Never Forget the Start-up Season

SEO Hacker First Years

There was one time in SEO Hacker when employee benefits were highlighted. It was all thanks to this one person in the team who had what I’d like to call a closed “employee mindset“, which is very prevalent in the Filipino culture.

It’s something that I would very much like to change. However, as we all know, change comes with a price, comes slow and comes painfully.

To be honest, that was an extremely frustrating time of my life. I never thought, even in the far end of my dreams, that the SEO Hacker team would have an entitlement mentality. During that time, I’ve repeatedly stumbled upon this phrase from my very own team:

“Provide employee benefits.”

“Provide employee benefits.”

“Provide employee benefits.”

The thing is, I’m giving out salaries that are above market grade for their position level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to give that. It’s my choice – because I think it makes more sense for me and the team to have that kind of a set-up first while I try to fix the employee benefits and project the financial implications.

Providing employee benefits to a team of 20 in-house individuals entails for me to cash out more than 40,000php per month. That’s a humongous amount! And on a monthly basis too!

So I’m left with a critical choice: Lay off some people, (mostly new hires and lower-performing individuals) and increase the burden on the regular team players so that the company would get its money’s worth on the employee benefits we need to shell out each month.

This left a bad taste for me. It’s inefficient, tiring and downright greedy for both ends. I know that this kind of a setup will be a growing cancer that will eat up all our growth. But does the team know this?

Nope. All they care about during the time is their benefits.

You see, only the people who really own the company and care about its growth will understand that there is a right time and scenario for such things as employee benefits to flourish. Most start-ups don’t have the luxury to give out employee benefits until they have truly stabilized – usually and realistically, it takes at least 5 years.

The sad thing about this is that the employee mindset dictates that you ‘deserve‘ the benefits. Hence, you go to a bigger corporation – where you think the greener pastures are. What you don’t know is that it was once a start-up too!

And the people who worked hard without benefits are now part of the board of directors, consultants or shareholders – because they stuck out the hard part. Naturally, you’re not gonna get any of that because you got in on the easy and good times.

The problem with the workforce today is they want it easy, they want it fast, and they want it now. What people don’t realize is that sticking through the hard part is where the real money, success, and fulfillment lies.

Always remember this one unchanging fact in our world: The riskier it is for you take, the more rewarding it will be in the end.

The employee who stirred up the benefits within my team is now working full-time for another company. Personally, I’m very happy for him because he got what he wanted. A safe, secure job (however, I honestly believe that ‘job security’ is a myth).

I’ll never forget what he told me before he left my team though. He said that SEO Hacker will fail in the next few months of him leaving and it won’t really last.

Today we are at least three times bigger than when he said that – in all aspects. What he doesn’t realize is that he’ll be stuck as an employee – paying off 30% of his entire life’s salary to the government plus more (in the form of “government benefits”) and living off his life slaving away for another company which, as chances may have it, would never allot him any real shares in his work tenure.

Because hey, he wasn’t there when the going was tough. He never took any real risk. He was there in the time when the company is in its prime, pomp, glory and all. He wanted it easy and green – and that’s just what he’ll get.

Nothing more, nothing less.

As for me and my team, we have a way bigger future ahead of us. And most of my team who will risk it with me and who will stay for the hard times will get real shares, real memories, and real fulfillment.

I’ve learned a lot during that time about how to handle the “employee mindset” and how to financially project the time to implement benefits. I’ve learned what changes we need to go through in order for it to push through. I’ve learned how to deal with office gossip, outright slander, and miscommunication in the team.

It’s tough, yes. But doesn’t every company go through that? Apple started in a garage. I believe that’s exactly where we are as a company.

I’ll never forget our start-up season.


  1. says

    Hi Sean,
    Great, honest post, thanks for sharing your views.
    I am lucky in a sense that I am just 1 year old so the guys I work with ‘get’ that employee benefits is just not in the list.

    One of the things I am trying to do is be upfront about the costs of running a business, this helps align views
    Give them the choice

    Transfer the equivalent of employee benefits into what they would have to trade (not lose) for that: no new furnitures of computer for the next X months/years, working extended hours, working on Saturday, getting a pay reduction.
    I would say that most would start thinking twice about the idea of giving up an extra day of work.

    • Sean says

      I’ve thought of extending the working days – however, my HR person before mentioned that “by law”, marketing firms in the Philippines can only have 5 days of operation. I don’t know if this is true or if this is applicable to all start-up marketing businesses, but it’s surely an option for me if ever this pushes through.

      Thanks for sharing your insights Freddy. And God bless you on your start-up journey!

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