Lightspeed management

There has been a flurry of posts lately about Trustpilot reviews. Many of us are likely now wondering whether to “trust Trustpilot”. A different website, based entirely on employee experiences, is Glassdoor. It has been the subject of a variety of past posts on this board. The key ratings are “recommend CEO”, “recommend to a friend” and “business outlook”. It seems likely to me that a Glassdoor review has positive reviews which are genuine, as well as those which are there on the urging of management. The more interesting reviews are what I term “negative but constructive”, posted by articulate disheartened employees.

I went through the Lightspeed reviews for the past 2 years. CEO Dax Dasilva currently has a very high rating: 96%. The “recommend to a friend” rating is 77%, which is not untypical of the firms that we follow. I singled out 3 reviews: a long and very well crafted review from Sep 2020, and shorter ones from May and July of 2021. The 2020 review raised my eyebrows. I really hoped to find from the later reviews that Lightspeed is doing things to address toxic practices, but unfortunately I did not find that. I am reproducing these reviews below. It makes for a long post (sorry) but it removes the need for you to look it up separately on Glassdoor if you are so inclined. I bolded one comment which really struck me.

Review #1
Sep. 5, 2020, Software Developer. Review: overall 3 Stars out of 5. Current Employee, more than 5 years

A company plagued by indefinite growth issues
Recommend: YES, CEO Approval: YES, Business Outlook: NO

Pros

Other reviews have said it best, the company’s mission is noble. The industry is vibrant, full of opportunities, and in growth mode. Benefits and salaries are OK, not tech-company exuberant but not bad either, even though since the pandemic started, we lost most of it (no more pension plan matching, no more transport benefit, no more promotions or raises, no more office perks like snacks, coffee, etc.).

They are not doing half-bad when you think about it and it’s a very good company to use either as a first stepping stone in your career or if you’ve already had a stepping stone, to grow into the next phase of what you want to become. It stops here however, as I don’t think anyone could ever think of building a long career in this company. I assume the average tenure must be around 2-3 years across the board.

Cons

I’ve been meaning to review the company for quite a long time, as I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad in the amount of time I’ve been working there. However, every time I want to leave a review, the main problems I want to talk about eventually just get eclipsed by a new wave of different problems, and my review feels off. Eventually, I managed to take a step back and realize that these were always the same problem, with a nice fresh coat of paint.

Every company goes through growth-related issues, it’s just part of the game. Sometimes with strong leadership and vision, you can manage to land back on your feet very quickly and make it a learning experience. At Lightspeed though, we deliberately chose to constantly rotate between the same exact problems in some sort of perverted cycle, and I can tell you, we learn nothing but frustration from it.

Let me preface this by saying that leadership (in general) at Lightspeed is weak. At any level of leadership, people fall into three categories: definitely not fit for the job, a decent fit for the job but completely overwhelmed and taken advantage of, and a perfect fit for the job, which eventually makes you leave, because you can see all the glaring issues exposed bare and you are powerless to solve anything.

A lot of people in a leadership position at Lightspeed are definitely not fit for their job. There are a lot of imposters and purely political players who are only interested in looking good and maximizing how many people they manage in order to jump to their next opportunity like their own little traveling locust plague. We had a wave of these people coming from Shutterstock before, today it’s SSENSE. They show up, befriend powerful people, do very little to earn their promotions, surf on their own direct reports’ successes, and eventually, get promoted to their maximum level of incompetence (the Peter principle, anyone?). When their situation becomes too much to bear and they can’t fake it anymore, they just bail to their next target company and leave a complete mess behind them that takes months or years to fix. But who cares? They got stock options, they got a cushy salary and they can brag to their next employer about all the things they didn’t really do.

On the other hand, some people are not entirely fit for leadership positions but are still doing their darndest to earn the respect of others. In order to prove themselves, they put in the extra work to be recognized and in doing so, not only contribute to the ascension in power of more dastardly people (as evoked just before) but completely burn themselves to the ground in the process. It’s no secret that mental fatigue, burnouts, and extremely poor work/life balance are pervasive at Lightspeed, everyone here knows someone that went through some form of it. Eventually though, these people regularly get overshadowed by more politically skilled employees who manage to steal their thunder, which leads to them either becoming shells of their former selves or pushed aside to less interesting projects or positions. In the end, they either stay and do their 9-5 every day without passion or just leave.

And then, you have the superstars, we have very few of these at Lightspeed, strong competent leaders that outshine everyone else. Unfortunately, these people are so few and far between that their hands are basically tied. I’ve been in this company long enough to have seen plenty of these come in full of hope, and give up usually after just a few months on the job once they realize the number of political games they have to play and the hoops they have to jump through just to do the work they’ve been hired for. Most of these people leave before their one-year anniversary, sometimes even because they are actively targeted and undermined by incompetents who want to keep their cushy positions.

Eventually, what you are left with as an employee is a constant turn-around of managers, directors, and VPs. They all rank somewhere on that scale, and they all eventually give up or leave after what feels like 6 to 18 months on the job. The result? An ever-changing leadership roster, which leads to an ever-changing product roadmap that swerves from right to left every six months, punctuated by non-stop reorganizations to suit whatever vision of the week. I think I’ve gone through five or six department-wide reorganizations in the last four to five years.

You will see leaders constantly pushing for the same solutions to the same problems and failing for the same reasons as before, usually because they leave long before their plans can be put to fruition or because they couldn’t care less about what had already been attempted before. As an engineer, you will see a constant re-inventing of the wheel because there are basically no technical figures of authority that have been here long enough to be able to assume the role, or they just gave up trying a long time ago. As an employee, you will witness the absence of any sense of career progression as you constantly have to reprove yourself to a fresh batch of ever-changing managers and directors that all inevitably hire their own cronies when they come in and couldn’t care less about you as a result. I’ve heard of people that went through more than 10 managers over the last three to four years. That’s roughly a new manager every four months!

You’re going to tell me: “Ain’t that describing all companies really?” and I’ll answer you that yes, it does. But if it was an Olympic sport, Lightspeed would be a triple gold medalist. Working at Lightspeed, especially in the product and technology department, is exhausting, and no amount of internal transfers can solve anything as the problem is rampant in the entire department. This is the first company in my 15 years career that ever managed to beat my passion and drive to a pulp and made me one of these 9-to-5 employees that couldn’t care less about the business as long as I get my paycheque. And I hate every second of it.

Advice to Management: There is no amount of advice I can give to management for the very reasons cited in my review. Either they are the problem and have every incentive to keep it that way, or they’ll kill themselves trying to fix things. Both situations just lead to nowhere. I’ve known dozen of people who left in the last year mentioning this problem during their exit interviews, but nothing ever changes. So what’s the point of trying to give advice here really?

45 people found this review helpful

Review #2
May 17, 2021, Manager in Montreal, overall: 3 stars out of 5.

Just like a season of GoT
Recommend: NO, CEO Approval: NO, Business Outlook: YES

Pros

Working at Lightspeed is much like a season of Game of Thrones.

- You will work in a beautiful castle and be provided with everything you need
- You will take part in unique, wild adventures, conquering (Acquiring) new territories (Markets)
- You will be surrounded and inspired by highly skilled and talented individuals, the best warriors of modern corporations, allowing you to learn, perfect your own skills and become one of the best as well
- You might obtain riches beyond your wildest dream if you are deemed worthy (RSU, commissions)

Cons

- Much like GoT, the theory of survival of the fittest is an understatement. Behind the glamour facade of a kind and noble king, beautiful castles and amazing adventures, you will need to watch your back and navigate through a culture of extreme corporate politics, blatant public shaming and humiliation, ruthless demagogy, and insidious plots.
- The storyline will pivot abruptly at any moment and without warning
- You may last 1 minute, 1 episode, maybe 1 season. If you are lucky the dragon will take you under his wing… but for how long? As long as it will suit him.

Don’t be fooled, it is the dragon, not the king, who is pulling the strings.

Advice to Management: The end doesn’t always justify the means

30 people found this review helpful

Review #3
Jul. 6, 2021: Software Development Manager, Current Employee, more than 5 years

Lots of bumps in the road
Recommend: NO, CEO Approval: YES, Business Outlook: YES

Pros
Good mission
Great people
Good technology challenges

Cons
Poor management
Lots of turbulence due to acquisitions
Constant leadership changes

Advice to Management: Identify and remove toxic leaders

My take:

  • Management does not appear to have evolved much.
  • This company seems to be succeeding in spite of itself. They might continue to grow but at the expense of staff churn. Is this sustainable?
  • Their multiple acquisitions are adding another layer of complexity to leadership.
  • Why does CEO Dax Dasilva have such a high rating? The management team is his responsibility.
  • My portfolio is 10% Lightspeed. Obviously I want to see this company succeed with its innovative array of products
  • Am I placing too much emphasis on only 3 reviews? Maybe, but I don’t think so. These 3 employees have told very similar and frankly alarming stories.

Roller

77 Likes

I’ll add the one that made me exit my LSPD position a couple of weeks ago, which is from a current employee of more than 5 years and posted on October 12, 2021 (bolding mine):

Pros

- Unlimited PTO
- Work from Home as an option

Cons

The leadership team cannot get out of its own way. Every meeting is a constant self pat on the back and actual issues are just ignored as if they do not exist. They are utterly failing to realize that they are no longer a company of 200 people in a single office and have no idea how to engage with all the recent acquisitions. They proclaim success in having a wonderful culture and fantastic M&A strategy when that could not be further from the truth. Products they acquired well over a year ago are still using their own CRM, every acquisition operates in a bubble and individual contributors constantly yearn for meeting their new team and feeling like they are part of the company, instead, the ill-equipped leadership team ignores those pleas and pretends everything is just a utopia.

The company gathers feedback from employees and does absolutely nothing with that feedback. It’s a pointless exercise.

They’ve lost numerous incredible leaders because if you don’t conform to the way the top 4 want to do things, you’re out. It has instilled a culture within the legacy Lightspeed staff that change is evil, and you do things their way or hit the road. The trouble is, their way isn’t scalable, has no oversight, and is often a method that was designed on the fly by someone with no operational experience.

Nepotism has clearly run rampant throughout this company and there are many “leaders” who have zero business being in the position they’re in. They’re completely out of their depth for the burden placed on their plate and everyone is too overconfident to admit it. If you are not one of the beneficiaries of this nepotism you are also expected to conform and not contribute voluntary efforts, volunteering to handle an issue or seek out more work will be met with venom from other employees who just want to coast by but have been placed in those leadership positions because of their relationships with senior leaders. If you do benefit from the nepotism, expect to constantly be promoted, I’ve watched completely inept people get promoted over and over again and it’s just disappointing.

Advice to Management

Get out of your own way, embrace new ideas, and actually do something with the feedback you gather. Stop ignoring your problems and face them head on. For the immediate this company is going to succeed even if you tried to fail, but the long term for this company is really grim if you continue down this path of misplaced confidence.

My takeaway:

  1. They are acquiring left and right, but are not successfully integrating those acquisitions.
  2. They are growing hand over fist, but can’t scale under the hood. Hypergrowth takes top-of-the-line management and requires everyone rowing hard and together to pull off. They are moving in the wrong direction on that front.
  3. Their best people are leaving.
  4. They will post good numbers in the immediate term but will eventually hit the wall because of the above. Sitting on pins and needles wondering exactly when they will hit said wall, is not something that helps me sleep at night.

Some of you may want to view this more as a trading opportunity and have the time to watch for the subtle signs that the wall they seem headed toward is in view. I’ll read with interest if someone finds any indication that they are doing better with integrations and retaining top talent that might lead me to believe they won’t crash and burn. But there are too many red flags in these reviews for me.

JabbokRiver

32 Likes

Thank you RollerCoaster for bringing this to our attention. I should have done a better job during my due diligence and looked through the Glassdoor reviews for LSPD earlier. While I was looking through the reviews on Glassdoor today, I noticed that the trend of average ratings (scores) for “Overall” was mostly flat over time, however, there is a marked decline in the “Senior Management” sub-category from higher than 4.0 to 3.7 currently. Some of the sub-categories showed an increase in the trend, including Work-Life balance and Diversity & Inclusion. It was a bit surprising to see the overall score trend remained flat even though most of the recent reviews that I went through were pretty bad.

That is until I came across this statement in one of the reviews by a current employee - "Overall, if you want to work for a company where you’re respected and treated like a real human being, look elsewhere. You won’t find it here. Also- it’s quite obvious that HR has written numerous reviews to contradict the negative reviews."

My understanding from this and other reviews is that the LSPD management is doing a poor job integrating its acquisitions, the workplace culture is toxic, and there is widespread nepotism and favoritism among the upper management. If the above statement is true and the HR is indeed writing numerous fake reviews on Glassdoor, that is a red flag for me. I have reduced my LSPD position from 11% to 5% after going through these reviews on Glassdoor.

I have pasted the full review below for better context (bolding is mine):

Current Employee, more than 1 year
“Look elsewhere”
Feb 11, 2021 - Manager in Providence, RI

Recommend - NO
CEO Approval - NO
Business Outlook - NO

Pros

Most of the entry and mid-level folks are really amazing to work alongside. Upserve adapted to covid times pretty well given a massive layoff and furlough and even got acquired by Lightspeed despite being in arguably the most impacted industry.

Cons

CPO literally said in a managers meeting “we are changing our paternity/maternity policies because pregnancies are a burden to the company”. I’ve never seen so many jaws hit the floor at once, but unfortunately, no one is in a position to complain about or make a big deal about the CPO during a time when people were getting terminated/furoughed as the company downsized for covid. If I was in a better position or had a pregnancy on the horizon, I would have quit on the spot.

Beyond that, there is a huge lack of trust for HR in general and no one trusts that the “anonymous” surveys are actually anonymous as CEO and CPO have slipped during discussions in a way that it’s clear they know who provided feedback (I mean, this is kind of obvious since there is no such thing as true anonymity in SurveyMonkey surveys anyways).

The entire company just got demoted as well, but you bet your butt a few folks at the top jockeyed for the best positions for themselves under new ownership and let the rest of the company suffer. This move was truly despicable.

Overall, if you want to work for a company where you’re respected and treated like a real human being, look elsewhere. You won’t find it here. Also- it’s quite obvious that HR has written numerous reviews to contradict the negative reviews.

Advice to Management

My advice to management (lightspeed management that is) is terminate any remaining upper management from Upserve. They will hold you back.

5 Likes

I’ve had friends that have worked for companies like this - top heavy with useless management. Some bump in the road and things went sideways badly. They ended up letting go of a lot of staff, which is expensive, and demoralizing for everyone left behind. Usually the best leave on their own.

Those reviews were well written and insightful, and I believe them - something smells off. Too bad - they seemed to have so much promise.

I’m going to start unwinding my position over the next week or two. I’d rather put my money in a better-managed company.

14 Likes