Startups: Passionate Employees Are Essential

Passionate Employees

Every day, I wake up, and love being an entrepreneur. It’s what I’m passionate about, and drives me to push through obstacles, pour my heart into my work, and drive companies forward. I can’t imagine doing a lot of the things I’ve been involved with if I weren’t passionate about them. I’ve been involved in successful projects and failed ones. There were never guarantees, and the risk is always high when approaching uncharted territory. But the reward has always been living a fulfilling life.

Passion Is An Absolute Necessity

I think that having passion for my work is critical, and believe that this is true of anyone who works for a startup. I’ve said it to candidates that I’ve interviewed, businesses I’ve partnered with, and companies I’ve hired for. At a startup, every hire is critical. The work that your early employees are doing will make or break the bottom line. Passion is critical for the success of these early hires, and as a result, your startup; here’s why.

It’s Hard Work

Startups are notorious for long, stressful hours. Your employees should know this going in. The passionate employees will put in those hours, because they believe in the cause and where you’re going. They are doing more than just working; they are following their dreams.

Cash Will Be Tight

Every startup will have cash flow issues at some point, and will rarely have the capital that they think they need early on. Founders must watch and evaluate every dollar spent, and early employees will have to work for lower salaries and sweat equity. There may even be days when cash is strapped and your company can’t make payroll. Employees with passion will work for the lower pay in the short term in exchange for the long term payout. They are working with you to achieve long term goals and be a part of something bigger.

Change Is Inevitable

At some point, it is likely that your startup will have to pivot in some way. You will change directions, will need to do so on a moment’s notice, and will have to bust your ass to get it done. Employees with passion will do what it takes and change when needed, because they are emotionally invested in the success of the company.

You Will Encounter Failures

It’s a hard reality, but the fact is most startups fail. All of them encounter roadblocks, obstacles, and dead ends. There are no guarantees for an emerging organization. Passionate employees will stand by your side despite the risk, because in the end, they are there for the experience, regardless of the outcome.

When Employees Lack Your Passion

At a startup, there are so many things that can and do happen. Things go in one direction or another. You may have issues with funding, difficulties with technology, absurd deadlines, employee departures… or a million other things go wrong unexpectedly. And I have noticed something about startup employees who are not invested in the company’s success. When the going gets tough, the people without passion take off. In the challenging times, their focus shifts to the money, their career or job security, or anything except working through the challenges ahead. And at a stage where every hire is critical and affects revenue, an employee departure can shake an emerging company and hold back progress.

Identifying Passion In Your Hires

So how do you know if a person has the passion you need? In my experience, the traditional interview doesn’t quite uncover that information for you. You need to go deeper than testing their skills and knowledge, deeper than the behavioral screenings and tests of logic. You have to dig into their past, their experiences, and the motivations behind them. Find out what they value and care about. What makes them happy? What do they get excited about? What leaves them fulfilled in life? It’s more than just getting answers to these questions though. It’s just as much about how they say their answers as the answers themselves.

Sometimes, Your Gut Is The Best Reference

Sometimes, you have to ask the right questions, and dig into a person to uncover the truth. But other times, passion is just something that you can see in a person’s eyes, hear in their voice, and see in their actions. Sometimes, in your gut, you just know. It’s what I have found in my experience and has served me well, not only for my own hires and businesses, but for the hundreds of people that my firm has placed at startups. However you do it, you will be thankful that you did. Because those employees, the ones with the passion like your own, are the ones who stick around, work hard, and will drive the success of your company.

Amish is the Founder/CEO of the premier executive search firm for the high-tech industry, Millennium Search LLC. He is an investor and advisor to many startups around the globe. He is also a crowdfunding expert, personally managing and advising Kickstarter campaigns that have successfully funded and received major press. 

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