The key to motivating your startup employees

Motivation in the workplace is a hot topic these days as we see a greater emphasis on questions of commitment and engagement of staff. While these questions are of primary importance for any company, they are absolutely vital for startups, as startups live and die by their team members.

When you are an entrepreneur and you create your startup, what do you really have? An idea, a vision, an offering, a strategy and some funding. But above all, you have a set of challenges lying ahead of you that most people would regard as insurmountable.

And the one thing you know – or you should know – is that there is no way you will be able to overcome all the challenges without some serious help. And a significant part of this help will come from … your team(s)!

Of course I am just stating the obvious here, but if you need your employees to ride by your side during the intense journey of building and growing a startup, you also need to ensure they are motivated, energised and inspired. And that requires a lot of care, attention and focus.

Assuming you manage to source the right profiles – which is not always easy – your job as a leader is far from over. I call my teams “Rugby Teams” because they fight the hardest fight for Maestrano, make certain that no one is left behind and always go the extra mile to ensure our SME and Enterprise customers are beyond satisfied. But this didn’t happen by itself, nor did it happen overnight. It was a journey.

A journey that started with a simple concept our company had to become theirs. Our vision had to become theirs. So did our joys, success and challenges. It was about getting each and every one of our team members to think and act as if they had founded the company.

The path to achieving this mixed material and personal components and was actually quite simple. From a material point of view, we couldn’t compete with ‘standard’ market salaries – what startup can? But we could (and did) give all our team members the option to have shares in our company, thus making them in essence owners of Maestrano. This was important, as a token of trust and as a reward for the work and results to come. Legally, all our staff owns a part of the company – and when you own something, you work to make it thrive!

It is all about ownership at a personal level, too. Every single one of our team members has total ownership of what they work on, which means they have full decisional power, are responsible for the success and failure of their endeavours and know that we don’t sanction mistakes – the only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing! But we are looking for timely, relevant corrections and of course lessons being learnt – always. Essentially, we empower our people, for the good and the bad. As leaders of the business we support them, we help them grow. We spend a lot of time assessing the motivations of our staff. It’s crucial to listen to what they want for their own personal and professional development and to try and make it happen within the company.

At the end of the day, it’s all down to your people believing your company’s story and making it their own. It will cost you time – a lot of it. But in return, you will receive loyalty, hard work and plenty of out-of-the-box thinking, leading to high-grade innovation. You will be challenged and you may even be daunted at times, but the rewards you and your startup will receive from empowering your employees are far greater than the effort you’ve invested.

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