These days, we no longer discuss new businesses as new businesses. Every new business is now a “startup.” I guess to most, a startup often refers to a technology company, founded by a couple people or less, that has potential to bring in large amounts of investment capital and can scale quickly. The term is used so often now to categorize new businesses, that we’ve even coined up the hashtag, #StartupLife, which is now tagged 377,329 times on Instagram alone. I can’t go a day without seeing someone, somewhere, say or use the term “Startup Life.”
So what is Startup Life? I’ve asked this question many times, and overall the answers are about the same. It’s the grind. It’s the hustle. It’s working 14 hour days, Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays. It’s drinking four cups of coffee a day. It’s standing desks and ping pong tables. It’s office refrigerators stocked with beer. Sounds wild, almost like a constant hackathon 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, is that really the best culture?
After catching up with a friend who recently got hired by a startup, one of her requests during the hiring process was more vacation time. She also asked for more money. Funny enough, the startup was easily accommodating to the money, but for awhile it seemed like she may not get the job all because she requested more vacation time. A whopping two days.
There is a very clear trend happening right now with these young companies. New founders, who may have never even managed anyone before, suddenly expect their own employees to treat the company as their own. They want their employees to imagine themselves as the “founders,” and be eager to work 14 hour days including weekends. Is this the best company culture? Maybe, maybe not, but I think we are getting very caught up in the meaning behind #startuplife as it creates this expectation of a very specific type of workplace environment.
Ultimately, it could actually be the best company culture. It could be the worst. It all depends on the company. It depends on the leaders, and their ability to hire the right people (which doesn’t necessarily mean the smartest person). It depends on whether or not the company can have effective communication. That’s really where the culture lies. It’s not about the ping pong tables and the weekend hackathons. Great culture happens when leaders are communicating.
Everyone should be asking questions. Companies, regardless of the size, should have a level of transparency with their employees. Be eager to hear your employee’s opinions, and be even more eager to share with them your company goals and company visions.
What does #StartupLife mean to you?