Prime Movers Lab
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Prime Movers Lab

People, Process, Progress

In That Order

In 2014, I read Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things’’ for the first time. Chapter Five, “Take Care of the People, the Products and the Profits — In That Order” has stayed with me ever since. For one, I couldn’t agree more with his and Colin Powell’s thoughts on hiring for strength rather than lack of weakness when recruiting executives and building leadership teams. Second, and most importantly, his overall prioritization of people above everything else has been my motivating mantra ever since.

Digging into this more intentionally, the critical support systems that set people up to thrive include processes that promote and advance their efficiency and progress, resulting in company wide success. The most expensive part of recruiting is turn over, so we should spend just as much time building processes to support the progress of the team we’ve worked so hard to build, as we do getting people to join us.

In the last decade, the top three reasons I’ve heard time and time again about why people are looking for a new role or may be open to moving on, even if they aren’t actively on the hunt are:

  1. Communication — Lack of transparency, lack of understanding of why decisions are being made, lack of clarity about current priorities and future priorities.
  2. Management — Lack of responsiveness to feedback, lack of inspiration, lack of acknowledgement, lack of training and lack of reliance.
  3. Work arrangements — Lack of ability to work flexible hours and from flexible locations.

It’s actually not about money 99% of the time. It’s about everything that happens in an employee’s day to day interactions and work streams that determines whether or not they respond to the constant recruitment outreach coming their way. Recently here at Prime Movers Lab and as my colleague Brad mentioned in his piece about our onboarding process, we have implemented a 90 Day Roadmap for all new hires, as we ourselves are growing quickly but are also being extra mindful of the team we are building. The 90 Day Roadmap helps clearly define communication expectations, provides relationship management guidance and prioritization and supports comfortable work arrangements, allowing employees to do their best work in their peak state. The 90 Day Roadmap accomplishes this by:

  1. Providing new employees with key people to meet, key documents and tools to review and key meetings that this person should plan on attending on a regular cadence.
  2. Clearly outlining projects and tasks that are to be completed in the first 30, 60, and 90 days, as well as what success looks like for each, building a narrative around the team member’s impact in the shorter term and the longer term.
  3. Acclimating new employees to internal processes that support our understanding of each other’s current priorities and work streams. It also highlights how our work streams can feed into each other and overlap with one another, creating a cross functional strategy for supporting different investment strategies and portfolio companies through different stages of growth.
  4. Creating space for each new employee’s ambitions, goals, vulnerabilities, assets and unknowns. It also creates space for the employee to revisit these with their manager as time passes.

90 Day Roadmaps are prepared in advance of the new employee’s start date but are perfected alongside them during their first week. New hires help define, refine and expand their roadmap with their manager and then it is shared with our larger team during a company wide meeting. This provides everyone with a greater understanding of the impact this additional team member will have both internally and externally, and is especially important when adding brand new positions to the team. When you treat your people like your product, implementing processes to support their progress and addressing feedback along the way, then profits are sure to follow.

Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation, and agriculture.

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Ashley Nowicki

Ashley Nowicki

Talent + Partner @ Prime Movers Lab.

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