Employee Retention, It Can Be Easy — CEOs Only

Employee retention, Big Red Car? Sounds boring, BRC.

Big Red Car here touring the great state of Florida — not me, The Boss. Come home, Boss. Get back to work.

So, The Boss is talking to a bunch of his CEOs — brilliant all — and the subject is key employee retention, which The Boss says is just employee retention, key and otherwise.

All of the CEOs say, “I’m a great CEO. Always looking, always scouting for talent, always hiring.”

“What,” asks The Boss, “does that have to do with keeping your people? Employee retention?”

They agree on the answer, “Nothing. It’s just another thing good CEOs are doing — talent spotting. Has nothing to do with keeping the people you already have.”

In 33 years of CEO-ing, you will learn a few things because if you can’t keep your people, you won’t be a CEO for very long. Boom!

For the next few days, we are going to explore this subject but it boils down to the following basic concepts:

 1. Run a good company — a huge subject pregnant with possibilities — which people will want to join and get their fingerprints on the murder weapon.

 2. Ensure that you hire people for a job that they and you understand. There are tools and processes to make that easy.

Onboard them in such a fashion that they will remember it for the rest of time. Make it like Christmas or the 4th of July.

 3. Keep score and ask the tough questions in the performance appraisal process. [You don’t have a performance appraisal process? Easy as pie to fix. Search this site and see what is at your fingertips. It’s all here already.]

 4. Keep the founding campfire alive, red hot, and tell the story until the team goes out and gets it tattooed on their inner thighs. People are throwing in with the story. Be a storyteller.

 5. Communicate. Shoot, move, communicate (OK, that’s the infantry, different deal. Sorry. Just communicate.) There is no such thing as over communication.

 6. Manage by wandering around and don’t miss any opportunity to create a non-traditional, unscripted feedback loop. (This is not a keg on Friday afternoons and a foosball table. Trust me on this one.)

 7. Have a slightly sophisticated compensation program which marries salary, benefits, short-term incentive comp, long-term incentive comp, and that “something special” which makes for a bespoke relationship. The days of slipping someone a bit of equity — which is very expensive to the founders and the investors — are over. Now, you have to slip a web over their entire existence. Golden handcuffs? Golden web.

 8. Get feedback through the performance appraisal process and by undertaking an Anonymous Company Survey. [The Boss says he never failed to learn something startling in the Anonymous Company Survey and once shut down an operating unit the next day after what he learned in such an exercise. You have blind spots, CEO darlings; this helps you see the bald spot on the back of your head. Mirror.]

 9. Find a gray haired eminence, a boardmember, a CEO coach who has actually run a company — not a faux venture capitalist, lawyer, accountant, or your Uncle Bob who has ridden a lot of miles in first class, but who has not actually flown a plane — and develop a mentor relationship with them. It IS lonely being a CEO. No revelation there and, “No, your generation didn’t invent sex or business, so there is a lot of experience out there. Rent it. Don’t pay full tuition to get it. Rent it.”

In the weeks ahead, we will be digging into each of these concepts and I will leave you with a road map, trip directions, a compass, processes, and exemplars which will guide you through the realization — YOU CAN KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES IF YOU WILL DO SOME VERY SIMPLE STUFF. Fail to do this stuff and the clock is set and ticking. [OK, it isn’t really that damn simple, but it can be and you will think it simple when you do the work. Do. The. Work.]

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself, because it is frisky out there. cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png

15 thoughts on “Employee Retention, It Can Be Easy — CEOs Only

  1. Fantastic response!

    ‘At’s uh lot’s uh detail I haven’t seen anywhere else; I’d estimate that for me to try to dig up all that would take me days and still I wouldn’t find all of it.

    I just did see some interesting facts at

    John Hayward, “Seven Inconvenient Facts About Trump’s Refugee Actions,” Breitbart, 29 Jan 2017, at


    But lots of people are up on their hind legs screaming quoting nearly no relevant facts. Lots of snowflakes are melting. There are lots of examples at



    Much of the emphasis in those two threads is giving money to the ACLU to fund legal fights against what Trump is doing in immigration. While I’m sure the ACLU will like having the money, it won’t take ACLU lawyers long to notice that (1) the US and the POTUS have essentially unlimited authority to admit or not admit any non-US citizen based on anything or nothing and (2) for the legal parts of immigration, basically Trump is just following long established laws, policies, and procedures.

    Also IIRC somewhere in those threads are mentions of Congress passing some laws to stop what Trump is doing on immigration. Gee, Virginia, you really believe could get such laws passed with Republican majorities in both houses? Then, somehow you believe you could get Trump to sign the laws instead of just veto them? Come on, Virginia — do you remember middle school US civics?

    Snowflakes can be so helpless. Are supposed just to give them really big hugs?

    Maybe the Hubble can image what asteroid the snowflakes are from?

    For a while one can start to take seriously some of the arguments in

    Benjamin Wittes, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence: Trump’s Horrifying Executive Order on Refugees and Visas,” Saturday, January 28, 2017, 10:58 PM, at


    until reflect a little.

    It looks like some of what Newt Gingrich has been saying recently, IIRC, politics is sublimated war, and the Dems’ war with Trump before the election will continue for the next four years.

    So, lots of Dems will gripe, scream, shed tears, claim whatever evils they can think of, etc. hoping to convert a few people while forgetting about their accuracy in the present or their credibility in the future.


    He did not announce it in advance as he did not want to tip off anyone of bad intent in the pipeline.

    has been one of my guesses, and your statement is the first I’ve seen by anyone else.

    Yup, the Dems keep saying that Trump is xenophobic:

    His mother was Scottish and his wife is lovely (an immigration class all of its own).

    Those two AVC threads look like 98% pile on, gang up, echo chamber, group think, fact free, emotionalism over rationalism, repetitive propaganda groundless wholesale hysteria.

    • Apparently we were both correct: Trump has now tweated:

      If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there!

  2. Hello JLM, Sorry for the off-topic question, but what are your thoughts on the executive order banning Muslims from 7 countries? Do you think it makes the nation safer?

    • .
      First let’s discuss the subject with some degree of specificity.

      There are six countries which are subject to a 90-day hold on all visas of all types — tourism/temporary work and immigration being the broad classification of visa types though there are almost 200 different visa titles.

      Syria, in which the central government is no longer functional and which is a center of ISIS/Al Qaeda activity, is subject to a permanent ban until further notice.

      The visa application success rate in those countries — six countries identified by the US as harboring terrorists, hosting terror training facilities, being centers of ISIS/Al Qaeda by the Obama administration and the US Congress as well as the Intelligence Community — is about 40%, meaning that about 60% of all visa applications are turned down.

      Contrary to all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the press, the US first line of defense is not the visa traveler at JFK, it is the embassy or consulate in the host country and the granting of the visa. Again, 60% of all visa requests from these countries are denied.

      When a visa is granted, it is typically limited to 90 consecutive days in the US. The exception to this would be an immigration visa like a green card (requiring employer sponsorship) which is initially granted for one, two, or ten years. [Note, a holder of a green card can apply for naturalization after 5 years of residence in the US and it is primarily a background check and academic exercise thereafter. Once a green card holder, one’s life changes dramatically.]

      These seven countries provide limited information for the US embassy or consulate to be able to underwrite a background investigation — in the case of countries like Yemen and Syria, the buildings which once housed the government are, literally, destroyed. In this manner, the nominal underwriting of being able to obtain a passport is gone. One can buy Syrian genuine blank passport folders on the dark net. Know who uses Syrian passports all the time? CIA, Mossad, FSB.

      In this 90-day period, the US will get its “extreme vetting” operation in order. This will apply to “normal” applicants and refugees. Refugees are a different category of entrants into the US. It is easy to vet families, but it is almost impossible to vet young males. Take a look at the pics of who is in the refugee stream and tell me if you don’t see a bunch of young men.

      Let me stop and say that the five wealthiest countries in the Middle East do not and have not accepted a SINGLE Syrian refugee EVER. Again, the folks of common language, common culture, common weather, in close proximity have accepted no Syrian refugees.

      Why you ask? They consider them a high likelihood of importing terrorism. Huh? The people who know them the best, don’t want them?

      If there were a political point of focus for me, it would be getting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, et al, to either take refugees directly or to underwrite a huge facility somewhere with their money. This is absurd.

      The Trump administration, in the midst of the same exec order, has agreed to accept 50,000 refugees in 2017, essentially the same number as the Obama administration did in 2016. Why I don’t know. If it were up to me, I’d accept half as many as Saudi Arabia.

      The Trump admin is going to do this subject to “extreme vetting.” It is hard to say they are being racist, etc when they will chin up the same number as the Obama admin.

      I fully expect the “extreme vetting” regimen to dramatically reduce the percentage of successful applicants for permission to enter the US. This is what people don’t see — in Yemen, our Embassy/consulate is denying 60% of applicants, soon to go to 95%.

      The baloney about interpreters and contractors is just that. A little known secret is that the Dir Central Intelligence has the authority to grant immigrant status to anyone he desires. This makes sense if you think about it. In addition, an interpreter can be enlisted in the Army and travel on his new Army ID card. I had first hand knowledge of this mechanism decades ago. In addition, any person who serves in the US Army for 90 days is immediately eligible for naturalization. It happens all the time. I swore in soldiers when they re-enllsted.

      The President has enormous powers under the existing statutes and only minimal research confirms this. President Obama withheld visas from all Iraqi applicants for six months early in his first term. It was completely uneventful.

      President Trump is delivering on his campaign promises at breakneck speed and with a degree of specificity which surprises me. This is one more such promise fulfilled.

      It is pragmatic, fact based, and fairly warned. He did not announce it in advance as he did not want to tip off anyone of bad intent in the pipeline. This happens all the time in immigration.

      In the end, this will be another big swirl of venom from the thin skinned left which will simply solidify the confidence of the balance of the country that they elected the right candidate. The Dems need to watch out for 2018 because they are just about to hand the Republicans a huge, cloture proof majority in the Senate to match their majority in the House.

      This will ultimately make the American immigration system more rational, clearer, and more fair. America should attract people whose inclusion in our society adds to the strength of the gene pool and Trump knows that. You do know his mother and his wife are both immigrants, no? His mother was Scottish and his wife is lovely (an immigration class all of its own).

      I love the pace at which Trump is working. A killing pace for anyone not named Trump. He works 24/7 and on a two day period he visits with eight heads of state. That is impressive.


      • JLM, Thank for you for the detailed response.

        From the other side of the divide, there are many questions.

        1. President Obama’s orders were far narrower in scope and related to refugees and visa waivers only. It is not fair to compare Trump’s order which bands EVERYONE from 7 countries vs. Obama’s far more specific and constrained program that was very well vetted and communicated.

        2. Why these 7 countries? Zero people from these countries have attacked the homeland. Compare that to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others. May be the only reason is that the President has no investments in these countries?

        3. Why were green-card holders banned? Do you know how hard it is to obtain a green card and the hoops that people need to go through?

        4. Why was no-one consulted before issuing the orders? Previous presidents would take weeks and months to vet these types of orders and programs. Not because they were any less smart or driven, because it takes time to get these right.

        5. Why would you even include Iran in this order? Iran has directed no attacks on the US for over three decades and the relationship is actually on a mend. I know of dozens of Iranians in the bay area (who are against the radical mullahs and who desire a change of government) who lead peaceful lives contributing to US society. Now their families cannot visit and they cannot go there either.

        6. Iraq and all other countries are considering reciprocative actions to ban US citizens from coming into their countries. Does this help our battle against ISIS?

        7. The fight against radical Islam is as much about the battle of minds and propaganda as anything else. We are significantly worse off now than a week before. Obama did not say “Radical islam” because he was somehow less smart, less brave or unable to identify the threat. He did so because he understood the nature of the enemy better.

        On the whole, I am ashamed of this President, what he stands for and what he has done. I wanted to give him a real chance but he has burnt the little credibility he had with his ill-advised and conceived actions, poor implementation and zero self awareness.

        What many feared about his temperament, lack of understanding of the details, lack of curiosity, lack of humility, etc. has come true. The Presidency reveals who you are and amplifies your worst instincts.

        • .

          In order:

          #1. Pres Obama did not actually announce his ban on Iraqi visas. It came out during Congressional testimony from his Sec of State and when someone looked at the number of entry visas for that year. It was in reaction to the Bowling Green, Kentucky Al Qaeda terrorists who were apprehended by the FBI leaving egg on his chin as these terrorists had been admitted to the country under his supervision. They were identified by fingerprints on IEDs in Iraq and admitting killing GIs in Iraq.

          To suggest it was communicated is not true.

          #2. These seven countries were designated by the Obama administration (in conjunction with Congress and after hearings) as the most likely “harbors for terror”, “terror training camp hosts” and a litany of other complaints.

          One will note that Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia are not functioning countries and have no government which cooperates with the US.

          Iran is a huge exporter of global terror including having supplied IEDs (the infamous copper shaped charges which maimed and killed a lot of Americans in Iraq) and having funded Hamas and Hezbollah.

          #3. I am intimately familiar with green cards. A green card is not issued until a person with a valid immigration visa arrives in the US and clears customs. ICE delivers the green card on the other side of customs.

          A green card owner may leave the US and return with assurance by obtaining a Form 131 Re-entry Permit even if gone longer than a year.

          A green card may be issued for one, two, or ten years. A Re-entry Permit has a two year life, but cannot be issued if the pendency of the green card is shorter than the termination date of the Re-entry Permit.

          A ten year green card allows a holder to apply for naturalization when they have completed five years of residency and have passed a test. A ten year green card is a pathway to citizenship.

          #4. You have identified the exact reason — the Trump administration didn’t want anyone to know the effective date of the ban in order to ensure they were not able to game the system. Reince Priebus explained this in great detail on the Sunday morning news shows.

          BTW, the US has been engaged in a massive bombing campaign in Iraq/Syria without announcing that also. On the first Saturday after his Inauguration, the US ran 31 bombing sorties in Syria and Iraq — equaling the production of the previous month by the Obama administration in a single day.

          The Trump administration is not going to breach operational security. He said as much on the campaign trail.

          #5. As I noted above, Iran has been engaged in supplying IEDs to Iraqi resistance, killed and maimed many Americans with their copper flux shaped charges, funded Hamas and Hezbollah, and has been provocative to US Navy vessels.

          Seems a bit of a no brainer.

          #6. Why would any American want to go to Iraq? The ban does not apply to military who travel on their ID cards. I cannot imagine any American wanting to travel to those countries unless they have relatives.

          I see no impact on the war on ISIS. We would prefer the Iraqis fight ISIS and provide support to them, if only they can get the job done. Look at the mess at Mosul.

          #7. I will disagree with you as it relates to the notion of saying “radical Islamic terror” — just don’t agree with you on that. I cannot imagine that the ISIS thugs care a whit what we call them. Whatever Obama was doing — didn’t work.

          He thought ISIS was the JV and no existential threat to the US, both sophomoric utterances that men with lifetimes of experience in that reason reject.

          As to your characterization of Pres Trump, the future will tell us whether he is right or not. Me, I don’t agree with you.


          • JLM,

            1. Obama’s order may not have been public, but it was well vetted and coordinated internally before being rolled out. My point is that Obama’s narrow order cannot be cited as precedent for such a sweeping program. The vast majority of the people being affected are students, doctors, elderly, housewives, etc. Not one refugee or citizen from these countries has ever attacked the US. There is basis to tighten vetting procedures, but closing doors on entire nations is really stupid. It increases resentment among Allies. The bad guys love it for there is no greater call for Jihad recruits.

            2. Jihad is a global calling. The people who fight in Syria come from a variety of countries including the US, UK and Australia. It is not as easy as shutting doors on a few countries. Unfortunately by citing that Christian refugees will be given preferential treatment, this is and will be perceived as a religious ban. I do not know if the courts will see it as a violation of equal protection, but some believe they may. It also violates the 1965 act of immigration passed by Congress.

            3. The question is why would you ban green card holders? Now, the govt is backtracking on it, but that makes my point about not being on the ball and poor implementation.

            4. That is not good enough. Now, it turns out that DHS wanted a grace period and the White House stopped it. This is not an action being done in response to specific intelligence that is time sensitive. In that case, you would want to minimize disruption, not act in haste.

            5. That does not mean all Iranians are “bad people”. A significant chunk of the country wants more engagement with the West and hates the Mullahs. Ironically, this ban hurts these people the most, while giving a fillip to the old guard. Also, ISIS is all Sunni and Iran has nothing to do with it. They see it as much as an enemy as we do.

            6. Well, because there are thousands of American citizens and green card holders who originated from these countries and they visit family. Not everyone in America is white.

            7. Did not work is relative. There is no absolute sense of victory in fighting terrorism. It is a whack-a-mole game. ISIS has not damaged us in any fundamental way, except now, as we start to take actions inconsistent with our values and moral fabric. Trump’s actions have hurt US more than almost anything Obama did or not do.

            I wish I shared your optimism but the problem many of us have with Trump is related to character and temperament. We will be lucky if his Presidency does not turn out to damage the country in very fundamental ways including the real possibility of war.

            It may also be that you are being sold a dummy and taken for a ride. Just that you have not realized it yet.

      • This, and the responses back and forth, is a great exchange of info and perspectives. Miss hearing it elsewhere.

  3. “Anonymous Company Survey”: CEO A does that, Middle manager B has a subordinate, worker bee C. CEO A reads survey remarks by worker bee C. Later, maybe weeks, at lunch, off-site, whatever, CEO A chats with middle manager B. From some of what in the chat B hears from A, B concludes that C dumped on him in the survey. B then proceeds to dump on C, maybe viciously, fires C. B is vicious enough to get B demoted, maybe pushed out of the company, maybe to have C file a nasty lawsuit against the company.

    Net, an anonymous company survey starts to look like some politics, fiction, a way for a CEO to cover his ass before his BoD, scattering land mines around the company, starting wars, etc. for anyone naive enough to take any such survey seriously. Or, just follow the Trumper rule: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.”????

    If middle manager B is an a-hole and messing up in some significant ways, then that should be clear enough by other means, e.g., low performance of B’s part of the organization chart, employees under B resigning or requesting transfers, rumors around the company, etc.????

    Such disasters can happen. So, how the heck to avoid such????

    • .
      As actually employed the questions don’t allow such potential infighting.

      “If you were President of this company, what is the first thing you would do?”

      “Is your personal compensation fair and equal to, better than, or worse than market?”

      “Who is the company’s Most Valuable Player? Why?”

      “Tell me two things you think I don’t know but should.”

      “What are two things we are currently doing which you question the wisdom of our doing?”

      “Please give me a list of the company’s benefits.”


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