The old adage “If you don’t ask, you won’t get” has a poster boy in Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone.
Back in the early days, Stone emailed Ev Williams, the company’s financial backer: “Maybe this is inappropriate, but if I don’t ask, I’ll never know! What do you envision my title to be? Is there a chance I could be called co-founder?” Williams’ response: The request “wasn’t unreasonable.”
Stone saw his opening and persistently and respectfully lobbied for the title. When the company began to formalize roles and titles, his gambit paid off. He became a “co-founder,” even though he wasn’t one of Twitter’s inventors, just one of several people working on the product when it was a side project at the podcasting startup Odeo. It wasn’t a slam-dunk that he’d be called a co-founder, Business Insider notes. It’s just he was the only one who asked.
In his book Hatching Twitter A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, Nick Bilton writes that while Stone got the same 3 percent equity as other early employees, his co-founder title helped him write his own ticket once Twitter became successful.
The lesson: Step up to the plate and ask. You could get you exactly what you want in the short term and it’s highly unlikely to hurt you professionally, especially if you handle the approach like Stone did: persistently and respectfully. The payoff may be even bigger than you’d hoped for.