The following was a message I wrote to some Appsterfarians explaining my position on Startup Culture. I think this is valuable to any founder trying to create a culture of Execution, and why sometimes going against the grain of Silicon Valley norms could be the best thing you ever do.
I’ve posted this to see if it provides any value to other founders:
One of my favourite entrepreneurial truths is that everything has a Paid Price to Action.
That means that everything you do has a price.
Do you want to lose weight? Well you probably have to stop eating food you like and start running and get red in the face like a tomato.
Do you want to run for president? Well, you probably should be an American for start, then go to an Ivy League school, you need to start networking from university onwards and make sure you keep a clean record for all of your life. No crazy partying, drugs or weird girlfriends.
That’s the Same Thing In a Startup
Building a great company has a paid price to action. From the onset everything is against you succeeding.
Within 5 years only around 33% of companies are still trading, and often studies show it’s as little as 5-10%.
Business is the only sport in the world, that the longer you play it you are more likely to die.
The Cliché Visionary
Everyday we speak to entrepreneurs who want to built something visionary and often their ideas are very exciting.
But when I talk to you about their ideas, I’m often more interested in the people behind an idea.
Because it’s so much easier to be a visionary than a do-er.
It’s so much easy to say profound things about the future or tell people what you’re gonna do.
It’s easier to act and speak like Steve Jobs than it is to DO what Steve Jobs did.
At Appster we’ve set a big hairy and audacious vision.
We want to create an unprecedented development hub for the greatest ideas & innovations in the world.
We’re expanding to 42 countries and we’re focusing extremely hard on becoming the best at the world at making software for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial employees within enterprise.
But that could easily fail.
Everyday We Need to Be Productively Paranoid
Bill Gates talks about his time at Microsoft, he was always productively paranoid, he was always wondering what could go wrong.
That’s the same attitude we need to have.
We need to know that just because we have an exciting vision and goal, there’s no free lunches.
Nobody guaranteed us our lives. Nobody guaranteed we’d be successful and win.
[pullquote]We have to work our ass off.[/pullquote]
We need to know that somewhere, maybe in a garage somewhere, or in a small crowded room in India somebody else out there is trying to do the same thing we are.
I know for a fact, there’s people in Australia who wake up in the morning with the sole goal of taking us down and ripping away everything we’ve ever done or stand for.
Everyday is a fight. Everyday we are another day closer to failure.
But that’s why we work hard.
Appster to Josiah and I is a calling.
It’s our lives work. It’s something we honestly believe has the greatest chance of changing the world and disrupting endless industries. We both work 100+ hours a week at Appster.
I’d like to think the people we have at Appster share that passion.
So let me be frank, working here is not for everyone. We’ve fired 30+ people from our Australian operations over the last 3 years. We’ve gotten rid of some people in international offices too.
Because that’s what it takes to achieve greatness, and we should never apologise for one moment about trying to be great.
The Right People on the Bus
Jim Collins in his books Good to Great & How the Mighty Fall talks about how companies thrive year in year out, and his studies concluded one very interesting thing.
The most important thing businesses did, more than anything else is get the wrong people off the bus, the right people on the bus and then put them in the right seats.
If we have the wrong manager, wrong sales guy, wrong developer in teams that will kill us.
If we’ve learnt anything in running our company it’s pretty simple:
Hire people that don’t need to be managed, they should be self-disciplined and motivated by what they love.
Then you can focus on managing the business, not managing the people.
We’re a Company For People Who Love Their Life’s Work
At Appster, we’re a company that hires geniuses and people who LOVE what they’re doing.
We hire developers who create their own meetup groups around objective-C. We hire sales people who travel the world learning their craft and we hire project managers who ask: what else can I learn to be better?
These are the kind of emails I love:
So, to be honest: That’s why we don’t have work from home, 30 hour workweeks and endless lunches and vacations.
We’re a company with big ambitions and goals. But we’re a company that you should feel like you LOVE working at Appster so much because as Martin our CTO says…
“Going to make a great project is like being a kid going to play with your friends in the playground and having a bunch of new toys”
You need to love it.
Why Would you Stay here?
If you’re the kind of person who cares about doing something great and being part of a high performance company, then you’ll thrive.
There’s people here who are managers in their early 20’s. People who will travel internationally. Get to think differently, and try stuff IBM wouldn’t let you do. We truly give you alot of freedom and opportunity.
People who get results are cherished and praised, and we always know who is getting results. That’s why transparency is a core value of ours.
We’re doing something great. Something exciting and something that most plebs in their life working in corporate banking couldn’t even begin to imagine.
But the work will only get done if we work our asses off.
The good news is if you look at our actions you’ll see we’re committed to building a culture around high performance and getting results.
If that’s not for you, then we understand.
But, If you’re going to bring your A game everyday, then we’re gonna work on some amazing stuff.
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