As I sit here trying to connect to Ontario country internet, I reflect on the incredible company we have built over the last 4 years. How did this happen? Were we blessed from the gods, or did our risk-taking nature and hard work pay off? Maybe a little bit of both. What really happened was that we found the right people, and those people inspired and supported the creation of an amazing team.
Before launching Search+Gather (S+G), Doug and I learned a few things working for other startups and digital agencies. We learned that solid people drive a company and make it fun to work at. We learned that too many meetings, bureaucracy, and the inability to test ideas slow growth (and funny enough, excitement as well). We also learned that an agency, at its core, is about people providing a service to other people.
There were too many stories in the startup world of employees getting toilet paper shares, very little payout after acquisition, and lofty promises with little delivery from company owners. We saw awesome people bouncing from one startup or agency to another to stay engaged. Agencies on the other hand were notorious for loading up juniors, bloating salaries for seniors or founders, and generally being a harsh environment to work in. We wanted to change that when we started Search+Gather, in order to keep and motivate the awesome team we built.
When we started S+G, we didn’t know everything, that’s for sure. But we had a clear mission: to offer incredible performance marketing provided by people who care about the clients’ company and their growth. We knew from working in the trenches that to keep team members caring about their clients, we had to first care about the team members. We needed to build a startup agency that fostered growth, learning, excitement and a trajectory for really talented teammates to thrive. A place where people could truly grow and develop with a company.
We wanted to be different (kinda like Apple :)). We wanted to share our company as it grew; with the fantastic, energetic and inspired minds that built it with us. After all, a company based on expertise and service can only run at its best when super talented people are inspired and motivated. So we started to do exactly that. This summer we made Michael Lum and Amanda Nguyen partners at Search+Gather. Our first two hires now have real common shares in the company. They can vote, get dividends, and see our financials. They can challenge anyone who goes against the Shareholders agreement. And most importantly, they not only feel like owners, they actually are owners.
Sharing shares feels right, and is a strong start. But I think there is something even more powerful we learned in our 4 years, and that is sharing ideas. We want juniors and intermediates to feel like potential owners. We want them to feel secure that they will obtain promotions and equity if they work hard, contribute to company growth, and share ideas that help us improve. We at Search+Gather, have started to establish a feedback reciprocity in order to thrive into the future. This plan ensures that every S+Ger is heard, regardless of their position in the company. Senior S+Gers need to support and encourage the junior members of the team; while junior and intermediate members need to challenge the seniors with new ideas and approaches that could make us better. It is a simple truth, that we learn just as much from those around us as they do from us. When S+G team members inspire and challenge each other, in a respectful way, and their ideas are listened to and acted upon when merited, amazing things happen. The team becomes stronger together. And the team members gain more than wealth or shares, they see their ideas prosper.
We are looking to continue on this path of empowering our team by sharing wealth, power and ideas. We don’t exactly know what this will look like in the coming years. But we do know that we need to empower and build up everyone at Search+Gather. Michael and Amanda are now training the next generation of S+Gers coming in, and I hope that they all make partner one day.