There are plenty of reasons to work at a startup. But what those reasons fail to address are some of the core principles that drive startup success.
Not everyone is suited to working at a startup. Even if the reasons entice you, it takes a considerable amount of intestinal fortitude. The ride can be rough. And many of us are programmed to believe in an “us versus them” work environment — the relationship between employer and employee has to be at odds, fellow employees can’t be trusted, it’s a “dog eat dog” world.
All of that is true, to a certain extent, but you can’t succeed in a startup with that mentality.
Startup teams can’t succeed without immense amounts of loyalty, trust and faith in big ideas.
Alexis, an employee at reddit, nailed it perfectly in a recent blog post:
“At a startup, no one needs motivational posters. You work because it’s your damn job and you don’t want to let down the person at the desk beside you.”
“There’s something special about being in that always-sinking-boat of a startup and being able to count on all the folks sinking with you.”
Many people say sacrifice is a requirement of startup success. And in some ways they’re right, because you’re going to make sacrifices. You’ll work weekends, you’ll live on ramen noodles, you might get paid poorly…hygiene is always an issue. And yes, the grass is always greener on the other side. But none of that is really a sacrifice, because you want to be there. If you’re constantly looking at what you’re doing as a sacrifice, get out.
What do Loyalty and Trust mean to you?
Loyalty and trust are necessities if you’re going to build a great startup.
Each person in a startup team has to:
- be there for the greater good
- trust that the other guys will be there
- feel that everyone is putting in the same effort (note: founders put in more time & lead by example)
- be responsible for everyone else’s success
- be responsible to everyone else.
Employees have to trust that the founders know what they’re doing. Founders will make plenty of mistakes, but if a startup employee isn’t prepared to follow, things break down quickly.
Alexis won’t use the “going to war” metaphor for a startup, and he’s right – startups aren’t war. No one dies. No one’s maimed. No one’s tortured (well…) But the camaraderie that must exist within a startup team is very much the same as a unit in the army. You have to trust wholly and completely that I’ve got your back. If you don’t, you can’t succeed. And in a startup team, where each person is insanely important because the team is so small, if one guy isn’t on par with everyone else, you’ve got serious trouble.
Big Ideas are really about big challenges
Lots of startups are founded by dreamers. But in this day and age, when many people believe that web startups are becoming commodities, it’s not just about big ideas and dreams, but really about big challenges. And even a web startup that’s basically a commodity will still encounter big challenges. Succeeding will be a huge challenge.
And you can’t excel in a startup without having a deep desire to take challenges head on. In this case, having an “us versus them” mentality makes perfect sense — you are fighting against the rest of the world, so get ready. More than being ready, you have to want that challenge, otherwise you won’t succeed.
Loyalty, trust and big ideas — That’s what great startups are built on.