Keeping talent happy… a primer.

Amanda has printed her back and forth with her former partner Andrew Baron–it’s really sad. This is a text-book example of how not to treat your talent (and frankly, how not to respond when you’re treated bad). The whole thing is a mess and everyone winds up losing.

Regardless, there are some great lessons here for business folks. When you’re on the business side your job is to:

  1. Keep talented folks focused on making great product.
  2. Get talented people paid (so they can focus on making great product)
  3. Let talented people grow and support the hell out of them (so they can focus on making great product)
  4. Make talented people feel comfortable that they are not going to get screwed (so they can focus on making great product)
  5. Make a bunch of money (so talented folks can get more money and get more focused on making great product)

As you can see it’s all about removing obstacles and creating a comfort level for the talent. When we started Webogs, Inc. I wasn’t rich, but I moved mountains to make sure that my people didn’t have to worry about paying their rent. I made sure folks didn’t have to screw around with the details.

The bloggers are supposed to show up and blog and everyone else on the team is here to enable that to happen. Judith, Brian, Jade, Shawn, Peter, and I all knew and agreed on this… we knew our role was to support the stars. If you support people and make them stars you can do very, very well in life by the way.

Of course, the more talented the person the more work it is to support them because they want to do bigger and better things all the time. Peter Rojas was the most demanding person I ever worked for–and I loved him for it! No one demand more of our team than Peter, but no one demand more from Peter than Peter. He set the gold standard of blogging and we all had to live up to his pace. Shawn and sales couldn’t keep up with Engadget, Judith (our Editorial Director) couldn’t keep up with staffing Engadget, Brian couldn’t keep up with the server demands of Engadget, and I couldn’t keep the overall business up with Peter! That’s exactly what you want at a company: the talent leading everyone else.

Then the business folks get confident and they give the talent even more room to grow. It’s like Coppola making the Godfather and Robert Evans telling him to add an hour to the final version! That’s the magic… baby.

If Amanda wants to do the show from LA or Miami or Tokyo who cares? Give her the camera and let her tape it and send the tape into the home office. That’s the way it is. Amanda is the reason you got 300k folks downloading the show, so you move mountains to keep her happy (although taping from an apartment in LA vs. and apartment in NYC doesn’t seem like any different to me).

As I tell folks on our team, there are three types of people in the world:

  1. People who make stuff.
  2. People who sell stuff.
  3. People support the first two groups of people.

That’s really it… I’m a servant to my people. I am here to serve (as a wise, wise man once told me), and if the talent ain’t happy then I’ve failed. The problem is sometimes the support folks think they’re the talent.

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