Startup CEO advice: teamwork works even in money issues
In this installment we’re going to be discussing something that our capitalist democratic society considers above all else:
god money! Yes, history has proven that money has created wonders (because we’re intellectually inept to do so otherwise), and enabled us as people to get this far (or this far off, depending on how you look at it). If you’re reading this, and you are or aspire to be as the head honcho of a company/department, then you need to always think about this when you make your decisions. Thinking about money is not difficult. Money is just the simplest way we have come up with quantifying time. Since time is the only finite resource we have in our lives, it all comes down to risk vs. reward. You invest your time and get paid. Money is equal to the amount of time invested doing a particular type of work. Some jobs are paid more, because the time required to acquire the expertise is more, or the health risks are greater. A doctor gets paid much more than a janitor for the same amount of time (8 hours a day), because that doctor spent at least 6 years learning how to do the ‘doctor’ thing, whereas the janitor had a much lower threshold to reach to be qualified. That’s how it works. Let’s boil it down to how stake holders view money as opposed to how employees view money.
Being a startup CEO can mean a number of things. In terms of money, it means that you have undertaken to invest your money (whether you have actual cash, or just time and expertise), into a company, to risk in an idea or endeavor. If it succeeds you reap the rewards. As the CEO or some other stakeholder, your success is directly tied to the success of the company. This is where your view of money can get skewed. For you, the hard work and the sacrifices you put in your company equate to the success or failure of the company. You’re in it for the long run. For you, food or shelter doesn’t matter, only the company matters. Most importantly, you considered every outcome before embarking on your venture. You considered that you could be broke, that you would have to work 18 hour days, for weeks or months, whatever it took; or, that you would hit a home run on day one and would be rolling in cash like a rapper in a music video.
What you need to think about before making any money decisions is the position of employees. The people that do not have a stake in your company; those that are working to get paid, whatever the outcome of the company. Those people may just as easily start their own companies doing their own thing. That designer can start his own design studio. The PR people can work their PR skills with whoever they want. They decided that your company was worth it more than embarking on their venture themselves. There are many factors for their decision, whether they are amount of pay, benefits, other team members, or location of the workplace. For you, as their supervisor, those factors are irrelevant. It is up to you to ensure that they are paid for the work they put in. You can incentivize them however you want, with bonuses, or other benefits, but once they produce the work that you hire them for, pay them.
What if there are money problems? Then, your first step is to try and hide them from your employees. They should not be concerned about the company’s accounts (unless they’re the accountants). That is your job, as their leader. Make it work. People that do not have a stake in the company do not care, or more specifically, should not care about how your company operates and generates cash. That is your job. If you are hemorrhaging money, plug a tampon in it, and stop it. If you’re rolling in cash, then save some for tough days. The optimal performance of an employee is when she is secure that his payment for his work reaches her bank account with more precision than a Swiss watch. When people work for someone, they plan their lives accordingly. If stuff doesn’t work out, then there is a chain of events that can destroy many things. A child can go without food, a bank can repossess a home and leave a family homeless, or best case scenario, someone has to postpone a night out with friends, because her pay day is late. Either of those cases, morale goes down.
If push comes to shove, and you need the help of your employees to forgo their payment to reach a deadline or some milestone so that the whole company doesn’t collapse, then you as the CEO should be the one to take most of the burden, and if you can’t handle it yourselves, then you need to explain the situation to your employees, and plead for understanding, as soon as possible. Those that are loyal to you or your company will become creative and find a way to tough it out for however long it takes, or they will explain to you what their situation is. Those that flake, then you’re better off without them. Either way, you have to find a way, together. Just like any other task, when one team member can’t do something themselves, they ask another for assistance. It’s the same concept. The company for which you are responsible is in trouble, ask for assistance.
Money is important to people, because they plan their livelihoods around it. You may be a trust fund baby, or you may not have responsibilities or dependents, and can withstand financial abuse to yourself. Your employees, may not have that luxury. So be aware of that. Normally, CEOs that are human beings, usually ensure that the employees are paid first, and if any money is left over, they pay themselves. CEOs that are dicks (or cunts, whichever term you prefer), they make sure to pay themselves first, and then employees. If you want to be the latter, then don’t expect to go things your way, when you’re living large, while your employees are scraping to get by,
his concludes our Startup CEO advice.
We tried to compile some advice that you don’t usually read everywhere else, and that it is usually overlooked. Everything in life seems to be getting more difficult, and more complicated. If you’re reading this, whoever you are, a CEO, an employee, a teenager, or someone in kindergarten, the most important thing you always have to do is to have fun and in order to do that, you have to have perspective. The worst thing in your life is not losing your company, or your job, or that desired exam grade. The worst thing in your life is always death.