The Secret Sauce in a Start Up – Passion

11 Jan

One of the first things i did this year was join an aerobics class (yeah yeah, part of new year’s resolution – maybe soon to be broken! fingers crossed). I’ve been going to it for 6 days exactly (most days i am compelled to just hang my tongue out with fiercely pounding heart while the rest of the class is fiercely pounding away at the steppers!). But one thing that stands out as i look at Sapna, Nilima, Sujata, Katja, Niki, Monica, Gowra et al – all 12 of them – is – passion! This is a set of ladies more or less my age – doing very different things in life. The one thing that unites them is extreme dedication to their cause of fitness – they run through a steps of (to me) excruciating exercises every morning and do it really really passionately – u can see their “almost addiction” to the cause – they smile and LOVE the thrill of the challenges that the instructor sets them. The instructor Nirupama is another one who exemplifies passion – she actually makes notes on the routines she will carry out for the class that day – so its all planned….now me, in my ignorance somehow never ever imagined that one wd put in so much thought effort and dedication to what after all is a fitness class. Well, i was wrong, and how!

The analogy i could draw to my previous life really came through in a panel discussion i had spoken at a few weeks ago. My co panelists were Pramod Bhasin, the almost legendary founder & ex Chairman and CEO of Genpact, ex chairman of NASSCOM and a host of other bodies; and Gerard Rego, head of Ecosystem & Developer Experience at Nokia India and ex entrepreneur. The topic was innovation, and amongst various allied topics and discussions the one thread that came up again and again was exactly this – “passion”.
Asked repeatedly about – how did these people recruit/ what made them spot star performers/ did they prefer aptitude, skill or attitude etc etc — they just kept saying – its passion, and hunger that separates the rockstars from the “also-rans”. It was eerie almost – coz a long time ago in an interview, i’d said almost the same words about new recruits needing that special “glint in the eye”.

It’s true really, as most of us having started up and run companies (or for that matter even having been in sr. exec leadership positions) know – its ALL about the people. Most often, while you have a vision and a plan for your start-up, what you have most of all is determination – and its the same determination/ passion/ HUNGER that you look to build in your ecosystem – whether employess (when you can afford them), or partners. After all, it is impossible to have all skills necessary – and, more at a start-up than at others, you do need to exhibit multiple skills/ wear many different hats – from business development to technologist to people manager to cost accountant…yes, even the janitor! So, what helps you survive – its just the “can do” – the “i don’t know it, but i can for sure figure it out”, and also “i’d LOVE to figure it out”! attitude…

And this is what you need in your recruits — most employees join a start-up because they are tired of living structured lives in traditional organizations, and also because they want to have a chance at making extra-ordinary money with large amounts of work. This implies by default that there IS no definition of your work – you have to stand up, see possibilities and take on the onus to EXECUTE, you have to display “ownership” of your start-up — this comes only with passion and hunger and drive and commitment and LOTS of blood, sweat, toil and tears!

I think therefore that this is a personality type – its not qualities you see in everybody — but those who have it thrive on it – and just have enormous loads of fun. As i would repeatedly tell young analysts at my start up – yes, i know the work is hard; yes i know you havnt slept much in the last 48 hours; yes, i know the client is being unreasonable….but, a) you signed up for it and b) ask yourself – are you having FUN? That’s what it is all about — be passionate and have fun!

So, my biggest advice to folks wanting to start up companies is, do stuff you are passionate about, and more importantly, recruit people with passion! As an old professor once told me – “anything worth doing, is worth doing well!” …..Now, i only wish i can teach this lesson to my kids! sigh….

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6 Responses to “The Secret Sauce in a Start Up – Passion”

  1. Mayank January 11, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Loved it…

  2. Avinash January 11, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Very nice!

  3. shilpanangali January 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing to make it last.

    • joshsang January 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      tx all. agree completely shilpa.

  4. aditya gupta January 16, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    The bigger problem is not the absence of P but the things we get passionate about . The end result, the higher order objectives are often ignored and replaced with departmental objectives.
    The big picture slips thru the cracks, the individual is convinced about having played a great innings but the team loses.
    Over time the same passion converts to passivity.
    Adi

    • joshsang January 16, 2013 at 5:13 am #

      Agree Adi. THe point is, one juggles “what you’re passionate about” with “what you have to do”…the former actually makes the latter easier to do. Hence, doesnt matter where your passion lies in the pecking order, just go ahead and fulfil it – do NOT let it slide into passivity (you’re still playing bridge aren’t you? :).

      Btw, the newest post on making money – has an “honorable mention” for you (dont know if u read it 🙂

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