Fire non workaholics?

Oh man what a storm.

Jason Calacanis has triggered quite a storm in the tech community with his post “How to save money running a startup (17 really good tips)“. Overall the tips are very very good, but the one that caused a lot of the stir was:

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 stabucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

As you can see Jason edited the statement after the storm, but the damage was done. Duncan Riley seemed to be the first big name to take offense with his post on TechCrunch. Well after that is seems to have been on for “young and old“:

So now where? My thoughts.

  1. Burn rates matter to all companies, startups need to watch them a little more closely than established ones. But is wouldn’t hurt established firms to be a little more careful with their money either.
  2. Good people make or break a company.
  3. Engaged employees make or break a company.
  4. Having to replace employees costs you lots of money.
  5. Not everyone wants to or should have to work in a startup. The reserve is also true.

Jason is right that employees who love their work tend to produce more than ones who turn up just for a pay check or are disengaged. But Duncan is right you can’t just fire someone who is not in love with the job to the point of being a workaholic. Don’t hire them to start with! Hiring the wrong people will kill any company and in a startup wrong people means that the owner/founder/CEO has screwed up.

If you do have someone who was all fired up and now isn’t, it is again most likely the owner/founder/CEO’s fault. Why? Because something has changed and they did not see it. Has the employees personal situation changed, or are they no longer in love with your idea, what has happened? Find out, try to fix it otherwise it will be far more expensive to fire them and rehire.

In summary the trick is when hiring make sure you hire correctly up front, that way you won’t need to fire anyone.

UPDATE: Another Aussie perspective from stilgherrian. Also this is a very complex and difficult issue to cover I have lots of other thoughts just not the time to write them all down.

4 thoughts on “Fire non workaholics?

  1. Thanks for the linkage. Further to your Point 5, I think this is related to why Jason Calacanis’ original list got up people’s noses. While at one level he was accepting that “not everyone is for start-ups” and vice versa, he was also heavily implying, more than once, that if you weren’t into the start-up model then you were a lesser human being. His defenders went even further, branding anyone that wasn’t 100% workaholic a “slacker”.

    I compared this all-or-nothing approach to religious fundamentalism on a follow-up post, Jason Calacanis and the Evil Cult of the Internet Start-up.

    Looking at some of the responses that’s had, it seems that many people who are totally immersed in the specific tech industry start-up model of fast-growth to VC to IPO simple don’t “get” that this isn’t the only way of doing things.

    (I go further and suggest that their way is, in fact, evil — but that’s just my opinion.)

  2. Your welcome for the linkage, although I’m not sure it will add much to the Googlejuice you are getting :-).

    Completely agree that most of “the valley” commentators seem to feel it is a start up or nothing. In fact that point of view is held by many Australian’s as well.

    Yep saw your follow up post, a bit harsh for my liking but I certainly understand where you are coming from. Again completely agree most commentators are seeing a “tech start up” only model, which by the way I don’t think works in places like Australia or UK due to the different reactions our investment communities have of the IPO process.

    While it would be interesting to see where the discussion goes it will be over by Tuesday in “the valley” due to the next hyped up news story

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