Start Up Blog

Open pay display

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 2, 2011

I think companies should have everyone’s pay on display. A publicly available intranet site in alphabetical order with every employees name, salary and benefits next to it. Ok, so this is a bit of a shift from the secret salary world we currently live in. It might even cause a little bit of a distraction in the short term. But one thing is for sure, it will move our society to a far more accountable culture than we currently have.

Let’s consider for a moment the type of behaviour this is likely stimulate:

  • “I work harder than Joey, and he earns $20,000 more!”
  • “I want a pay rise”
  • “Holy shit, I better start working harder, I’ve been found out.”
  • “I wont get a pay rise in years”
  • “She doesn’t deserve that”
  • “Why do sales people earn so much?”
  • “Our company is a rip off, they don’t pay well”
  • “I can’t believe how little Mary earns, she’s a gun”
  • “I’m gonna work my ass off to get that job – I never knew I could earn that much!”

I really believe the initial chaos would lead to a better and more transparent workplace. One where everyone understands their role, impact and the investment the company makes in its people.

In my next startup, this will be policy number one. Total transparency in all financial documents, including salaries.

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Irreplaceable & the inconvenience scale

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 10, 2011

We all want to be irreplaceable. In an organisational context we worry about how needed we really are. It’s an omnipresent reality in a world of agricultural mastery and excess capacity. This is true for white collar desk jockeys, CEO’s and entrepreneurs alike. The more they need us, the safer and happier we feel. The truth is that everyone of us is replaceable. Even Steve Jobs. And the ultimate proof of this is human death. It happens, and we continue on with whatever it was we were doing.

I heard a good way to conceptualize on how ‘replaceable’ we are recently. The idea is that all of us can be replaced, and that the key question was how ‘inconvenient’ our loss would be to the cohort we belonged to. Where are we on the ‘inconvenience scale’ if we need to be replaced?Are we very high like Steve Jobs, or are we very low like a supermarket cashier? The more inconvenient it is, the more utility we are providing. It’s also quite likely that we have greater power of choice in actually placing ourselves elsewhere. One mistake we often make is equating how much we earn, with where we sit on this scale. Higher pay does not necessarily make us less replaceable, it often means the opposite. The real questions in understanding where we are on the scale are these:

  • How important is what I do to the people who pay me to do it?
  • Will the people who pay me lose money (or systems break) if I’m no longer there to do it?
  • How many other people can do what I do?
  • Will the other people who can do it, do it for the same price or a lower price than me?
  • Are these others easy to get?

If we answer these questions honestly we can get a fair assessment of the value we are creating, for our own business or one we work for. Everything we do in a given week doesn’t have to matter. It may just be that thing you do for 1 hour per week that no one else can. And the thing that we should be working on, is that one thing that only we can do. The stuff we are already great at, not our weaknesses. If we invest time working our our weaknesses, we simply make ourselves ‘more average’ and in turn we fall down the inconvenience scale.

The best way to be be high in the ‘inconvenience scale’ is to become a close to the money expert. By doing this, our potential loss becomes far more inconvenient.

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What drives people

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 3, 2011

I had an interesting discussion with a child psychologist yesterday. He was telling me that one theory says there are three main motivators for all human behaviour. I am sure there are a zillion counter theories, but I really think this can be useful for anyone working in the ‘influence’ arena.

The three motivators are based around the desire for:

Power

Inclusion

Achievement

The theory states that 2 of the 3 will be very important to us, while 1 of them will be very low on impacting our behaviour. It also says that this operates at a very deep subconscious level. Without knowing too much about, I already think I could pick what motivates many people I deal with in business. It might also be worth thinking about next time you’re negotiating something or working on a project with others.

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The tale of two offices

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 3, 2010

I once worked in a consumer goods company which went from Individual offices to open plan.

I now work in an advertising agency where we have moved from individual offices to open desks.

What happened at these two firms is interesting. The first office (consumer goods marketing) sent out a mass email banning iPods (and any other brand of personal music device – this is seriously what the email said). Claiming that the idea of open plan was to encourage open communications, and it was rude to listen to music while working. That we couldn’t do our jobs while listening to music as it was distracting. While at the same time the directors had offices with doors.

The second office (advertising) did something much different. Firstly, all the directors have the same size desk and space as every employee. On our first day in the new office we all had a gift on our desk wrapped beautifully with a ribbon. Inside the pack was free coffee vouchers (for the cafe across the road) and a brand new iPod nano. And it had a note which said the following:

“The iPod nano – this is good for a few things. Moving to open will at times be challenging. If you feel it is getting on top of you, then feel free to bung in your iPod and listen to your favourite tunes. We’re also into the idea that we can all play part in creating our new vibe. So we’ll be asking you to supply the music each day. We’ll place a sign at the reception that says “Today’s music thanks to Ant Shannon.” Please make your playlist and get it on the dock. The iPods you’ve received also take video – get in the habit of recording the stuff you like or think about. Keep it, play it, share it.”


A massive difference in attitude, culture and resulting creative output. The culture we create in our startup or any business is a result of what we do, and we can change it at any time with a bit of effort and humanity.

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Don’t be boring

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 17, 2010

It’s not a boring category, industry, startup or company. You’re a boring brand run by boring people.

Exciting is a state of mind, if we have the courage to create, upset or even offend, then we can change our brand or industry forever. In fact, it might even be worth going broke or getting fired for.

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Everyone cares

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 24, 2010

How to make a Hungry Jacks (Burger King) Whopper:

  1. Take the top of the bun and swipe mayonnaise across it twice starting in the middle of the bun and swiping out ways
  2. Sprinkle lettuce onto mayo base just enough so the white of the mayo shows through the lettuce.
  3. Add two slices of tomato on top of the lettuce at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock.
  4. Put the meat patty into the base of the bun.
  5. Spread 4 pickles in a dice configuration while using the squeeze ketchup bottle in opposite hand to spread the pickles.
  6. Squirt 3.5 circles of ketchup on the beef patty starting at the outside of the circumference.
  7. Lightly sprinkle onion onto the ketchup at 50% of the thickness of the lettuce.
  8. Place both thumbs onto the tomatoes of the bun top and flip onto the base.

Serve hot!

The reason I’m sharing this with you is, that I learned how to make a whopper over 20 years ago, at a wage of $3.00 per hour and I still remember exactly how to make it. It was and probably still is, the lowest paid job available in the economy.

And yet a business colleague recently told me his his employees didn’t care about their job or the brand of his company because they were Uni students, and part time workers. What a crock. I took particular pride in making fast, well formed whoppers. Even thought it was a menial wage. At the time I was in year 9 at school and had zero intention of going to University or finishing school for that matter, yet I still cared. I cared because I had good managers, encouragement and there was a culture of doing your best, maybe even a little healthy competition to make the fastest and best burgers. It’s my strong belief that the vast majority of people take pride in what they do, no matter how menial it happens to be. So when I hear people saying their employees don’t care about their job, because it is part time, or low paid, I tell them this story. The story that all people no matter what they do have pride in their job, so long as one ingredient is in place:

They know we value what they do, and we treat all employee efforts with respect, regardless of where they stand in the hierarchy.

Startup Blog says: Employees will respond to how we treat them. We must respect them in the first instance. When we do this and we’ll get results reflective of human nature, not the hourly pay rate.

Economic irrationalist

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 16, 2010

Lately I’ve been making a few decisions which are economically irrational. Making decisions which are, on the face of it, financially inept.

For example, I starting to feel a sense of loyalty to my chief technology officer for rentoid.com

He’s not the cheapest and he’s not the best. Probably somewhere in the middle for both. I could probably get someone cheaper with similar skills, or better for the same price. But I don’t. In fact I tell him that I’m loyal to him. A large part of why I want  to succeed so that he can succeed also, to share it with him. Even though he has not risked the capital, or the time that I have on the project.

Why would I act this way. Well I like working with him. He’s a nice guy, and sometimes that’s enough.

I guess you could call me an Economic Irrrationalist. And it just feels right.

Startups & husband / wife teams

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 9, 2009

Is a husband and wife team good for a startup? Start up blog can’t answer that question. Theres enough examples of both faliure and success with such teams that I think it ‘depends’.

What startup blog can say is this:

In this situation there are really 2 startups.

  1. the marriage (already hard enough)
  2. the startup (also quite difficult)

I think the first startup should be the priority, if that rolls well maybe can engage on startup number two.

lois-and-peter

If startup number one suffers because of startup number two. Then startup number two should be exited, to refocus on startup number one. It’s a matter of priority and no amount of business success can replace a miserable existence at home and in personal relationships.

Startup School just got better

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 16, 2009

For those of my blog readers already locked and loaded for startup schoolGood News.

For those thinking about coming long – Another great reason to join us.

The uber terrific Yvonne Adele from at Ideas Culture has just joined us for the 2 events. She will be facilitating and helping us out through the two days. But don’t think she’ll just be giving the intro’s and outro’s – she’ll be giving us her spin on creativity and ideas, as well as getting us pumped up, motivated and thinking. Which will also blow our minds!

Picture 106

For those who don’t know, Yvonne’s business was recently featured in Springwise and has a list of credentials and testimonials as long as both my arms.

So, if you’ve been on the edge of booking startup school. Time to get moving. The Melbourne event is about to close the door with only a couple of seats left. And Sydney is filling quickly.

Feel free to contact me if you have any queries and want to chat in more detail about it on 0438 779566. Steve.

the 5% rule

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 2, 2009

5% of our customers wont pay on time

5% of our customers wont pay at all

5% of our employees wont deliver what they are paid to

5% of our employees will steal and or damage company property

5% of business partners will break contracts and even worse, not keep their word

5% the people we meet will be genuinly dishonest and painful to deal with

It’s the 5% rule. In fact quite often business discussion are too often focused on the 5% of times the business model will break down and we will get cheated in some way. The amount of strategy, board room and agency discussions I’ve had about the 5% of people who make business models and ideas imperfect are countless. The point for startups, no less any business, is to accept the fact that all models have gaps. And more often than not these gaps the doing of the 5% rule.

the 5% rule

The problems with trying to remove the 5% is that we build gates and protections which often stuff up the 95% which is working. We create unnecessary friction. What we are better off doing is thinking about the problem like water evaporation. It’s going to happening, no matter what we try. But we must remember that the very large majority of people are good.

My advice is simple. Know that it exists, and forge ahead anyway.

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