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Which Startups Will Make It?

Startup companies are scaling up very fast nowadays, and in many ways that has shifted the core value of the company from focusing on technology, to focusing on people. Everyone is talking about how people are a company’s greatest asset, and this has thrown HR leaders directly into the spotlight.

Smart leaders are talking about the importance of maintaining a strong corporate culture, based on a specific set of values. But nobody is talking about the elephant in the room yet — how an eruption of the human ego can cost a company everything. I’ve been around startups long enough to know that when the founders start hating each other, when the internal politics consume everything — it is only a matter of time until the company closes its doors and sends everyone home.

There is actually only one entrepreneur talking about the cancer of the human ego and that is VaynerX Chairman and VaynerMedia CEO, Gary Vaynerchuk. GaryVee has been talking a lot lately about why you may have to fire your most talented employee:

“When I hire people, I look for “people skills” far, far more than I look for talent. To me, this notion that some employee is so special or so talented that they’re allowed to be jerks to everybody else is the most ridiculous idea. Doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest salesperson or the best creative genius of all time — I’m still more interested in how you treat others first.”

I have to admit I thought he was just a blabbermouth until I noticed that he had hired a Chief Heart Officer, Claude Silver, and that he considered her to be the 2nd most important person in the company — that’s pretty breakthrough stuff right there. I know he’s a hustler and social media icon, but the fact that he places so much importance on how people treat each other is very interesting. Positive human relations are the key to our sustainable future and not many people get that.

But here is what GaryVee doesn’t get yet: Let’s say you fired that jerk and everyone is breathing a bit easier around the office. How much time do you think it will take for the next jerk on the team to appear? A week? A month? The human ego is growing so much nowadays that people are finding it hard to reign in their emotions. People don’t understand what to do with all that excess energy.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Albert Einstein

GaryVee is talking about the importance of emotional intelligence, but how do we leverage that in a world where human emotion is expanding all the time? How do we convert the negative aspects of human nature to positive, in a way that benefits the whole? How can you improve your corporate culture if you are attempting to improve it at the same level as the human ego? Nowadays, in order to get significant results, we need a method for rising slightly above the human ego.

The following are some tips for startups and forward-thinking leaders like GaryVee who are truly concerned with building sustainable human organizations that will last forever:

#1 Understand the human ego

We like to think we are nice people but there are many scientific studies proving how given the same conditions, people will always behave the same. Humans derive pleasure from feeling superior to others — that is how we are designed. We have been trained from birth to be competitive in everything we do, but that is no longer sustainable now that our world is so inter-connected. In the new global stage of our existence that we are already in, we need to learn to advance harmoniously together. So our ego will have to learn some new tricks, or it will have to be “tricked” into behaving differently. One way or another we will eventually get that we have to be good to the people around us.

#2 Invest in enhancing human connections

As I mentioned at the beginning, the human ego is peaking in our time. We live in a society that rewards standing out and being the best you can be. But we are beginning to understand that this is not leading us to a good place. We are now entering a new stage where we must constantly work against the negative force of the ego that is erupting in our time. We must nurture human connections in the family, in educational institutions, and in the corporate world. Startups of all sizes are having problems getting products completed and meeting deadlines simply because people in the company can’t get along.

#3 Your environment is everything

I love the way GaryVee says he’s building a dictatorship around culture. Nowadays, you really have to be that vigilant to keep your environment positive, and advancing in the direction you want. It really is enough for one person to bring some “virus” (different set of values) in from outside and “infect” everyone in the company. So you want to constantly promote the importance of your specific set of values. Your team members agree to be “brainwashed” this way because they understand that ultimately, what you are doing is beneficial for all. They may not agree with a certain decision at times. That can be discussed openly and in a way that furthers the company’s defined goals. But they all need to be fully on board and know that if they don’t like this dictatorship, they need to find another one to belong to.

#4 Focus on team performance

Individual performance reviews may bring out the worst in everyone. They may be increasing competitiveness and generating a great deal of unnecessary tension. I believe that in the near future we will transition to only rewarding team accomplishments, and/or providing the greatest rewards for team collaboration.

#5 Connect global teams

Successful startups have offices around the world and it’s so easy to get disconnected with all the distractions we have today. There are so many existing opportunities to connect and sync global teams, which would do wonders for overcoming existing barriers (language, culture, mentality,etc.) This requires a combination of special tech, and a special method that I will talk about in the 2nd part of this series.


Please note:

I chose this title after noticing that my post from 2014, Which Entrepreneurs Will Make It? was my most successful post ever ….

Just want to clarify that I am not an HR professional – I am a human connection professional – this is a new sector that will take off like crazy soon.

Also want to clarify what I think about Gary Vaynerchuk and the whole VaynerMedia & GaryVee team: I used to think he was a self-centered jerk who liked hearing himself talk. But when I actually started listening to him, I realized that he is inspiring and helping a lot of people – really lifting them up, which is super-cool. How is that for a lesson in empathy? Then he came out with his Empathy Wines brand …. well, forget about it. What a genius move to get everyone thinking about EMPATHY. What could be more important nowadays?

Hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment below to tell me what you think.

  • My 2nd article in this series will present a special method for enhancing human connections.
  • My 3rd article in this series will demonstrate how your marketing communications plays a great role in this important transition that every startup in the world must go through.