If You Can’t Motivate, Your Startup Might Sink

15th Jan 2013
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As a startup founder, you don’t have an option but to stay motivated. Founders have often complained (or rather shared) that only a founder can understand a founder. Glorified as it may seem, a startup founder fights demons not known to many. The founder has to dive into his/her own pool of inspiration and come up with enough to motivate the team along with self.

Every startup undergoes ups and downs — so if you are basking in a glow of testimonials one day, the next day can be a nightmare because some legal issue made your solution/product redundant. But it is all about handling the situation and coming out all guns blazing. For a founder it might not be a problem to look for motivation because it is like nurturing his or her own baby and see it grow. But the real challenge comes when such a feeling has to be instilled within the employees.

Sean Blagsvedt, founder of Babajob - a service that provided jobs for informal sector says, “We keep Babajob's employees motivated by reminding them of the impact their work makes on lives of our customers.” Babajob makes its employees personally meet and speak to real informal sector job seekers (maids, drivers, etc.) and employers, to understand their problems and see how what they do helps change lives. Sean brings out a very important point here — employees need to feel that they’re working for something bigger, the higher purpose.

Some things which seem obvious to a founder may not really be so. As the company grows, the need to reiterate your vision repeatedly to your employees is important to ensure that everyone is on the same plane. As strange as it might seem, for Phanindra Sama, the founder of redBus, what motivated his 400-plus employees is a quote on the wall. He believes JRD Tata’s quote on the walls of the company has played a huge role in motivating his staff. “If I have any merit, it is getting along with individuals, according to their ways and characteristics. At times it involves suppressing yourself. It is painful, but necessary. To be a leader you have got to lead human beings with affection,” reads the famous quote of JRD Tata.

There are many reasons why an employee might feel discouraged — lack of responsibility, lack of freedom in what s/he is doing, not knowing what the purpose of it all is! Many people are not self-motivated and it is the founder’s job to give them this push. Providing an insight here, Avlesh Singh, founder of WebEngage, one of the fastest growing startups from India, says, “I strongly believe that an unmotivated team cannot build a great company. In my experience (as an employee and founder) there are only two things that keeps someone motivated – one, good work and two appreciation for good work.” Avlesh started on his own because he did not like the work he was doing as an employee and has focused a lot on building the right DNA at WebEngage.

This brings us to appreciation. Indians are inherently reserved when it comes to appreciation but this becomes critical when it comes to keeping the morale of your team up. A pat on the back never harmed anyone. So, to sum it up- a feeling of working for something bigger, freedom and appreciation form the backbone of having a motivated team. Having these things sorted, hopefully your company will float with ease.

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