Do something you love, with the people you love
Posted on 17th January 2012 by Adil Abrar -
Sidekick is 3 years old this January. We're not going to have a party or anything, it feels odd to celebrate the passing of time.
But here we are. 3 years old. And as of next month, we'll be 20 Sidekickers working for three companies. It's quite a step on. We were 6 full-timers at the start of last year.
Unsurprisingly, we've been doing a lot of recruiting. All but one of those positions have been filled now and we'll slowly introduce you to the new people like Johanna, Felix, Alistair and others. What has happened during that recruitment process is that I've been forced to more actively think about the kinds of people we want to hire, the culture that we want to create, and most of all, why we do what we do. And I've landed on this thought.
I think that says everything. And I mean everything.
It's now what I have firmly lodged in the back of my mind when I'm interviewing people.
Is this person going to be doing the thing that they love when they arrive here? We've met quite a few people recently - especially technical people - who have all the craft skills to be successful here. Years of coding experience, comfortable with lots of languages, experience of startups. But some of them, when you look closer, you see their real passion is elsewhere.
It's maybe that they're not that interested in solving problems that matter in the same way that we are. It's maybe that even though they are specialists in the craft skill that we're trying to recruit for, they themselves want to do something a bit different (why do some many programmers wants to be arduino hobbyists?). Maybe it's the wrong time in their career or even life, to love this role because they really want to be film-makers or pig farmers.
The reason why it's important that they love the work, is because it's hard working here. It's hard trying to do what we're trying to do.
Firstly, we don't have a commoditised product that we're trying to sell. We're market making. We're more interested in the work that we want to do, then the work that we can get. That sounds glamorous but life can be tougher out here.
Factor in that the heart of our work is about creating our own startups or helping others create theirs. And startups are places where as Michael Arrington famously said, startups are hard, so work more, cry less and quit all the whining.
Most of all, we want to make a dent in the world. We want to leave something behind that is of value. We are stupid, foolish and arrogant enough to think that we can re-make society by smashing together technology, design and business. And as anyone who has tried to change the world will testify, it's bloody hard.
Which is why, when it comes to recruiting people, I keep coming back to - will this be something that they really love?
So many books have been written on this subject, and to be honest, it's bloody obvious, but it always seems to be the bloody obvious stuff that people seem to overlook. If you haven't read it, Paul Graham of YCombinator fame nails it
If you're really committed and your startup is cheap to run, you become very hard to kill. And practically all startups, even the most successful, come close to death at some point. So if doing good for people gives you a sense of mission that makes you harder to kill, that alone more than compensates for whatever you lose by not choosing a more selfish project.
It seems eternally true to say if you love something, you'll work harder. You'll be more ready to pick yourselves up after a knock-back. You'll find it more natural to take on something risky. You'll put in that extra hour. You'll have the fire in your belly. What I knew, but now I can see evidence of, is that if you do the thing you love, everything becomes easier.
And it becomes even easier, if you're doing it with people you love.
You could get 4 of the best designers in a room, but if they don't get on, the work won't live up to the potential. You can get so far on a basic respect between colleagues. But imagine what can be achieved if you really loved, and I mean loved, the person sitting opposite. I'm not saying that anyone at Sidekick would take a bullet for their desk buddy. But maybe, one day.
When I'm interviewing now, I'm also thinking, do I love this person? Honestly, I am. And no, not in a sexual way. But have they done something in their life that I love? Or do they have an unfulfilled ambition that I love? Have they made choices that I love? Are they someone I want to be around me, the team and the office? Is there something about their character and manner that I think is lovable? It's pretty indescribable really. It's a gut feeling, made up of lots of little clues in the way they tell their own stories.
We dabbled last year with a number of consultants, some of them with a great track record, but when we look back at the best work we've done, it's always between the people who have been here the longest and know how the other thinks. This is no reflection on those consultants, because how could they achieve that in a short space of time - but what I've learnt is that team trumps individuals every time. Again, obvious. But the best work comes from the best teams.
Finding people whose 'something they love' is the same as our 'something we need' is tough. Finding people who we love is even tougher. If we find them - and I think we have with our new sidekickers - that's a blessing.
Which is why, when you walk in the door of our studio on the floor, the first thing you see is the photo above. It's a daily reminder of everything we believe. On this our 3rd birthday, that seems the best thing to celebrate.