Employees drive company success

July 24, 2010
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IBJ Letters To The Editor

Mickey Maurer’s [July 12] column on choosing the right people is so “right on.”

When Dr. Don Brown and I co-founded Interactive Intelligence in 1994, our mantra was to hire the “best and brightest,” but we also wanted people who were compatible with our style and mission (and personality): to change the world in business communications, with an entrepreneurial spirit who believed in our mission. Our internal mission statement was “To do great things, and have a lot of fun.”

Our first hires were Ph.D.s and master’s in computer science. Our first 20 team members worked about 50-60 hours per week, willingly. Our company paid for dinner if you were there at 7 p.m. These developers ate way too many pizzas.

Everyone had stock options, and were “owners” of the company. At our initial public offering in September 1999, we had 27 millionaires on paper. We also gave everyone private offices as knowledge workers, and no cubicles, like other high-tech companies. We offered loads of benefits, including foosball tables, a masseuse, and a sleeping or nap room, among many other things.

Of the initial 20 hires, only one did not work out in the long term. Most of our original team members are still with the company today—16 years later. I said years ago that, “The world has gotten down to bits and bytes, and 1s and 0s, but it still really comes down to people.”

I must admit that after 50-60 hires, it was tough to maintain the very best and brightest, as we needed people in a rapid growth mode. Interactive Intelligence now has about 650 team members worldwide. Even though Interactive Intelligence provides a great place to work (annually ranked in the top 10), it has been choosing the right people who have made Interactive Intelligence the success it is today. And yes, Mickey, this was something I did not learn in business school.


John R. Gibbs
Co-founder, retired
Interactive Intelligence


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