Calacanis is right: startups can’t afford slackers

Jason Calacanis has started a big argument where Duncan Riley over at TechCrunch has stood up for slackers everywhere (he couches it in language of “pro family” in the family/life balance). The thing is, Duncan might talk to his boss, Mike Arrington. Did Mike get to where he is by slacking off and hanging out with his friends and having a “real life?” No. He worked his ass off. I’ve caught Mike on several occasions working until 3 a.m. or later. And he still is doing that work ethic. Of course, that hard work pays off: Mike was on the Charlie Rose show this week.

I’ve been in several startups and have witnessed first hand the ascerbic aspects that slackers bring. Believe me, this is the #1 killer of startups. If you don’t get rid of unproductive people (or even better, avoid hiring them in the first place) your startup will go down.

Jason also told me about two employees who’d be outside smoking while the rest of the company was working hard during lunches. He fired those two. Why? They weren’t team players.

Another killer I’ve seen? Assholes. Every entrepreneur should read “The No Asshole Rule.

But, to Jason Calacanis’ point, how do startups save money? I’m practicing one right now: share hotel rooms. It’s a pain in the ass, yes, but it sure stretches that travel budget further. At CES one year I even stayed a night in a Hostel. This was while I was working at Microsoft and could have spent $400 a night on a hotel room (I don’t recommend going THAT cheap, by the way — you need to be able to lock people out of your stuff).

132 thoughts on “Calacanis is right: startups can’t afford slackers

  1. My life is worth more than $35K. Maybe yours isn’t… ?

    Penny pinching for startups is common sense. No prob. If you don’t do it, you’re dumb.

    But the rank-and-file also won’t get the (potential, mind you) big rewards at the end of it all. Expecting the same commitment and obsessiveness out of the “little guy” (i.e. working until 3 a.m.) for naught but $30 – $35K is just evil…crushes morale, and dooms your company to high-turnover and sky-high recruiting costs, because eventually the word will get out “Don’t work at *comany name here* they’re evil!”

  2. My life is worth more than $35K. Maybe yours isn’t… ?

    Penny pinching for startups is common sense. No prob. If you don’t do it, you’re dumb.

    But the rank-and-file also won’t get the (potential, mind you) big rewards at the end of it all. Expecting the same commitment and obsessiveness out of the “little guy” (i.e. working until 3 a.m.) for naught but $30 – $35K is just evil…crushes morale, and dooms your company to high-turnover and sky-high recruiting costs, because eventually the word will get out “Don’t work at *comany name here* they’re evil!”

  3. Jason is spot on. I run a small emerging technology company in the UK and its no environment for those who cant cope with an “all hands on deck” mentality and 3am Caffine fueled working.

    As for smokers, just don’t hire them in the first place! They clearly have a death wish, they do take more breaks and it looks really bad when customers turn up and you see nicotine junkies loitering outside the office doors.

  4. Jason is spot on. I run a small emerging technology company in the UK and its no environment for those who cant cope with an “all hands on deck” mentality and 3am Caffine fueled working.

    As for smokers, just don’t hire them in the first place! They clearly have a death wish, they do take more breaks and it looks really bad when customers turn up and you see nicotine junkies loitering outside the office doors.

  5. I love it when people comment that Robert tricked them into reading a dumb post with a great headline. C’mon, if you didn’t find a reward in coming here, you’d stop falling for it. (Counter theory: There is no Robert Scoble. An evil genius named Christopher Coulter has created the Scoble persona in an elaborate plot to provide a forum for his own rants.)

  6. I love it when people comment that Robert tricked them into reading a dumb post with a great headline. C’mon, if you didn’t find a reward in coming here, you’d stop falling for it. (Counter theory: There is no Robert Scoble. An evil genius named Christopher Coulter has created the Scoble persona in an elaborate plot to provide a forum for his own rants.)

  7. I could not agree more with you Jason & most of Mike’s points he has made. There are lot of idiots out there who feel you can do this without compromising how much time you can spend with your family. If anyone thinks you can work 9-5 and make a success then they need their heads examining. I have worked 12 hour days for nearly a year now and then I get home and blog, I read all the latest news of the day, keep involved, twitter / etc – it all takes stupid amounts of time – and without it we would not have got to the position we are now.

    sent from: fav.or.it [FID39983]

  8. I could not agree more with you Jason & most of Mike’s points he has made. There are lot of idiots out there who feel you can do this without compromising how much time you can spend with your family. If anyone thinks you can work 9-5 and make a success then they need their heads examining. I have worked 12 hour days for nearly a year now and then I get home and blog, I read all the latest news of the day, keep involved, twitter / etc – it all takes stupid amounts of time – and without it we would not have got to the position we are now.

    sent from: fav.or.it [FID39983]

  9. I think it’s kind of BS that startup founders expect their employees to work like mad but we all know that many of the people at the bottom or middle never get anything even if they pour sweat and tears into their work. Only the people at the top will benefit. Not saying all founders are like that but I would say many are less inclined to give out stock so easily these days and when you give years of your life for a few thousand shares compared to millions and hundreds of thousands to the top people, one easily becomes disenchanted with the whole process.

    Sure, people can work like crazy. But here’s a thought. reward the top performers like crazy, as you reward others at the top.

  10. I think it’s kind of BS that startup founders expect their employees to work like mad but we all know that many of the people at the bottom or middle never get anything even if they pour sweat and tears into their work. Only the people at the top will benefit. Not saying all founders are like that but I would say many are less inclined to give out stock so easily these days and when you give years of your life for a few thousand shares compared to millions and hundreds of thousands to the top people, one easily becomes disenchanted with the whole process.

    Sure, people can work like crazy. But here’s a thought. reward the top performers like crazy, as you reward others at the top.

  11. WOW I guess the comments here are not as bad at techcrunch but really people read the original article. I work for a small business owner who works harder then anyone so when she ask to work late I know I am not the only one working hard. My boss expects me to work hard and I do why should I expect to coast?…

  12. WOW I guess the comments here are not as bad at techcrunch but really people read the original article. I work for a small business owner who works harder then anyone so when she ask to work late I know I am not the only one working hard. My boss expects me to work hard and I do why should I expect to coast?…

  13. IMHO, it’s not about “slackers”, it’s about those who aren’t playing the team game. You don’t have to pull 100 hour weeks to be productive – and this is not advocacy for 4-hour nonsense either.

    Practice common sense, have a team with passion, and lead them toward a goal. It ain’t too tricky.

  14. IMHO, it’s not about “slackers”, it’s about those who aren’t playing the team game. You don’t have to pull 100 hour weeks to be productive – and this is not advocacy for 4-hour nonsense either.

    Practice common sense, have a team with passion, and lead them toward a goal. It ain’t too tricky.

  15. Sharing hotel rooms on business trips is ridiculous (unless you work with your wife or a hottie whose home-life is unsatisfying).

    In the US, stay at a Mircotel or Motel-6 (where you can often get two rooms cheaper than one room elsewhere).

    Work from home as many days as possible.

    Check e-mail only thrice per day: noon, 4:00pm, and first thing in the AM.

    File your expense reports as soon as possible, every time. Don’t forget to include every driving mile and every hotel tip. There’s nothing worse than lending your employer money, interest free.

    The real key to personal success is spending considerably less than you earn and saving/investing the difference in common-sense things (e.g. not penny stocks or start-ups)…

  16. Sharing hotel rooms on business trips is ridiculous (unless you work with your wife or a hottie whose home-life is unsatisfying).

    In the US, stay at a Mircotel or Motel-6 (where you can often get two rooms cheaper than one room elsewhere).

    Work from home as many days as possible.

    Check e-mail only thrice per day: noon, 4:00pm, and first thing in the AM.

    File your expense reports as soon as possible, every time. Don’t forget to include every driving mile and every hotel tip. There’s nothing worse than lending your employer money, interest free.

    The real key to personal success is spending considerably less than you earn and saving/investing the difference in common-sense things (e.g. not penny stocks or start-ups)…

  17. I have seen my fair share of startups. Even now I work 14 hours a day. But you cannot call people who want to spend quality time as slackers. I have seen many people who work just 8 hours a day and who are more productive than people who slog 14-16 hours a day. This kinda characterization as people who don’t slog 14-16 hours a day as slackers is like Bush’s assertion that anyone who doesn’t agree to his view of the world, are terrorists. I have seen so many people who had worked 8 hours a day (leaving home exactly at 5 PM)and produced more work than those people who live in the company. Efficiency is not directly proportional to the number of hours logged. Period. If startup founders cannot understand it, it is their own funeral.

  18. I have seen my fair share of startups. Even now I work 14 hours a day. But you cannot call people who want to spend quality time as slackers. I have seen many people who work just 8 hours a day and who are more productive than people who slog 14-16 hours a day. This kinda characterization as people who don’t slog 14-16 hours a day as slackers is like Bush’s assertion that anyone who doesn’t agree to his view of the world, are terrorists. I have seen so many people who had worked 8 hours a day (leaving home exactly at 5 PM)and produced more work than those people who live in the company. Efficiency is not directly proportional to the number of hours logged. Period. If startup founders cannot understand it, it is their own funeral.

  19. @33. As opposed to 9 p.m. in the morning? Stayed until 7:00 PM??? WOW! Now THAT’S burning the midnight oil!. I guess Jason subscribes to the “any PR is good PR” theory.

  20. @33. As opposed to 9 p.m. in the morning? Stayed until 7:00 PM??? WOW! Now THAT’S burning the midnight oil!. I guess Jason subscribes to the “any PR is good PR” theory.

  21. Steve: #25: Jason and I were driving around at 9 p.m. in the evening. I stayed in his office with his team until 7 p.m. Who said that driving around wasn’t working? After all, he got a lot of PR out of that too.

  22. Steve: #25: Jason and I were driving around at 9 p.m. in the evening. I stayed in his office with his team until 7 p.m. Who said that driving around wasn’t working? After all, he got a lot of PR out of that too.

  23. I think it’s funny that people are taking Robert seriously when he says anyone who works a standard 40 hour week or wants to spend time with their family is a ‘slacker’.

    It’s so obviously a ludicrous claim and runs counter to many views Scoble has espoused on his blog in the past, that I’m surprised anyone takes it for anything but the joke it was intended to be.

    For a start, I’m sure Robert has read ‘Peopleware’, and so knows the mountain of evidence that shows that working long hours is not sustainable and certainly not productive for more than a couple of months at the most. After that, you’re just working long hours – you’re not getting more done than the 40 hour week ‘slacker’. In fact, you’re likely to be less productive as you are more error-prone, etc. As I always like to say about the Peopleware authors, they did the math so we don’t have to.

    I’m just worried that I don’t get whatever Robert’s joke actually was. But he can’t possibly be serious in this case, because that would be so amazingly dumb.

  24. I think it’s funny that people are taking Robert seriously when he says anyone who works a standard 40 hour week or wants to spend time with their family is a ‘slacker’.

    It’s so obviously a ludicrous claim and runs counter to many views Scoble has espoused on his blog in the past, that I’m surprised anyone takes it for anything but the joke it was intended to be.

    For a start, I’m sure Robert has read ‘Peopleware’, and so knows the mountain of evidence that shows that working long hours is not sustainable and certainly not productive for more than a couple of months at the most. After that, you’re just working long hours – you’re not getting more done than the 40 hour week ‘slacker’. In fact, you’re likely to be less productive as you are more error-prone, etc. As I always like to say about the Peopleware authors, they did the math so we don’t have to.

    I’m just worried that I don’t get whatever Robert’s joke actually was. But he can’t possibly be serious in this case, because that would be so amazingly dumb.

  25. Try being a bootstrapped startup founder with a day job (thinking me, Thomas Hawk, etc). I don’t know about Thomas’ situation… But there’s no ‘healthy balance’ in my equation and that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while. Especially after the seed round happens. I’ve managed three very different startups including my latest. Each one has demanded long hours, unusual amounts of dedication and a lack of tolerance to slackers. And, Mr. Scoble… I stayed at a hostel the night of the London Geek Dinner. Saved a helluva lot of money. Good thing to. I’d have had a hard time paying that Picadilly rate for a hotel I saw two hours in.

    Love the startup life!

  26. Try being a bootstrapped startup founder with a day job (thinking me, Thomas Hawk, etc). I don’t know about Thomas’ situation… But there’s no ‘healthy balance’ in my equation and that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while. Especially after the seed round happens. I’ve managed three very different startups including my latest. Each one has demanded long hours, unusual amounts of dedication and a lack of tolerance to slackers. And, Mr. Scoble… I stayed at a hostel the night of the London Geek Dinner. Saved a helluva lot of money. Good thing to. I’d have had a hard time paying that Picadilly rate for a hotel I saw two hours in.

    Love the startup life!

  27. Working more and more hours that equals less pay seems to be more the norm than the exception, the constant brainwashing that you should work hard with long hours to have material things that ultimately are worthless.

    Time is the one thing that can never be regained and lost time with the family and friends is more important than the message that corporate America attempts to convince us we should all do.

  28. Working more and more hours that equals less pay seems to be more the norm than the exception, the constant brainwashing that you should work hard with long hours to have material things that ultimately are worthless.

    Time is the one thing that can never be regained and lost time with the family and friends is more important than the message that corporate America attempts to convince us we should all do.

  29. I spent several years working for a slave driver in a small company. It worked fine till the economy picked up – at which point the entire workforce left within 6 months.

    Now I have a real job in a real company. And a real life.

    And I ain’t going back, slacker or not.

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