Start-Up Work Ethic


I’ve been thinking a lot about start-ups lately since I’ve been doing more doing. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the work ethic of employees in start-ups. And because successful blogs seem to draw crowds by writing lists, I give you 4 things that I think a strong start-up employee must do…

1. Expect to work more than “9 to 5” if you want to succeed.

You need to be willing to put in that extra time. With modern technology this should not be an issue. If you are like me, you are probably working more in your current job than you have in the past and don’t even realize it. People’s personal worlds and professional worlds are blending more and more every day. You might take an extra hour in the morning to watch your child in a school recital but answer emails from your cell phone after putting the same child to bed. Being “on call” or getting in a little extra work (or extra time with the family) should be as simple as opening (or closing) your laptop. But in order for this to work you need to…

2. Care about what you’re doing.

If you don’t, you and your team will fail. I’m very fortunate that I get to do what I love at my current job. Sometimes I get pretty passionate about the issues (just ask Vladimir), but only because I care about my profession, my product, and my team. When you care about what you’re doing it will show. When you care too much, you need to be careful that you still…

3. Work on the basics first.

It doesn’t make sense to “gold-plate” everything you do. That gold-plating has a cost associated with it and often isn’t needed. Just get the basics done then if time or need dictates you can come back and make it better. Some people call this iterating while others just call it common sense. There are reasons that we ship software with bugs. Make sure that you can see the forest from the trees. If you can do this then you should also be able to…

4. Improve the company as a whole.

Actively seek things to improve the company even if they are not completely in your field of expertise. A start-up is small and fragile so it can use all the help you can give it. Even if you aren’t in a start-up, making overall improvements can get you noticed and minimize the bureaucracy that everybody hates.

Overall, finding the right person is probably the most important thing that a start-up can do. I think I can become the right person if I can do what I’ve described above. Start-ups need to value people over process. A smart, professional person can be trained to do just about anything, especially when he/she has a solid base to start from. Hoping that somebody that you like or somebody that has a particular skill set (especially in a start-up environment) is the right person for your start-up is short-sighted and will likely be the beginning of the end for that particular company.

What tips would you give to either a start-up company or somebody looking to join such a company?