To Stay or Leave – Your Company

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 28

This week I’m focusing attention on to stay or leave your employer. These articles present examination areas to help your decision. Yesterday, in To Stay or Leave – Your Industry, I covered how your company and personal industry can affect your decision.

There are three more areas:

  • Your Company
  • Your Manager
  • Your Personal Criteria

I’m doing an article a day on each of these subjects.

Today I’ll take a look at your company and how it influences your decision to stay or go.

Your company’s finances

By far, the most important company cause of your decision to stay or go is your company’s finances. Companies have many choices with profitability and fewer choices when losing money. Continued losses offer an even greater signal the company is weak. Here’s why the profitability is important to you:

  • Bonuses. More profits should equal larger bonuses. No profits could mean little or no bonus (unless you are the CEO, of course).
  • Raises. While profitability doesn’t mean you will necessarily get larger pay raises than the industry norm, profitability should mean that you will get a raise.
  • Stock. When companies are profitable, stock options make sense as the stock is rising and so is the option profit. When using restricted stock as part of compensation, restricted stock comes in larger quantities and income. Consider my restricted stock reward at my former employer at $42 a share and one year later was worth $11. If you have 100 restricted stock shares, you just lost $3,100 of potential income.
  • Training opportunities. Especially paid ones. I’m not an advocate of training classes being the only way to train people, but paid training goes away with tight budgets.
  • Movement within the company. When a company is not profitable, it is difficult to replace a person that leaves voluntarily. Thus, your ability to apply for a position in another department dwindles without profitability. If this person voluntarily leaves in your department, the rest of your team gets to pick up the added work.
  • Fewer projects, fewer people. If your company doesn’t have the money to fund growth projects, there is less to work on for employees.

Your company’s growth projects

Companies should be working on initiatives that will provide revenue growth. Your company’s management should be telling you that “X” number of projects will help us grow in the future. Whether this is from new products and services to sell, added improvements to existing products and services, or productivity projects, this is how the company grows. If the company has few of these projects – or cuts back – then the company is risking future revenue growth.

Would you want to work for a company with mitigated future revenue growth?

Your company’s position in the industry

If you are Microsoft, you can make mistakes and get away with it because you have $30-billion or so cash available. If your company is a startup in a land filled with Microsoft companies, then mistakes in marketing will be few.

I’m not recommending working in one size of a company or another. However, the relative position of your company to others in the industry (your competition…), makes a difference in your company’s ability to survive and thrive.

Just so we are clear on risk: a Microsoft can easily withstand a mistake because of their balance sheet. But they can shut down a department – yours – in a heartbeat and it won’t even make the news because they are a large company. What I’m writing about here is that other companies can directly impact what your company can do based on your company’s relative size in the marketplace.

Your company’s management

While future performance is not a given from past performance, I’d rather work with a management team with a track record of success then one with failure. Every time a new “senior” manager comes to your company, you must reevaluate the management. Most hired senior managers do what they have already done somewhere else.

If your CIO did outsourcing of the technology department before and you have never done that, you most likely will. If the CEO of Bank One made significant operational changes while there and then becomes the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, you can count that will happen there. And it did.

The Google search engine is your friend when new management comes on board. If you want to find out the most likely direction your management will take, look to the past accomplishments of the person coming into your management team.

Changes in company management are your best indicator of possible risks and opportunities for your position. The change in management will foreshadow all the other company indicators. This is because people have to change direction and complete projects so the work translates to finances.

Your company’s news articles and SEC filings

For all the talk on blogs about management needing to be transparent and management saying the same thing, they are often not. Instead, corporate communications types have to put out the latest spin on the earnings season, the new product, and the latest new thing. The positive stuff put out there overwhelms the negative. While I don’t think company management should talk about everything bad, the company is much more forthcoming in their SEC and shareholder reports than they are with their own employees. That’s one of the good things about regulation – you can’t hide everything.

In addition, company management will often hide bad news in one part of the organization from another. They will casually lay off 100 people in a state across the country from you but not report it to the rest of the company. Or hire 5,000 people in a different country over the course of one year and not report that internally. If one is skeptical about management reporting (and I am, especially with large corporations), companies will not report anything negative unless required by law to do so.

Yet, you must know about as much as you can about your company. One of the simplest ways of doing so is to set up feeds that come to you about your company. Yahoo!, for example, allows you to take your company’s stock symbol and feed that to My Yahoo!. Or, Google allows you to set up Alerts. Set one up on your company name. You will have delivered information that your company is making news about right to your e-mail box.

For as skeptical as I am about corporate communications, if you see little difference in news provided internally compared with your searches, it should mean your company is fairly transparent. If, on the other hand, you see a wide divergence between public and internal communications – as I did with my last company – then your alarm bells should be going off.

Your company’s performance is critical to deciding to stay or go. If all politics is local, you can be in the best, fastest-growing industry in the world – and fail as a company. I read somewhere the average company doesn’t last 20-years – not even enough to go through college, if it were a person. So understanding your company is critical for deciding to stay or leave.

  • […] Manager, I covered how your can affect your decision. Before that, I looked at your industry and company affecting your […]

  • […] leave your employer. These articles present examination areas to help your decision. Yesterday, in To Stay or Leave – Your Company, I covered how your company and personal industry can affect your decision. Before that, I looked […]

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Robyn — I agree. I have this in a later post about deciding to stay or leave based on your personal situation. The company’s work is the company’s work; they are not obligated to make that work meaningful work to you over time. Though talent retention is a good thing.

    Having said that, your point is quite valid. I’m quibbling over categorization, not the comment itself. We all know — or at least can feel — that work that is not meaningful to us cuts off employee engagement.

  • Robyn says:

    Besides the lack of financial or career growth incentives, another reason to leave a place is the feeling that you are unable to do meaningful work. I went to a nonprofit after working in high tech for 20+ years. It was a safe haven because it suited my lifestyle needs at the time and because my experience allowed me to make a significant contribution to their processes. I left because I felt there were no more contributions I could make to improvement and I therefore felt less engaged.

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