Saturday, September 28, 2002

This is a page from my book, “How I Sold My Business: A Personal Diary”

Arghhhh ... the project manager I've been trying to recruit most of the month just turned me down.

I'm upset with him, but really, I'm just upset at our situation. He seemed like the next "technical project manager" I was looking for, and losing him also means losing a chance to hire several new employees he could manage. We need someone like him to grow the company, and I'm just upset at not being able to hire him, or someone like him.

It seems that despite everything we've tried since what -- 1998? -- we've been unable to grow the size of the company. On the one hand I'm glad to still have fifteen employees, but we're just not having any success recruiting the next good project leader. I've checked with a variety of friends, and I know that our pay is very competitive, but what we can't offer are "geeky" things like a huge server farm that a techie can play with, or even a regular office they can go to every day.

As consultants, we end up working in whatever situation the client has set up for us; sometimes that setup is very nice, and other times it's a cubicle in a very loud work area. I've actually enjoyed some of the crazier setups — two folding tables with my own Sun servers in a telephone company warehouse, and a similar situation in the basement of a financial company — but cubicles are a big turnoff to techies, and we do have some people working in those right now.

With this person I've been trying to recruit, he told me his biggest hang-up was leaving a multi-million dollar server and network setup at his current job. He's worked there ten-plus years, he ordered most of that equipment, and he's comfortable there, while things like working with several clients, more income, and a chance at partnership in the company weren't as strong an appeal for him as managing his current setup. I'm sure the uncertainty in the economy is also an issue for him.

We have three good project managers in the company, including myself, George, and a third person who is good at running smaller projects (and isn't a partner yet). But as I keep striking out trying to recruit other good project leaders, and other employees don't seem ready to anything more than a one- or two-person project, we're stuck. We just can't handle any more business without another project leader.

More frustrations

Besides being frustrated with this particular hiring issue, I continue to feel like I'm drifting apart from a few of the partners, primarily Jack, and to some extent George. These are the two guys I constantly seemed to be at odds with during the last few years, and even in this improved business environment, it feels like we can't get past our disagreements, or at least I can't.

I hate to reminisce, but I do miss the old days. When we first started the company everyone did "whatever it took" to get new customers and get the job done. These days that excitement is gone, and it feels much more like a job: Go in to work, do my time, go home -- and I have to say, that's a pretty sad state for a small business owner.

My motivational problem is not being able to grow the company. When we started off we all said we wanted to be "small but good", but staying the same size has become boring to me. We have great employees, and at this size it's all much easier than I expected it to be, so I'd like to see what it's like to grow the company into something larger.

However, while I've been trying to grow the company, I've felt alone in this effort. I could be wrong, but while I've been trying to expand the business, I feel like the other partners have been pulling back, essentially saying, "We're more comfortable here." For instance, at a technical seminar we gave recently, Jack left immediately after the start of the seminar, so we didn't have any sales representation during the break or after the seminar, and that's just one example of what I feel like I've been running into.

So I've felt like I've been beating my head against the wall, or more accurately, it's felt like a tug of war, and at the moment I give up. The way I feel today, if the company is going to grow it's going to have to be because of someone else’s effort, or luck, because I seriously need a break.

books i’ve written