24 July 2012

Social Business Capital and the Start-up Employee

As someone who has migrated from large enterprise jobs, early stage start-ups and agencies (and back again) I get asked quite frequently for advice from folks who are moving into a start-up role for the first time.

Most of the folks who ask me for this sort of advice are taking management jobs at these start-ups.

Given the commonality of these requests for advice, I thought I would try and sum up my primary piece of advice and share it with the world. So without further ado...

My Theory of Social Business Capital and the Start-up Employee

Each employee of a start-up has a perceived value by the aggregate culture of the business (social value).
This perceived value changes over time based upon the employee's actions within the social context of the business.
As a new manager, your goal should be to quickly get the perceived value above 0 and keep it above 0. (aka neutral).

This perceived value can be described as "Social Business Capital" in the sense that it is a type of (earned, expendable and investable) capital that is derived from the Social Business.

Within the usual baseline start-up culture, this Social Business Capital is derived by a combination of various behaviors, norms and attributes and actions - but the single most powerful scoring element is Getting Shit Done.

As a new manager for a start-up, you should assume that you come into the business with a Social Business Capital score that is actually below 0. This is not only a safe and smart bet to make, it's likely true (start-ups tend to be highly skeptical of new managers' value).

So when coming into the business as a new manager, your immediate short term goal needs to be getting this score above 0. And the best way to do this is to Get Shit Done.

Now, and here is where the Social Business Capital idea should become more clear, there are a lot of things that you (as a manager) can and in fact often have to do that are counter to Getting Shit Done for everyone around you. And anything you do that results not only in you getting less shit done - but causes others to get less shit done is going to decrease your Social Business Capital score.

The obvious example is multi-person informational meetings. These only provide value to you at this point, and decrease the velocity and effectiveness of all you pull into a meeting. There are millions of other examples, but I'll assume you can figure these out easily enough. Basically, anything that is counter to Getting Shit Done will cost you Social Business Capital.

So, as a new manager - what you need to do is spend a period of time getting as much shit done as you possibly can - while doing as little as you can to slow other people down and negatively impact their ability to get shit done.

This will result in your Social Business Capital increasing over time.

Once your Social Business Capital has become net positive, you can start making conscious decisions to expend this capital on things like meetings, requests that others do stuff for you or that makes your job easier, etc. But keep in mind that each expense of Social Business Capital will need to be offset by your earning replacement capital.

Finally, the biggest bump in Social Business Capital will always come from you doing things that result in multiple other employees getting more Shit Done. In other words, as new manager, you need to look for opportunities to make things easier for a larger number of co-workers through your own actions.

Good luck and remember... Decisions Rock; Meetings Suck.


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