You're Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link: Why You Need To Trim The Fat In Any Startup
There's a certain culture to a startup that attracts a certain employees. It's the bold, imaginative and motivated individuals who have the courage and stamina to go against the grain. It takes a creative and special individual to see someone's vision in nothing and that courage is rewarded with hard work. In a startup, the success of the company is directly proportional to your individual success, thus you're not only expected to come in every day with a plan to be better than yesterday, but you should want to.
If you work for a startup, you are committing to lower pay, longer hours and more pressure overall. You are joining a team that expects you to care about the well being of the company as much as the principal founders. You are expected to be devoted to the company, as if it were your own brain child. When you sign up for a startup, it's the same time commitment as signing on to a law firm, or finance company, or any high pressure job. It requires a massive amount of devotion from the get-go that should be constant and unfaltering.
Just because startups seem more laid back doesn't mean your work should be. Just because you are working with your peers doesn't mean you shouldn't be working like you might get fired any minute. Just because there is no old guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who is telling you what to do from a corner office, doesn't mean you shouldn't feel pressure. Every day should be a constant effort to do your best work. Because in a startup, every day is valuable.
Building a startup is like constructing a house of cards. It's a challenging process that is doomed to fail at any second. The chance of your startup making it all the way is slim, putting a certain amount of pressure on each day you're still running. Every day becomes valuable and every person must be an invaluable card in the pyramid. Due to the odds of success, every single member of that company has to be the best in the game. Each person has to bring a talent that is unique and necessary to the company. With such few members, the company can't afford to have one person who doesn't bring some value.
It's not just about doing your job. It's not a 9 to 5 with set tasks and strict guidelines. There's no daily schedule nor is there a day without surprises. Every day should be room for more work, more responsibility and more research as to how you can do more for the company. Not only should employees pick up others' slack, but they should be looking for opportunities before they occur. Because it's not about what's fair and what's right, it's about what's going to get your company to the next level.
There are millions of people out there, all just waiting to find a job. They are hungrier than you are, smarter than you are, and more motivated than you are. As a boss, you should know this. You should understand that everyone is replaceable, even if it means taking the time to look. Most importantly, you should know that if your employees are not one hundred percent with you, they are against you.
If you don't have that drive, that push, to go into work with a fire under your ass, then you don't deserve to work for a startup. Startups encapsulate the beautiful quality of creating a tangible entity out of just ideas and dreams, and that is a rare thing to be part of. It's not just that you have to work there, you are privileged to work there. You should come into work every day showing your gratitude through your work.
Bosses need to learn when the weak are bringing down the group. Because it only takes one crack to sink a ship. Similarly, it's that one weak employee who brings down the rest. It's the weak one who begins to sets the tone. When others are knowingly working for the same pay as someone who is doing half their work, resentment begin to form. That resentment poisons the work culture. Employees will begin to resent their bosses for not taking action, for not appreciating their hard work when others are slacking. It's a slippery slope of doubt, animosity and just bad vibes.
However, many times, it's a bigger problem than what's fair and what's not fair. It goes much deeper than who is doing more work. It becomes a very personal issue that hardens the currently motivated workers, the ones who slave away every day. When they see people not doing the work, that means that their work isn't getting the respect it deserves. When one employee doesn't do his or her part, he or she is bringing down the entire company. Suddenly all your work is for less.
Work reflections passion. If someone isn't working hard it's a slap in the face to the people who are. It's a hard punch to the gut when you're working day and night to make the company the best it can be while others sit idly by. At the end of it all, building a successful startup is about respect. The ideal environment should be a competitive landscape in which everyone is working against each other for one common goal, to bring the company where it needs to be. Employees should feel motivated to be at the same level as the next. They should feel a constant competitive tug to produce work as good as or better than their constituents.
Employers must learn when the weak need to be cut. They must see the crack before the leak, fixing the boat to be stronger than before. They must understand that one undeserving employee can bring down an entire crew. It can be difficult as many startups are similar to a family unit. But you must remember that just because it's comfortable and loving, doesn't mean it's not still a business. You are in the most valuable and fragile point in your company, and there can't be anyone who isn't working to his or her fullest capacity to bring you to the next level.