8 random tips for making your startup company happy and successful

True success

Today I gave a keynote presentation at the web.start conference here in Zagreb, Croatia on happiness in startups.

My 3 main points in the presentation were:

  1. Happiness at work will make or break your startup. Creating a great company where people like love working is the #1 success factor.
  2. It’s easy. All it takes to make people happy at work is results and relationships. Give them a chance to do work they can be proud of, together with people they like, and they will be happy.
  3. Do something. We can all be a part of creating happiness where we are.

So how do you do it? My 8 tips for creating a happy startup are:
1: Skip the boring crap
Why are you slaving over bills and invoices if you really, really hate doing that? Do what you like to do – outsource everything else, preferably to someone who likes it. Yes, there are in fact people out there who enjoy bookkeeping.

2: Screw the business plan
You may be forced to make one to satisfy investors or your bank – but then promptly forget all about it. The world changes too fast for a business plan to be a relevant tool, and trying to run your company according to the plan is an exercise in futility.

3: Dump customers that make you unhappy
As a small company, it’s tempting to hold on to every customer. Don’t. If a customer repeatedly causes trouble and is abrasive, fire their ass. Here’s an example of why that’s such a good idea.

4: Relax & take breaks
Breaks, vacations and pauses are essential to your happiness at work. Not so much for the chance to recuperate, but mostly for the perspective they give you. You need to get away once in a while to see the whole and remind yourself of what you’re doing, rather than being stuck in short-term problem-solving mode.

5: Hire happy people
And the codicil: Hire no assholes. Naturally happy people are a boon to a startup, because they are more energetic, motivated, passionate and creative.

6: Make all decisions based on this: What will make me, my people and my customers happy?
Forget any of these, and you’re probably going in the wrong direction.

7: Celebrate your victories
Every chance you get! That is what give you the energy to get your next victory – and to overcome your next defeat.

8: ask yourself why?
Why are you starting this company? If your reasons are not about making yourself and/or others happy – try again. Why do anything if it won’t make you happy?

Not only do happy companies make more money, but when you’re creating a business, why create one, that won’t make you happy?

And never forget: Happy companies make more money:

Happy startups

21 thoughts on “8 random tips for making your startup company happy and successful”

  1. Its hard to be happy in a startup when the boss plays suppliers and customers off the staff. right nowe have been dropped with 15 random pallets of stuff and nowhere to put it. All because a supplier was allowed to send whatever they want in whatever form they want.

    I don’t see this company continuing with the amount of horrific hardship they seem to enjoy throwing at their staff. Nothing is too demeaning and nothing is too much hardship.

    I want to go and work in a gulag. For a break.

  2. Interestingly, your Venn diagram is the same as the one used by Jim Collins in the book Good to Great. His circles are called “What you are deeply passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, and what drives your economic engine”, but he makes the same point – if you hit the intersection of those three, you have the makings of a great company.

  3. I love your BLOG. I would love to connect with you at some point to visit with you more about what you do. I am passionate about finding more opportunities to take the Ripple concept into the corporate environment. To your point about happy companies make more money, I am incredibly passionate about this point.

    I believe organizations have to have a gameplan and understand that good work culture, worker engagement, work relationship/friendships don’t develop without encouragement and commitment. Companies like a SW Airlines have people who authentically like their work and enjoy what they do and we as consumers reap the benefits of that. Happy workers who provide good customer service experiences breed customer loyalty and evanglism.

    Anyway….enough of a rant. Just wanted to give you a shout out and tell you how much I enjoy your words of wisdom and hope we might find a way to connect to chat live sometime.

    Ripple On!!!

    Steve Harper

  4. Dang I tried fixing my typo before it posted but oh well it didn’t work.

    I meant evangelism on my second paragrah. I hate making errors….it doesn’t make me happy. No pun intended. Well maybe a little pun.


  5. I’ve just started up – and at the moment I have no plans to grow my business beyond me and my computer.

    But I think it’s safe to say that I enjoy all of what I do – and don’t plan ever to work for:

    a) rude clients
    b) unappreciative clients
    c) clients who grumble about costs when they’ve had good service

    Nor do I plan to take on any work that I wouldn’t enjoy doing.

    Thanks, Alex – I will stick to the 8 points!


  6. Wow – fantastic entry! I love both of your charts – they’re so crystal clear. On the Venn diagram, I can easily imagine what my current job looks like (huge overlap on the good at & like circles, with the make money at circle moving ever so slowly in to meet them) and my former job (big overlap on making money and good at, with a receding “liking it” circle). Awesome – thatnks!

  7. Life by Venn diagram. So simple-minded. Oh well . . . let’s play along for a bit. More often than you can imagine the intersection between any two circles is empty . . . so the “sweet spot” (odious golf metaphor) of pseudo-success is empty too.

    Fortunately, success has nothing to do with work.

    But, keep those affirmations coming . . . there’s a sucker born every minute.


  8. Good post.

    Just one comment – point #1 might be a bit too unrealistic for some startups. A lot of times, startup founders are forced to wear every hat and do everything themselves – outsourcing the “boring crap” is often not an option.

  9. To Eye-of Horus.

    Go read the No Asshole Rule and then do the necessicary. Actually, no, I will spell it out. Go and be an asshole somewhere else.

    Its easy to pour scorn on someone else when you hide behind a pompous name. If you are so high and mighty and oh-so-well-read say it with your real name.

    Its pinheads like you that makes work so unbearable.

  10. David: Oh no – there are many of us out there who have chosen happiness at work.

    Billy: That sucks! Sounds like a nice Gulag would be an improvement :o)

    Eric: I had completely forgotten that. Thanks, I’ll go back and revisit that (great) book and see what Collins has to say about it.

    Steve: I could not agree more. Happiness at work rarely happens by accident, and when it does it’s more liable to suddenly disappear by accident.

    When it occurs by design in a company (and SW Airlines is a great example of this) it is robust, long-lasting AND profitable.

    Ask M: I expect nothing less from you :o)

    James: Glad you could recognize this from your own experience. And good luck moving in that “make money” circle :o)

    Eye of Horus: Thanks for the reality check. It is easy to get carried away in simple solutions and Venn diagrams do carry the risk that you make something look simpler than it really is.

    And many people certainly feel, that there is no overlap between those three areas. I happen to believe, that the vast majority of us can find that overlap – provided we want to.

    But giving in to cynicism will not get us there.

    Alexander Kharlamov: Yeah, it can be tricky. But many, many boring tasks (from accounting to cleaning to sales) can be outsourced these days freeing you to do what you like.

    Tantowi: You got it. Happy people rock :o)

  11. Nice tips. I agree that we need to skip the boring things. It’s a logical reason that we are bored because we don’t enjoy what we are doing.

  12. Great tips. There are really dumb customers no matter how hard we try to explain to them those things that they don’t understand. They only sap our mind and make us unhappy.

  13. Dave: Exactly. Why suffer through boring tasks, when someone else (who likes that kind of thing) could have fun doing them for you?

    Nancy: Yes – and it’s rarely worth it to work for them, when there are so many nice customers out there.

  14. The presentation was awesome.
    I mean, you had the first presentation at 9 in the morning,
    and everyone was like: “Oh my god, shoot me, give me an aspirin or where is my pillow.”
    But then: a change.
    Your motivational presentation, pushed us up.
    Or in plain english:
    “Hi 5! You rock!”

  15. Hi Alex, I have been working on a new startup company and this is some of the best advice I have come across. There are so many factors that go into the initial phases of any business and it is easy to get bogged down with the less interesting stuff like bookkeeping, so I will be running with your tips as my plan unveils itself. By the way the venn diagram is great, it simply highlights the most important tips for success, I love it.

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