Many bits and bytes have been spilled over the past few days about how to curb costs and get the most out of your startup team. The never-shy Jason Calacanis launched the discussion when he rattled off a series of tips for startups to make money, including some controversial ones like firing non-workaholics, buying an expensive espresso machine, and enticing employees to stay in the office longer by catering food. Most of his advice focused on saving money, however.
The Critics and Supporters Weigh In
Christopher Hawkins takes issue with Calacanis’ desire for workaholics. On the 37 Signals blog, he writes that you should "Fire the people who are workaholics!" He goes on to share a number of specific reasons for his view and concludes: "If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is
simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with
something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs."
Venture capitalist Fred Wilson offered his two cents, largely agreeing with many of Jason’s points but adding one that really resonates with me: "hire utility infielders" he says. In other words, find some good jacks-of-all-trades for your startup team where you can’t afford lots of specialists.
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington says its not just about saving money, but also about hiring the right people. Billionaire big mouth Mark Cuban (whom I admire despite the moniker) serves up his own take, focusing in part on the need for the founder to be passionate about the startup and not focused on an exit strategy. He also wisely suggests zeroing in on how to make money.
Pat Phelan chimes in from across the pond and suggests that startups look to the suburbs for cheaper office space and curb event and travel costs. (In other words, no trips to visit him in Ireland unless you can really justify it!)
Does Anything But the Product Really Matter?
Dave Winer, often a contrarian, offers up an important observation of his own, however, when he speaks of companies he has watched succeed and fail over the years.
the difference is the ones that succeed have a hot product that lots of
people want, and the ones that fail don’t. I don’t think whether you
savor every penny makes much of a difference, in fact if you pinch them
too hard your people are going to hate you, and they have to love the
founder, just as the customers must and the press and even the
I often find my own views at odds with Dave’s but this time I have to admit I’m in agreement more than disagreement.
So What’s Important Here?
Take all of this advice with a grain of salt. If you read the suggestions of all of these individuals, you will see that they disagree as much as they agree. Yet most of them have been quite successful in the startup world themselves.
You can find an expert or a successful person who will tell you that anything you believe is the right way to go. Pick up a stack of business books and some will argue for meetings and some against. Others will advocate work-life balance and some will exhort you to make work your passion.
Ultimately, you need to figure out what works for you and your startup. You will make mistakes. And others will tell you you’re doing it all wrong, while some will say you "get it" (only because you agree with them, by the way).
The good news is the bad news. There’s no playbook to follow. You’ll be making the rules up as you go along but you’ll be judged by others who may view the rules differently. Go forth, build a great product, and have fun while you do it. What happens, happens.