Since founding Reputely, I’ve thought about my own personal values and motivations for doing a startup and what I’d like to see the culture of Reputely evolve into one day.
What people often don’t realize is that the single hardest part of any startup is: people. This presents itself in a number of different ways, whether it be building something your customers love, understanding the intricacies of a strategic partner’s motivations, or employees.
The transition that a startup CEO has to make over the course of the company is not easy. In the early stages, a startup needs someone who is a doer and an executor, because if they don’t, there’s no one else to do so.
As the startup starts to gain traction, a CEO’s responsibilities change. The job of CEO is not to delegate specific tasks. A CEO must effectively communicate the company vision enabling employees to make educated decisions on their own. Allow employees to act in the company’s best interests. What does doing so provide the employee? Responsibility, ownership, and trust.
Responsibility / Accountability
Hire the very best. Do not fall into the trap of just hiring the best you can find right now, because you think you need to scale. Hiring the wrong people can be toxic to the rest of your team. Know what you want and need from your employees and do not deviate from this.
Employees need to not only respect one another, but feel as though they can learn from their colleagues.
Reward your top achievers. Let your employees know that so long as they continue to perform and execute well, there will be unlimited opportunities and resources for them to grow at your company.
When an employee is not on par with the rest, there is deep resentment amongst the people who really matter. The worst thing that can happen is people become despondent. Take actions to correct and address this when necessary.
Look for the people who have something to prove. It doesn’t matter whether it’s to themselves or the rest of the world. These are the most driven people you can find. They are competent and don’t wait for permission.
The best employees are hard to control, so don’t impede their work and what they can accomplish. They’d rather do something now and ask for forgiveness later. If a problem arises, they’re quick to fix it. Let them experiment. Not all will pay off, but some will.
People MUST be passionate. Passion breeds a willingness to defend one’s position. It also helps eliminate Groupthink, which is a sign your employees aren’t confident in themselves and their opinions.
You will run into problems if you don’t give competent employees the opportunity to own their own destiny. Their purpose is to contribute to forming the vision of the company, not to solely carry out your vision. Collaborate with employees rather than dictate and they will almost always exceed what you thought was possible.
With passion comes personal pride and responsibility: a sense that what you’re doing really matters. Everyone wants needs to have a purpose.
You can’t possibly know everything you need to. You absolutely have to accept this fact; don’t be stubborn. Hire smart people to fill in your gaps. Are you self-aware enough to know where you need help?
Don’t be a blocker for other people to do their work. It’s hard to give up control, as you’re used to doing everything yourself. Giving away more ownership and responsibility won’t be a problem, so long as, you hire the right people.
For there to be an ideal level of trust, communication is paramount (and deserves an entire post of its own). Be an open book. People will be better able to empathize with you and the situation. Never let your employees feel they have to put what you say through a filter to conclude the truth.
What Will Make Your Startup Successful
It’s not the product nor the go-to market strategy that ensures success. Just as it’s not the founders nor the investors. It’s the people that are passionately innovating in your company daily.
This is a very high-level view of leadership and culture in a startup, but I consider it to be a key component of a startup’s ability to mature past just being a product built by a couple of 20-something year old founders.