The hubbub over Jason Calacanis’ post How to save money running a startup is completely absurd. Congratulations to Jason for causing a colossal sh*t storm where none should have existed.
He provides some great suggestions for things you can save money on. I’ve made plenty of suggestions on stuff you shouldn’t spend money on when starting a business but he’s got a few tips I hadn’t thought of.
What people seem to have reacted so negatively to was Jason’s point about hiring workaholics. He had so much negative feedback, he actually changed the item in his list:
Fire people who
are not workaholics.don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or starbucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.
And what exactly is the problem with that statement? Nothing. You should hire workaholics. They should also love their work and be passionate about what they’re doing. Workaholics alone are useless, because if they don’t love what they’re doing, their work will suck. All they’ll be doing is producing more of it…
I read Jason’s original point and thought, “What’s the big deal?”
Of course, I don’t know what Jason’s original intentions were with his suggestion (maybe he is a brutal slave driver) but here’s my take:
- You have to hire people who want to and can work hard. It’s not about how many hours they put in, sleeping under desks at the office, etc. It’s about a dedication to working hard, getting things done and seeing things through.
- You have to hire people who are passionate about the business. If they’re not passionate, they’ll fail you. If they are passionate but lazy they’ll fail you. They need to have a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility (to you, their peers & the business) and they need to be passionate.
- You (as the CEO / founder of the startup) need to motivate passion. This is where Jason dropped the ball. Yes, he suggests fancy chairs and a good espresso maker. But in part, he suggests some of those “perks” to keep people at the office and working. That’s fairly common advice, but it’s stupid. You don’t buy employees lunch, coffee, etc. to keep them chained to their chairs, you do it to thank them for their hard work. You do it to bring the team together and develop camaraderie. You do it to inspire them, because you care. The more you care about your employees – and show that to them – the more they’ll give back. If they’re hard workers. If they’re lazy, or they don’t care, it won’t matter what you do. And you can’t afford to take time trying to turn lazy people into hard workers; so don’t waste your efforts or perks on them. Dump them.
37 Signals recently announced some changes to their work environment. One of those is a 4-day work week. In my mind, this is an effort to reward and motivate the team. You don’t think the 37 Signals guys are hard workers? 37 Signals is able to implement this effort because they work so hard. Whether you define them as workaholics or not is irrelevant, they’ve worked hard, put in their time, had success and are now able to benefit from that by implementing changes to their work environment.
Jason’s trying to force “workaholism” at his startup. And you can’t. It doesn’t work. You can’t throw money, coffee, food or fancy chairs at the problem. At the same time, passion isn’t enough. You need to hire people who are:
- hard workers
- team players (they need to feel a sense of responsibility to everyone on the team)
- active learners
- smart workers (you can’t measure a startup employee’s value in terms of hours worked alone)
- willing to go the extra mile … and then some (the closest thing to “workaholic” in terms of semantics)
I don’t think Jason wrote the post in the best way possible, but I also think the resulting backlash was way over the top. People are playing word games with something that should be more important than that — hiring top-quality people, building great teams and aiming for successful startups.