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One of my biggest learnings in nearly 20 years as an entrepreneur is that it’s all about the team.
Without a great team, a business has limitations in terms of how much it can achieve. When you build the right team – a job that is never done – you eliminate limitations and allow that team to dream big and achieve the unthinkable.
I’ve worked hard at TaxJar to instill with our leaders that our team comes before everything else. And that includes coming before our customers who we adore and know that, ironically, without them we wouldn’t be able to build a team.
There are lots of opportunities to put team before all else. Sometimes the decision to do so is easy. Sometimes it’s difficult. The Covid-19 outbreak brought an opportunity that was a combination of the two.
Conversations about ‘what is the best thing for our team’ with regard to the outbreak have been happening internally here at TaxJar for the last couple of weeks. We got lucky we were able to hold our semi-annual, all-company summit in Savannah just recently. But now we’re starting our event season. We’ve committed to sponsoring numerous events nationwide.
One event in particular, SaaStr (a huge community of SaaS executives, founders, and entrepreneurs), we have been super excited about for months. It was to be our coming out party for our ingenious ability to provide sales tax compliance for SaaS businesses. We made a six-figure bet all-in with the sponsorship, travel, etc. That’s meaningful money for us. Being capital efficient is in our DNA.
Our teams put in a ton of work to get us ready to crush the event – a brand new booth display, all kinds of awesome swag, fantastic marketing materials, you name it. So on top of the financial investment, we’d already spent a whole lot of human hours as well.
We recently began a dialogue with our team of over 160 employees who all work remotely (we don’t have any offices). At first we announced that it was the choice of each attendee on whether to go to the conference. We were clear to say there would be no repercussions. If you don’t feel good about going, don’t go. Do what’s best for you.
And just within the last few days our viewpoint has quickly evolved. Although the world’s best epidemiologists have said the risk of contracting the virus in the US is currently not high, we asked every question we could think of. What if one of our employees contracts the virus and brings it home with them to their families and communities? What if they get quarantined and are away from their family? What if they get really sick? Or worse?
I had to ask myself, how would that make me feel as the leader of the team?
That’s when I gained the moment of clarity I needed. The decision was easy. Forget the money. The investment into the work can and will be repurposed elsewhere. The team is irreplaceable. Why would we even consider taking a chance? This is a moment for us to walk-the-walk, to reinforce how we feel about our people.
So we made the call. No team member is allowed to travel for business effective immediately and until further notice when we can be assured they’re not at risk.
As crazy as the world has become lately, I feel totally at peace with the decision. I know lots of other companies are thinking through similar scenarios right now. It feels great to be able to reinforce to the team that they are the most important thing to the company.
If you take care of your team, they’ll take care of themselves and the business. That’s what great teams do.