Friday, March 7, 2008

Introducing BossTard™

This post from startup founder Jason Calacanis is making the rounds of the internet. There's some general common sense in there, but most of the tips are about extracting the most possible butt-hours per week from each employee. Ther are a couple that drew special attention, though:

Don't buy a phone system. No one will use it. No one at Mahalo has a desk phone except the admin folks. Everyone else is on IRC, chat, and their cell phone. Everyone has a cell phone, folks would rather get calls on it, and 99% of communication is NOT on the phone. Savings? At least $500 a year per person... 50 people over three years? $75-100k

Hmm... does BossTard's company pay for the business calls employees are expected to use their cell phones for? Somehow I suspect not.

But the part that's attracted the most ire is #11: Fire people who are not workaholics. don't love their work... come on folks, this is startup life, it's not a game. don't work at a startup if you're not into it--go work at the post office or stabucks if you're not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

The strikethroughs are BossTard's, representing edits made after the flames started rolling in. Despite his statements to the contrary, I think the original is truer to the rest of the post and probably represents what he really thinks. The rest of the post is all about keeping employees parked in front of their computers for as many hours as possible. Fine. A lot of startups work that way. I prefer to avoid them, but I recognize that they exist and some people thrive in them. But next to his 17 points about how to keep as little average distance between butts and chairs is his Twitter widget:

What am I doing... Home with the family living a balanced life

Now, I'm sure that's a reaction to the criticism he's attracted and an attempt to distance himself from his original position. Still, I wonder just how many of's employees have been home with their families living a balanced life all evening. I suspect that a comparison of BossTard's average hours against his employees' would be rather telling.

Welcome to the Caseysphere, BossTard.

By the way, I've noticed that when I'm doing creative work I tend to get more done in the 15 minute walk to get coffee than in an hour at my desk.


Akubi said...

Actually, it sounds a lot like some places I've worked. Occasionally, I miss the expensive espresso machines, but it helped me recover from serious caffeine addiction.

Ogg the Caveman said...

I guess I shouldn't be bothered by this. The only unusual thing about Calacanis is that for a moment he told the truth ("we want to squeeze as many hours out of you as possible") rather than speaking in standard startup language ("we want people who are really passionate about their work").

I'm not bothered by the existence of startups either. They have their place. What bugs me is the extent to which startup culture has infected the software industry as a whole. The steady stream of kidz who are happy to work insane hours for mediocre or worse pay makes things that much harder on the rest of us.

*Everybody* who's ever looked seriously at the issue agrees that 40 or so hour work weeks yield the highest quality software and are cheaper in the long run. Yet 40 hour work weeks are nearly unheard of outside of government service. That's a good sign that we're valuing the wrong things.

In short, I don't have a problem with companies being run that way if they're in a dash to get something done before their funding runs out. I'll avoid working for them, but I don't mind if they do their thing. I just wish people like Calacanis would shut the fuck up and quit giving managers in stable companies the idea that they ought to work their employees the same way.

I also think that asking people to work long hours and then giving them the least productive work environment possible is wasteful in any company. But maybe that's why I'm not a successful web 2.0 entrepreneur.

Akubi said...

I agree and I'm glad you've noticed that sooner than me.
Instead, I had to get that 30's WTF have you done with your life red phone call.

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