How to keep people in a recession

We’ve got Betfair’s Ed Wray and Clapham House’s David Page up on stage at the 2009 Entrepreneurs’ Summit.

An interesting debate is thrown up by a question from the floor by Sandie Rhys-Jones: how do yuo hold on to your good people, even when you are stripping costs to the bone?

David Page riffs on the benefits of options. In public companies, they can be brilliant, he says. When he ran Pizza Express, they were a runaway success. Granted at below £1, the share price ultimately went over £9. Waiters and bottle washers made miliions.

The trouble came when the options had been cashed in. "We didn’t know how to reboot," Page admits. Pizza Express moved too slowly – and was taken over.

Now he’s facing a similar type of problem. Every single share option at Clapham House is under water…

Ed Wray then chips in. It’s not just about options.

"You have to focus on your top ten per cent and your bottom ten per cent," he says.

"Be honest who they are," he says. "And in times like these, you have to be ruthless. You need to make the curve slightly steeper, to reward and motivate your top people and to address the bottom ten per cent.

"It’s not just about options. People wantt to know if there is a career for them in your business." He admits it has been a big challenge, as Betfair has grown from nothing to 1,500 people in nine years.

The 2009 Real Business Entrepreneurs’ Summit was held in association with Investec Private Bank.

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