Tom Gimbel | Crain's Seattle

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tom Gimbel

Background:  

Headquartered in Chicago, national staffing, culture and recruiting firm LaSalle Network has opened a Nashville office after adding more than 100 employees over the past year. For 11 years straight, LaSalle Network has secured a spot on Inc. magazine’s “Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in America” list. 

The Mistake:

Early on in the company's existence, I managed out of fear of turnover versus what was right for the individual and the company. I was so nervous of people wanting to leave, and of wanting to keep them happy, that I didn't do what was right for the long-term and the short-term success of the company.

This was back in the early 2000s. In order to compete and not have my people get recruited away, I allowed people who had even minimal experience to work four-day workweeks. I thought if they had four-day workweeks, no one else would compete with that. It wasn't good for my customers; it wasn't good for my long-term business.

People were working less and weren't as committed. They were working for the wrong reasons, and working for a schedule rather than for a career. It was a negative to us in a lot of ways.

Luckily I realized this about six months into it. I reverted back and rehired more people, and we really started an aggressive strategy of transparency through management with very clear expectations. We've always been a company that rewarded success and believed in having fun – but I realized that I had to have people that wanted to be here for the right reasons.

I think people who join you for perks leave you for perks.

The Lesson:

I've always been a believer that it's about benefits, which I put under health insurance and vacation time versus perks. I think people who join you for perks leave you for perks.

It's not a matter of preventing turnover, it's a matter of re-recruiting the people who are here. You're always going to have turnover, and too often, people focus on diminishing the negative instead of enhancing the positive. It's more about wanting people to stay than wanting them not to leave. It's how you run the company that's important. If people feel like they're being invested in, they want to stay.

If you have a feeling of culture where people feel like the sum is greater than the parts and that they are a part of a machine that is accomplishing really great things, that's something people want to be part of.

Companies attract and retain people by giving them a lot of freedom and letting them work from home, but that's just not the culture that I want. I want a culture that's collaborative, where people want to see each other and work together.

The other thing that encourages people to stay is the fact that we now fire people who are bad fits. A lot of other companies, due to a sense of need and growth, keep bad apples.

Follow Tom Gimbel on Twitter at @TomGimbel

Pictured: Tom Gimbel | Photo courtesy of Robin Subar

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