When you’re dealing with the day-to-day crises, it’s hard to figure out if there’s a fundamental problem with the company, or if this is the rocky process of a high-growth company. My company’s grown 300% in the last year (doesn’t that sound WONDERFUL?!) alone. This year we’re trending towards another 100%, by some metrics. It’s still an incredible ride. But with more people, and more money, the problems that arise are not ones that really occurred in the past. In the early days, when things sucked (and yes, I have no hopes of ever going back to the “good ol’ days” in a startup. “Good ol’ days” are the most terrifying times in any startup’s time…) people’s morale was steady because of a combo bunker-mentality and new-to-the-company. Now striding into year #3, I’m noticing that there’s a lot of matters that are putting more emotional weight on team-mates shoulders than ever before.
Here’s a few pain-points I’ve noticed lately.
Recognition of work
The good, deranged people in the company took a risk and joined in your delusional madness. They probably made your company succeed. They want/need to be recognized for that. It’s great celebrate “wins” but it needs to be more specific with each person, not just the company.
Creating a Corporate hierarchy
A pool of friends/colleagues are pulling together, and to a certain extent in a start-up’s lifecycle, the Org chart is relatively flat. What happens when you take this great, kinetic team and start select a choice few to oversee the work of the others? Or worse – bring in outside resources to lead them? This is a difficult tango and one that takes enormous planning.
Say in the company
People are the company, the company is the not people. People create the culture and spread that culture. Startup founders should be prepared to make sure they’re open/ready for people to have increasing say in “their” company. It’s not the founders’ company anymore, at least it’s not JUST the founders….it’s everyone in the company.
Sharing in the rewards
If we win, we win together. If we lose, we lose together. If we make money…
At the end of the day, whether you’re a founder or a team-mate in a startup, and the start-up is doing well but it’s rocky for you, I recommend patience. Success in the early years is hard to nurture and incredibly fragile. Just because you’ve already tolerated a road of mistakes does not mean you’ve “earned” that you/your team-mates/your company stop making mistakes. Whatever is your position, I fervently urge to Keep Calm.