Have Dots & Have Nots

Being Left Behind

It's typical for owners launching dotcoms to handpick a few employees from the brick-and-mortar side and bring them over to the new venture, something that can create resentment if companies aren't careful. "People who stay on the traditional side of the company think, 'It's not fair; my co-worker went over there, and now he's a millionaire.' They also think that this new business wouldn't exist if it weren't for them," says Bill Coleman, vice president of compensation for Salary.com.

As new techies come on board at Benefitfocus, Lynn Harrill, investment operations manager for American Pensions, wonders whether they understand that the traditional company's success is what made the dotcom a reality. "I don't sense that this connection is being made by techies coming on board," she says.

Jenkins decided not to move anyone from American Pensions to Benefit-focus for two reasons: American Pensions employees didn't have the programming skills needed to do the work, and, most important, Jenkins wanted to keep the flagship company stable. "I didn't want our clients to think we were raiding our traditional company," he says.

Benefitfocus is 500 percent ahead of projections and on track to bring in $5 million in sales in the next 12 months. "It took us 12 years to grow to 30 people [with] American Pensions, and I'm projecting 100 employees working on the Benefitfocus side in the next year," Jenkins says. But non-techies aren't eligible for Benefit-focus stock because they aren't employed by the dotcom (although Jenkins is working to change that), and Jenkins admits "they feel left behind."

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Have Dots & Have Nots.

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