It’s been an interesting year for me as the manager and founder of two startup companies. I’ve worked with different kinds of people but the most interesting thing is how my trusting core as an entrepreneur has been proven wrong – several times – in my own team.
Warning: Do not read further if you are not keen to know some of the realities that happen in a startup team gone wrong.
I’ve always wanted a “Dream Team” – a team that would be like family. A team closely knit that the work they produce would be cohesive. A team so close, that the working environment would be fun and lively. The good news is, I have succeeded in creating such a culture. The tragedy is, it has turned against me.
Here’s the gist of it: I work off-site for most of the week. I’m only in the office on Thursdays. Naturally I don’t bark orders left and right as there’s already a supposed system in place – however relaxed it may be. I’m also not a slave-driver in the sense that most of my employees work (and I mean real work without the Facebook and Youtube hours) less than 5 hours a day. Sometimes the hours go way below 3 hours. And if you think I’m kidding, I’m not – I have real data and screenshots from Hubstaff to prove it.
Here’s the implicit perspective: I trust my people. Often times I trust them more than I’m supposed to – to the point that I’m blindsided by what’s being talked about me behind my back. In fact when news about these slanderous acts reach me, I’m completely dumbfounded and often in doubt that such things will be said against me by anyone – let a lone some people in my own team.
This year we’ve had the third generation of SEO Hackers come and go. I couldn’t believe that there still lies the venom that was inserted by a certain individual during the first two years of SEO Hacker. It is now the fourth generation and apparently there are still people who are lurking around spewing negative vibes all over the team.
I cannot comprehend it.
If a person is so disgruntled with the work or the company or the leader of the team or the founder – then why stay? It’s not like we have anything to keep a person from leaving our team. Anyone can just up and leave, really.
But what really stupefies me the most are some of the written feelings over at social media by some of the people who used to be in the team. It’s crazy what lengths they would complain and grumble to when the work they have put in per day is, over 95% of the time, less than 4 hours. It’s crazy how much they would let themselves seem disgruntled and miserable among their social network when they really are not working half as much as they’re supposed to and they really are not tyrannically oppressed by anyone.
Especially not someone who’s in the office just once a week.
There’s a saying here in my country among the local Chinese about the local workforce. I never really agreed with the sayings before but now I admit that the sayings are true. It’s a sad thing, really.
In my opinion, gratitude is one of the best traits of an individual. This is often shown in the form of loyalty and respect. However there are people who shockingly really have no sense of gratitude. No sense of common thinking.
Sadly, these people will never amount to anything but a clanging cymbal of complaints and hypocrisy – and will never see the light of success.
I tried to change them. I tried to help them. I really did.
I even mentored some – trusting them completely. However even these common-sense things that I imparted to them were rejected. It is, for a lack of better phrase, beyond comprehension.
Someday, when, as an entrepreneur here in the Philippines, you find yourself in the same predicament, just remember to hold on to your faith in the Lord. Remember to hold on to your vision. Hold on to trust. Ironic but it’s quite true. It’s trust that is the building block of a good team.
Even if you’re stabbed repeatedly – until you’re profusely bleeding all the trust you have in you, you have to somehow find a way to survive and regenerate. Because without trust, you miss out 100% on building a good team.
Another thing you need to remember is to check whether or not your people are doing work that will supplant their efforts for the day – everyday. Idle time is the Devil’s playground. That is quite true even at work. When people have less work in their faces, they would tend to talk and talk and it would more often than not lead to gossip. That’s exactly what happened in our case. I thought the extra time I provided my team would be used for innovation and progress.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m still in the process of rebuilding my team now. SEO Hacker has been blessed with a fresh new start. I’m starting to weed out all the possible bad eggs (some are bad to begin with, yet sadly if the bad eggs are left to rot, some good ones will turn bad too somewhere along the way) still left in the team. It’s the most sensible thing to do. We’ve been plagued far too long.
It has slowed us down, killed morale, killed momentum, wasted a lot of money and marred the reputation of the company at large. I know this to be true because compared with my second startup (which, to be fair, consists of just 5 people – a quarter of what SEO Hacker has now) which has only good, loyal, committed (and awesome) people inside, we have been able to progress non-stop.
Just remember, when you sense people beyond comprehension in your team, find them. Don’t waste any time looking for them.
Then when you’ve found them, weed them out quickly. Don’t wait.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.