08/28/2012 11:39 am ET Updated Oct 28, 2012

Personal Growth From Failure

"Failure is nature's plan to prepare you for great responsibilities."
-- Napoleon Hill

Submerged in Culture

In 2007, I worked on a retention campaign within a small tech start-up. I loved my job and it was made even better by the fact that I hired most of the people on the floor that I daily walked. And walk I did. I think I took two or three strolls every day, weaving in and out of cubicles and stopping to chat in open-door offices, in addition to gathering with others in the break-room to discuss the latest news and biz developments. With portfolio companies growing out of every corner of this office, it was an exciting time.

I literally couldn't wait to get to work each morning. I was pleased with the department that I had grown and the young recruiters I had trained. I enjoyed the relationships I had developed with each Hiring Manager. It was truly a joyful place to be. Hiring individuals with whom you work and see on a consistent basis is unlike being a contract or third-party recruiter. The nature of the beast is very different. You hire differently, specifically when it is a difficult-to-fill position. Or you are expected to staff positions far below current compensation ranges -- this is often the case in a start-up.

Given that certain openings require more time to fill, I wanted to keep those folks with the company, not only present -- but present and engaged. Indefinitely. From the moment a new hire came on board, it was important to submerge them, as quickly as possible, in the culture we worked so hard to create. We often had company lunches, cross-department UNO games, celebrated successes, joined in charity events and had all-hands staff meetings on a regular basis.

My daily strolls were part of my underground crusade to retain employees. Mostly, I made sure that those who we hired knew they were valued.

It is not an easy thing to do.

Struggling start-up, low compensation packages, crappy insurance, waning capital, and constant cross-functional team meetings -- all mean that other opportunities look mighty tasty in the right light. I cajoled, I sang, I made little signs for desks, I interfaced on a consistent basis, I laughed, and sometimes cried. It was a time of exponential growth for me, for all of us. I learned more about business during that short year than during any other time in my career.

Why do people stay with companies? Why do they consider counter offers that rarely (never) work?

Are Company Culture and "The Right Fit" important? You bet they are.

Sadly, that lovely little start-up began to fail -- I knew my job was in jeopardy so I reluctantly left for a new position -- a decision which took me two months to make. The people who I had worked so hard to embed in that culture couldn't and wouldn't leave. As a matter of fact, most of them stayed until the eleventh hour when they were all laid off over the course of three months.

Signs of Destined Failure. Culture. Fit.

Should we need to be mindful of these factors in the recruiting or job search process? There are those who say no and are tired of the hype. But when it works, it works.

And How can you argue with success? When failure is at the door? And what determines failure?

Though I sadly left and the full scope of my recruiting plan was never realized, I cannot bring myself to label that time as a failure. Ever. Change and growth occur even at the darkest hour.

"There are no failures -- just experiences and your reactions to them."
-- Thomas Krause