Motivation in the early stages of a company’s life

March 1, 2012

ricky1Ben Dyer, president of Techdrawl LLC, writing at Texas Entrepreneur Networks, makes a compelling case for recruiting employees who share a founder’s “drive” in the early stages of a start-up.  In Bring Me the Trophy or Bring Me the Steering Wheel, Mr. Dyer points out that the more “textbook” efforts at recruitment and incentives ought to take a back seat until later in the company’s development:

That was the motivational message given to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch by his team owner for Saturday Night’s Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway.  For those of you who are Formula 1 followers and have observed the highly complex and computerized detachable steering wheels in those machines, please understand that if you bring only the very traditional NASCAR version of that part back to the garage after a race, the rest of the car is scrap.

That was a not too subtle way of saying that the owner expected Busch to push himself and his car to the limits and take whatever risks necessary to earn the checkered flag.  (He didn’t, by the way.)  In this week leading up the to the annual Daytona 500, I thought a racing theme would be a good way to focus on motivational issues for your startup employees and even your cofounders.

Job one is to make sure the founding team is all on the same page with respect to enthusiasm and work ethic…  And, it goes without saying that you need to lead by example.  Far more important at the early stage is leadership, as opposed to management.  If you show that you are willing to give the company your utmost and literally drive the wheels off to beat the competition, your employees will follow you.  All those textbook methods of performance reviews, pay incentives, etc. will come in handy when you get to the 50th or 100th employee, but right now you’ve got to be the one out front – with inexhaustible energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and a clearly articulated vision.

Excellent point, excellent analogy – similar to one we ourselves once used when writing on a different topic:  failure.  In Danica Patrick vs. Ricky Bobby on the subject of failure, we feature a video from Honda’s “Dream the Impossible” documentary series in which engineers (and Danica Patrick) discuss the role multiple failures played in the successful development of their racing engine.  The video has its own “bring me the steering wheel” moment (engine pieces, actually), and does a very nice job of tying Mr. Dyer’s and our points together.  Failure is a byproduct of pushing the envelope, so it’s critical to learn from mistakes and to fail the right way.

 

 

 

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