company can retain the employees who helped it grow.


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