Who: Mike Sneen, 36, CEO of Comsolv Consulting LLC
Mistake: "Working with companies that cared about their products but not about their people."
Payoff:"Building a different kind of company that is based on meeting the needs of employees."
"Two years ago, I was doing a lot of contract work for companies that concentrated on their technology or their products instead of on their people. That lack of support — in terms of morale and training — made work more and more frustrating for everyone. My productivity, along with that of my coworkers, took a dive.
"When I finally got tired of the disappointments, I joined forces with three other free-agent programmers who had been struggling with the same problem. We created Comsolv Consulting. Along with developing custom software, we decided to hold free, on-site programming classes for clients. The weekly workshops take place during lunch or in the evening, and all employees are invited to come. The classes create a safety zone, where people can feel at ease and can learn from each other.
"So far, the results have been pretty incredible. Some of our clients' employees have asked to leave their positions in order to come work with us. It's absolutely imperative that employers create an atmosphere of growth and community if they want their projects to succeed, their productivity to increase, and their people to remain."
Astrid Sandoval (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former Fast Company intern.