You get what you measure

© The Bees Knees Photo

© The Bees Knees Photo

Being on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list had always been a dream of mine. 

Every year, I wanted to apply, but I never did because I knew I wouldn’t qualify. I met all of the requirements except one: annual revenues. To be considered for the award, your company had to generate a certain amount of revenue. Mine wasn’t there yet.

Realizing I didn’t qualify for yet another year always left me feeling discouraged and made me question if I was on the right path. I’d look at the entrepreneurs who had made the list and wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t my company be as “successful” as theirs?

I didn’t have the insight to recognize that I was on the right path. I was just on a path far less traveled. 

Instead of focusing on growing revenues, I had focused on growing people in my business. Instead of being obsessed with profit margins, I was obsessed with creating a place where people felt cared for, invested in, inspired, and fulfilled. My success wasn’t evident on a balance sheet; it was evident in the people who didn’t want to leave their jobs, even though those jobs consisted of cleaning toilets.

Eventually I realized I didn’t care about making “the list” anymore. I didn’t want to be known for revenue; I wanted to be known for the way I treated people. But that’s not the way it usually works, is it? 

In business, we measure and we award based on numbers. Not feelings. Well, what has that gotten us? A world in which most people don’t want to go to work? Where some throw others under the bus to hit their metrics out of fear of what will happen if they don’t? Where many companies care more about the bottom line than they do the well-being of their people? Where entrepreneurs like me consider giving up because they wrongly believe they are unsuccessful?

There’s a saying in business: “You get what you measure.” And right now, with the way we are measuring and awarding, we are telling future CEOs and leaders that numbers are more important than people. 

What would happen if we changed what we measure? 

What would happen if 30 under 30 asked questions about culture and employee engagement on their applications? What kind of message would that send to our future leaders? How would our world change?

I’m not saying that the money isn’t important. It so is. If you truly want to take care of people, the money has to be there. That’s been a lesson I’ve had to learn and am continuing to learn as we grow. But what’s gotten us here isn’t going to get us anywhere different. If we want to wake up to a world in which people enjoy coming to work and feel like they actually matter to the organizations that employ them, we’ve got to do something different. 

This certainly seems like a place we can start.

Hope this gets you thinking…

Big hugs,