Many start-up bosses don’t understand how the world works. How many? A LOT.
As a consultant, I see this all the time. Newly-minted CEOs (or their head of HR) will issue a tender or get in touch with a blurb about their business and what they need. Somewhere up near the top will be the desire for someone who is ‘passionate about our mission’, or words to that effect.
That is usually the point where the conversation ends for me. I could send an email back saying ‘I don’t give a damn about your mission’, but that would just be rude. I just spot the problem and move on. Anyway, I am very polite.
So, what is the problem?
I am sure that this says as much about me as it does about them. After all, it is great that a business owner is passionate about what they do. But expecting that of employees seems odd to me. To expect it of outside consultants or contractors just seems delusional. I’m certainly passionate about what I do, my ideas and my business.
Yes, I’ll think about ideas for your business in the bath or over dinner, but that will stop when the next client comes along and our contract is over. I won’t shed a tear when we part and my job is done. I find an enforced passion for the company to be slightly creepy, like an over-enthused greeter at the entrance of a toy store.
Can’t you even fake some passion for money?
Well, if I was desperate for a ‘proper job’ then maybe I could (and possibly even have in the distant past) fake some passion. But the last thing that a business needs from an ideas man or thinker, or even a creative employee, is a whole lot of yes.
It is my job to examine current thinking and sometimes tear it apart. I am saying ‘this is missing’ or suggesting improvements. I have to possess the gall to question the CEO’s very vision and push them on towards something better.
I do this well and, for this reason, get on very well with the most Alpha of alpha male bosses (females too, but the gruffest alphas tend to be male). The ones who are sure of themselves. They seem to enjoy this slightly odd guy with a whole load of ideas telling them off. I couldn’t do that with someone who expected me to show passion for their baby.
So, if you want passion, go to Tinder. If you want someone to say ‘yes’ to your ideas, buy a parrot. Just don’t confuse an enthusiasm for your business with an ability to make it better.