A few weeks ago I found myself getting overly excited. Gruntwork had been growing at a steady clip each month, and at our last in-person meet up in March we came up with our vision for the next month, the next year, and the next 5 years. I don’t remember my exact inner monologue, but it was something along the lines of:
“If we can achieve our vision, we’ll make such a huge impact! It will be awesome!”
But then I couldn’t sleep that night. Not because I was seized with any brilliant vision or insight, but just because I was still emotionally charged. The feeling continued into the next day, when we got a customer inquiry to build a module that would help us make our product more competitive but not in a major way. Still, I found myself strongly advocating to the team that we pursue it. I communicated something along the lines of:
“If we can add this new module, it will make our offering even more complete!”
This is a post about striking the right balance between values and business needs.
A few weeks ago, I helped finalize the parental leave policy at Gruntwork and an interesting philosophical discussion came up: How many resources is the company willing to allocate to creating a humane parental leave policy?
Some larger companies like Netflix offer full pay for 1 year when your kid is born. As a parent, that kind of benefit is…amazing. If I were an employee of Netflix, I would revel in the idea that Netflix cares about me and my family, not just the next release milestone. It would make me feel a deeper emotional connecton to the company.
But Gruntwork is just 12 people total with 9 engineers, and while we’ve been profitable from Day 1 and growing fast, if one engineer were to leave for a year, that would reduce our engineering output by, on average, 11% while still having to carry that perons’s salary. Can you imagine what kind of impact an 11% engineering output reduction would have on NetFlix? Let’s say NetFlix has 2,000 engineers. That’d be 220 engineers gone for a year…while on full payroll!
The reality is that, as much as I personally want to support a year-long parental leave policy, the company simply can’t afford it right now. Or to be more accurate, if we chose to support a 1-year parental leave policy, we would have to increase our cash reserves to a point that would significantly slow down hiring and other initiatives requiring working capital.
Ultimately, having any parental leave policy at all is “inconvenient” for the company in the sense that it reduces your ability to pump out new features and bug fixes and/or puts additional load on the rest of the team. So…should we just have no parental leave policy at all?
Earlier today, my family and I went to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, Arizona. Coolidge is a pretty small town — less than 12,000 people in total. And it’s at least an hour away from any major city in Arizona. Also, this is hardly the most famous monument in Arizona, so suffice it to say we weren’t expecting too much. Really, it was just a fun random road trip on a holiday weekend.
Just as we finished eating our lunch at the picnic tables, the park announced that a new guided tour was starting in 5 minutes. That sounded like a good idea so we decided to join.
What followed was a vivid and dare I say gripping exposition on Hohokam culture some thousand years ago. Against the backdrop of what we later learned was a major architectural structure in a major city in a culture that has long since collapsed, this turned out to be a surprisingly engaging tour.