Loyalty: A Lesson for Startup Founders

By Ryan Frankel WG’12, Co-founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt

Editor’s Note: This post was previously published on the Wharton Magazine blog.

[tweetthis alt=”What is happening to employer and employee loyalty? asks @Verbalize_It Founder Ryan Frankel #WG12 via @WhartonEntrep” shorturl=”http://whr.tn/1Lw6YBT”]”What is happening to employer and employee loyalty?”[/tweetthis] Call me idealistic, but there used to be a time when allegiance and commitment mattered. Today, businesses and even employees are more willing to shed previous ties in order to pursue the next lucrative opportunity.

Loyalty pic

Junior professionals, given tremendous leadership opportunities at startups that would normally require decades of service at larger corporations, jump ship in search of the next quick score without regard for the financial and career investment made by their initial employer. Do the founders deserve such a loose definition of loyalty?

There’s never a clear cut rule to anything. Sure, sometimes you need to break free from early allegiances. Businesses may need to abandon suppliers or “fire customers,” and professionals should always assess their market value. I tend to think to myself when faced with such decisions: If I can live with it, I will make my decision, but if something feels off, I will take a step back and seriously re-evaluate before moving forward.

My track record is far from perfect. I’ve been burned by colleagues with whom our team has invested significant time and resources to elevate their individual performance, even when early indicators pointed toward us having made a bad hiring decision. Likewise, we’ve partnered with companies who dropped us without even the courtesy of a phone call. Imagine reading a press release that a partner went elsewhere instead of receiving a phone call from the company itself?

I’ve always been raised to never forget my roots. “Remain grounded and don’t forget whose shoulders you’ve stood upon to achieve your successes,” was a common theme embodied by my father, a serial entrepreneur who likened his customers and employees to extended members of our family. It’s not always about earning the most tomorrow, it’s about the long-term investment that we make in one another, and it’s about doing right by those who helped you achieve your status.

Hire slowly, fire fast, accelerate successes and failures, and do whatever it takes to excel.

Where do you draw the line?

FrankelBio: Ryan Frankel is the Co-Founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt, the company that delivers instant access to a global community of translators. He is a 2012 Wharton MBA Graduate, a Haverford College alumnus, and a recent TechStars participant. At Wharton, he was a member of the Venture Initiation Program. Prior to enrolling at Wharton, Ryan was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs in the firm’s Special Situations Group, where he focused on middle-market private-equity transactions and the operational management of portfolio companies. A former collegiate basketball player, he is now an endurance athletics enthusiast who has enjoyed competing in an Ironman triathlon and a marathon.