Yesterday someone who knows what I am going through as a startup entrepreneur asked me a basic question. ‘You are taking all the risk, how do you make sure that the others are doing what they are supposed to do as they don’t have skin in the game’. Told him it’s a marathon; lots of people participate, few make the finish line and get recognized. Similarly as a company we constantly engage with lots of stakeholders; to survive, they have to contribute otherwise they get left behind.
If you break it down there are 3 things you should keep in mind.
1/ No one will care more than you will. Stop worrying about what others are screwing up on and make a transparent organization and clearly allocate roles and responsibilities. Continuously monitor and don’t step in into what they do. If they fail, let them know what they did wrong and make them acknowledge and correct the same. If it’s repeated, make it transparent to the group and, if still repeated, then other groups and stakeholders should become aware. This forces them to correct their ways or they drop of the system and move on.
2/ You are not going to get an ‘A’ player for all roles in your organization. Frankly you don’t need it either, so what if they take 4 hrs to do a 1 hr task. If you have a smart manager and have a ‘B’ player in a particular role, its okay as long as it does not affect output/revenue. Some scale up to become an ‘A’ player or as noted above will eventually drop of the system.
3/ Rewards match directly with Risk and performance. The earlier someone joins your team during the life of your company the more the risk they are taking. If these stakeholders continue to perform and grow with the organization they must be performing. If not they fall off the journey. So don’t dwell on what they are going away with, when they drop of the system - especially if they hold options - thank them for taking you to next level and focus on the finish line and what value you and other performers are creating; there is more reward for this group.
So, as Bobby McFerrin put it, Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Startups are like swiss cheese, full of holes with an appetizing flavor. As the company grows and starts hitting the market you end up meeting a lots of professionals; Freshly minted MBA VCs with no operational experience, large company executives who you engage with for selling/marketing your products and services, established company executives who you are building potential partnerships with and your first few professional employees. Typically they end up looking at the holes and not the flavor - potential.
Simply explain to them that ‘we do the best we can with what we have’. If they get it, you are in luck, if not, don’t waste your time; they will never get it.