3 Ways to Inspire People to Work for Equity

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

This is a guest post by my good friend and remote entrepreneur Austin Evarts of  Austin has traveled the world while building Twepto , creating an online course on passive revenue generation called The Remote Entrepreneur, all while getting featured on Tim Ferriss’s blog The Four Hour Work Week.

In the early stages of a startup you often need to pay people in equity rather than salary.  Not only is it cheaper while “bootstrapping”, but you want to be working with people who see the most value in being paid with equity.  These people truly believe in the project and are willing to sacrifice payment to see it succeed.

So the problem then becomes:  how do you keep people motivated? As “CEO”, “Chief Motivator”, “Lead Cheerleader” – whatever you want to call it – how do you keep people pushing when they are basically working for free?

I’ve learned (usually the hard way) a few tricks that I would like to share with you here.  Please note that I am not a programmer (although I’ve been learning).  My experience comes from building and motivating teams around concepts that came from my head.  In more cases than not, I am the “non-technical founder”.  So how can you motivate the masses without paying them cash?

1.  Be a Cheerleader
•    Remind people why this project is a “game changer”.
•    Remind people that when this works out, it will be far better than their day job (i.e. you can be making millions and working for yourself).  Be very clear with people upfront that if this project is to succeed, they will at some point be expected to quit their day job.
•    Share good news.  If you come across an interesting article on Mashable that shows a trend toward what you will be offering, share it with the team.  Articles like this are great kindling to fuel the fire.
•    Know the numbers and get good with statistics.  Send out regular (but not too regular that it is annoying) emails about the potential of the company: market size, potential revenues, etc.  These help to remind people what they are working toward.

As CEO/founder of a startup, motivation and guidance is your job.  Make it a point to cheer lead regularly.

2.  Know What you are Talking About
As the non-technical founder, you are in a unique and often difficult position.  Great programmers usually want to spend most of their time coding, meaning you should be spending your time on the business side of things – finding users, testing business models, etc.  You are essentially, “the business guy”.  The problem that many non-technical founders face is that a lot of programmers (at least the good ones) don’t want to the job of implementing the vision of a business guy.

The solution that I’ve found is to really know what you are talking about.  First off, you should definitely have a deep understanding of the problem that your startup is trying to solve.  The best startups begin by trying to solve a problem that the founders have.  Second, you should  be able to “talk the talk”.  Not knowing what your programmers are talking about creates an unhealthy distance between you and the people you are trying to motivate.  If you are constantly asking, “what does that mean?”, you slow progress down drastically.  If you want a general understanding of what your programmers might be talking about, W3 Schools is a good place to start.

A general desire to learn about the environment around you is an extremely valuable characteristic of an entrepreneur.  If your programmers are coding in PHP, you should probably know what an array is.  That doesn’t mean you need to know how to use one.  Just know enough to talk the talk.

3.  Make things Public
The last thing you need in a startup is a lack of communication.  If someone is slacking and missing deadlines, talk to them about it, find out what is up, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.  It is hard to to keep people accountable when you are not paying them.  Making their ineptitude public, however, is another story.  People are more motivated by the prospect of public failure than they are by the prospect of making millions.  Y Combinator actually uses this as a technique for motivating their startups.
Make sure that everyone on your team knows everyone else’s deadlines.  When missing a deadline means letting your friends down, it’s less likely to happen.

Photo credit: *Kicki*


What non-monetary techniques have you used for motivating your team members?

The Hangover, 2012 and the Virtue of Freedom

Monday, March 1st, 2010

The hangover

This is a guest post from a great friend of mine and the most talented writer I know, Kyle Rutty. You can get his take on relationships, Facebook stalking and the rest of his world views at his comedy blog

The movie Hangover was similar to my college experience: hazy, hung over, blurred, and a complete disregard for responsibility.  Now my out of college experience is a little different.  If I had to compare it to a recent movie, I would say it is similar to the movie 2012; a catastrophe that brings about absolute chaos in my life.

I say this because college was safe. Not physically safe, shots of tequila at 4am isn’t real safe, but mentally safe, because I did very little to expand my horizon as a person. If you asked me “Who I Am” in college my response would pay a lot of homage to my personality and little to do with goals, passions, and what I want out of my life.  Of course, ask me “Who I Am” on a Saturday night in college and I would probably given you a drunkenly profound response as I shove a burrito in my mouth and spout out Anchorman quotes. AKA: I had no idea who I was or what I wanted.

However, from the moment I grabbed that diploma and left the bubble I call college, I was forced to honestly face myself; the one person I was successfully able to avoid with booze, girls, midterms, and a “what are you doing tonight” text every two hours.  And with all the distractions removed from my life, what I found wasn’t pleasant. Now the easiest thing I could have done was just kept my safe job out of college, find more distractions, and live an uneventful and uninspired life.  Deep down I would have known I settled, I would have known that I could have been more, but as long as I had a bubble of distractions, I would have been just fine.

But I chose a different route, and in doing so, was forced confront those deep hidden insecurities that lay dormant within me for years and years. But when the layers began to fall away, so did the insecurities, and so did the desire to just “fit in,” or to meet everyone else’s expectations of who I should be.

And this led me to my passion– my answer to what I wanted most out of life.  Surprising enough, it wasn’t a really hot girlfriend or a million dollars; it was to reach people through writing. Suddenly I had a purpose, it all seemed so clear. In a crazy turn of events, I left my safe job in one of the economically worst situations we have seen in decades. But it was what I needed to do. It was what I had to do. I will never say it’s easy to do what your passionate about, because passion is synonymous with you — you meaning everything that encompasses yourself, not just the good stuff, but the bad stuff as well.

Am I doing what I want to do now? Yes!  Am I successful from a business standpoint? Not yet, but I don’t care, and that’s all that matters.  If you told my college self that he would want to be an aspiring writer at the age of 23, he would have laughed at you and then asked you if you wanted to take a shot with him.  But that’s the best part about my out of college experience. The fact that I was able to remove the fake insecure shell I carried for years and came to discover the real me, the one that is ultimately being true to himself and chasing what he wants most out of life.

Focus Your Life One Action at a Time

Thursday, February 25th, 2010


This post is part of the Blog Tour for Richard Dedor’s new book, Anything is Possible. Want to learn more about my friend Richard? Visit his blog, Finding Focus & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!   Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to check out our free giveaway opportunity.

It is often said that simple actions have a big impact. I believe it is true in all areas of life. For instance, instead of watching five hours to television during the week, workout for one of those hours and watch television at the same time. If you focus your energy on the right areas of your life, anything is possible.

In order for you to achieve your dreams, you have to take a step. You have to stumble. You have to fall. And you have to fail. But failures are opportunities for you to learn about yourself and help you get just a little bit closer to your dream.

Someday I want to be self-employed. I know what I want my company to look like in ten years. I have a plan. It is not set in stone but it’s a rudimentary playbook for me.

It wasn’t always that way for me. The problem was that after college I wasn’t focused on anything. I was simply collecting a paycheck and enjoying my newfound freedom. That changed when I was asked what I was doing to achieve my dreams. From that day in the fall of 2006 until now, I’ve spent nearly every day working towards my dream. Once I knew what it was I simply got started.

I have taken it one day at a time and here I am; I have my own company and I have a book out. There are still a lot of steps to be taken, but one action at a time.

So, what actions do I suggest for you to focus your life?

First, you must organize and figure out what you want out of life. Sometimes mind mapping can help or talking with your closest friends and allies to see where they see you. The key is finding your passion and living it.

Second, you need to continue to learn. The more you know and the more people you meet, the better your life is going to be.

Finally, you must have compassion. If you want to reach for the stars, you’re going to need some people on your team. Be compassionate to your team and welcome in new people. But also, be compassionate to yourself. Give yourself time to relax.

There is no greater joy in life than achieving something you set out to do. It all begins with a single step. Get going!

For an opportunity to win a copy of Richard’s book Anything is Possible retweet this post AND comment on this blog by telling us what is the most important action you can take right now!  The two best commenters will win a free copy of the new book…for real!

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