The stereotypical startup dream hire is a 20-something with as little life as possible outside of computers. The one that’ll be happy working 14-hour crunch days for weeks on end sprinting for an ever-shifting target that keeps being 90% done for 90% of the time. The one you can make sleep under the table or please with a foosball table in the center of the room. The one where the company paying for dinner pizza is “awesome”.
I should know. I used to be that gullible and even take an odd pride in being up to the job. But it didn’t take long to catch on to the idea that packing a room full of these people was merely a crutch for shoddy management, lousy execution, and myths like “this is the only way we can compete against the big guys”. And you certainly need the latter if you’re trying to give turds wings, but how about just not trying to make crap fly in the first place?
That’s why I like working with the family man or woman. They come in as a cold bath of reality. When people have other obligations outside of work that they actually care more about than your probably-not-so-world-changing idea, the crutches are not available as an easy way out, and you’ll have to walk by the power of your good ideas and execution or you’ll fall fast and early. That’s a good thing!
From the experience I’ve had working with family people, I’ve found an amazing ability to get stuff done when the objectives are reasonably clear, the work appears to have meaning, and if it can be done within the scope of what should constitute a work week. When there are real constraints on your time, like you have to pickup the kids or make them dinner or put them to bed, it appears to bring a serenity of focus to the specific hours dedicated to work.
This is what companies need, startups or not. They need constraints and especially constraints on how often you can play the hero card to Get This Very Important Project Done. Most projects are just not that important and most things just shouldn’t be done anyway, despite how good of an idea you feel it is in the heat of the moment.
Update: Removed potential confusion around labor discrimination.