Some people think the startup life is glamorous, and to a certain degree it is. After all, it's cool to work on the Next Big Thing, to pitch investors, and to create something from scratch. Of course, the glamor is something of a façade. When you’re running a company, you’re doing all that, all the while worrying about money, taxes, staffing, schedules, product, everything.
No one at a startup clocks in at 9 and out at 5. Indeed, the energy that propels you through long hours is one of the things that makes founding a company so rewarding. But be warned: There is such a thing as taking it too far. If you're one of those people who think your staff should subsist on midnight pizza and catnaps under their desks, you're setting yourself up for trouble.
Many founders buy into the idea of creating a culture of brute force effort. Their mistake is equating long hours with smart work. When people get tired they make mistakes, get burned out and can lose sight of the vision that lured them to your company in the first place. Certainly, there'll be times when long hours are called for but if they're your company's norm, you may be hurting yourself more than you're helping.
People don't do their best work when they're exhausted. Ultimately, you're building a product or service that's going to succeed on its quality. If the design is less-than-optimal or the release is bug-ridden, you’ll face disappointed customers and skeptical investors. You need to develop the best-quality deliverable you can, and it's the rare sleepwalker who can give you what you need.
This means your culture needs to balance smart work and balance Let your people know that it's the standard of work that you value, not the battering they took to achieve it. So stay in touch with them not just about their results, but about how they're obtaining them. Make sure your design, development and QA schedules are realistic. When you're done with an intense, hour-filled sprint, have everyone ease up for a bit to get their breath.
Remember that there are more tech jobs out there than there are people to fill them. As a new company, you may be depending more on promise than money to recruit and retain your staff. That's good. But there are a host of other startups around that also have dramatic visions and as much promise, and they want the talent you already have. Drive people into the ground, and the grass on the other side will start looking a lot greener.