Thursday, January 17, 2008

Scared Money

There is something about many businesses in the Midwest that I have never understood.

Okay, there are a *lot* of things about them that I don’t understand, but we’re focusing on one issue here.

There seems to be this fear of hiring anyone who has either done freelance work or owned their own company. I can understand *why* they feel that way, but it’s extremely wrongheaded.

The general fear seems to be that those people will run off with their clients or leave them again, possibly to start their own companies.

First off, whether or not someone who works for you will run off with your clients has nothing to do with whether they were a consultant or company owner before they worked for you. Bad people will do bad things no matter what.

Secondly, people join and leave businesses all of the time. That’s how businesses get employees in the first place. The thing that’s been different in the last decade or so is that people are starting to realize that most companies have no loyalty for the employees, so they, as employees, have to look out for themselves and be ready to leave when it is to their advantage.

A lot of places in this area of the country still want people to be totally devoted to them while having none of that devotion toward the people working for them, and that just doesn’t work. In fact, it’s something I like to call Spoiled Child Syndrome.

The fact is that while caution is laudable when used sensibly, taking it to the level of paranoia only hurts you. As any good poker player will tell you, scared money never wins.

They eschew people who have, for whatever reason, been on their own when they should be trying to snatch up the people who want to come back to the corporate world because they bring more than technical skill to the table – they also bring experience in business, personal skills, and various professional skills and contacts that your average technical worker just doesn’t generally have.

It’s one of the many big differences between the Midwest and the West Coast. On the West Coast, being part of a startup or having had your own company is considered normal, and even beneficial *because* of the experience involved. If the startup succeeds, you generally get bought out and then go do something else (either at another company, on your own, or retire and do what you like) after a while. If it fails, well, you try something else.

That’s the sane, sensible way to look at it. It’s also a large part of the reason for the successful technical businesses on the West Coast and the relative lack of them in the Midwest by comparison.

In this sense, the West Coasters are sensible poker players, balancing defense and offense and the Midwesterners are the scared money.

Current mood: my head hurts
Current music: Billy Joel - I Go To Extremes

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