Start-up mode

What is it to work in start-up mode? Is it to work harder, longer, smarter than in any other job? What if you always give the best of yourself? What are they asking for?

What came to my mind almost immediately was overtime. As an XP practitioner I am very against making more than 40 hours by week, in fact I think less is better for everybody. It could be perceived as a lack of commitment but in my opinion that is quite unfair and trying to hide it under the start-up label is a big excuse. I have never worked in a company in which there were plenty of hours however overtime was always the last resort, only available when everything else has failed, because that is it, a big failure. If people are working extra time it is because the whole chain has failed, and then and only then people must rise and push harder. The company must be aware that they will pay for this effort in the future and I am not talking about money. Quality is the first to fall down, next team morale, but if it was an exception you can overcome this situation, learn from it and recover your normal rhythm. However, if this is part of the company culture, well horses for courses. From my view, it is a bad practice, I want people who are able to give the best of themself, commit with the project and the company and at the same time have a happy life with their family.

So is there anything we can do? I think there are a bunch of things we can do but when you only have a hammer everything is nails:

  • You don’t need to build everything, there outside there is a collection of resources we can reuse to save some hours, some of them free and others in exchange for some money. I am talking about common part of an application as authentication, booking systems, customer care...
  • Design small experiments. I know that you believe you need the whole thing and probably it is true but if you are able to envision a small version of your idea to test with early adopters you are failing fast and saving a lot of time.
  • Measure everything. As part of the previous advice you need an objective way to determine if your experiment was successful or not. It is going to facilitate to choose the task with the higher ROI to spend the time you have.
  • In general stop thinking on do overtime and look for smarter ways of doing things, companies have a lot of time to waste but never enough to improve.

Having read a pretty amount of books about entrepreneurship I can say that doing overtime never seems a good nor smart idea and is almost never mentioned. My experience says the same but I can be wrong. What do you think?

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