Can Counter Offers Ever Work?
Can Counter Offers Ever Work?

It’s your job to show employees full transparency. In return, they may see a long runway and a rich future with your business.

It is up to me to take care of our team, constantly educate them (with full transparency) of where the business is at and hope they see a long runway with our business.

The first time someone quit No Limit Agency, I countered.

He came into my office, coy and shaky, gripping a printed out letter announcing his resignation and his two weeks notice.

“I just can’t do this style of PR,” he said.

“Well, that’s too bad, we were planning on moving you into Social Media. Isn’t that what you wanted?” I replied.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s what I have wanted to do since I joined this company.”

That was the beginning of a productive counter, as the conversation was less about money and more about opportunity and putting him in the right seat. If it’s a wrong seat situation, then a counter can help capture someone’s true potential.

He left my office and went on to do some amazing things in Social Media over the next six months.

Then came the fool me twice moment. And fooled I was.

He once again came into my office, coy and shaky.

“I wasn’t even looking and I love it here, but I was recruited away,” he said.

“Where?” I asked.

“Blah blah blah” translated into the big shiny grass-is-greener office in downtown Atlanta (we started the business in the Marietta and Decatur, Georgia) where they give you great snacks (we had good snacks); they have a coffee machine that is connected to the wall (boy, I would love one of those); they have sports teams and ping pong; and they even have beer carts (oh, that sounds nice).

“More money?” I asked.

“Lots,” he said.

I paused. “What if I pay you $20,000 more than their offer? Does that change anything?”

He paused. “Yes. Why yes it would.”

Now, it was about money. This is a tricky thing because now the companies with greener grass are in the ultimate winning zone. However, what I just bought was time—not winning, but time.

Six more months passed, and as every marketing and ad agency in the world became a Social Media agency, we were lost. We didn’t have the funds. We didn’t have the greener grass. We didn’t have the wall coffee machine. We were going to have to settle for holding onto up-and-comers for as long as we could, versus attracting seasoned talent.

Counter one was winnable. Counter two was not. It turned into a game at that point. Could I pump out some funds as an insurance policy to ensure the ultimate creative protection of my clients? Absolutely. Did I have that energetic go-getter future VP of my company? Nope. He liked green grass and mine was still yellow.

Now, a year past the first counter came our third.

Coy and shaky and without words he handed me a piece of paper (which I still have). It read, “I am resigning, and I don’t want—and will not accept—a counter offer.”

He was done.

And the reality was, I was too. At that point, had I made a counter, it wasn’t anything more than buying extra time.

That moment taught me a lot about business. My dream that everyone would stay at our company forever was trashed. The reality was the next generation wanted more than I could offer, and it would be challenging to create an environment, especially in the agency world, that would promote unlimited happiness.

Today, I don’t do money counters (if it is all opportunity-based, in that they love the company but hate their seat and we love them, then great). It is up to me to take care of our team, constantly educate them (with full transparency) of where the business is at and hope they see a long runway with our business.

I wish that first, second and third counter had worked because I really loved working with that guy. Clearly a lesson in doing your best to not burn bridges—because maybe someday, the boomerang moment can happen.