What Do Replacement Referees Have to Do with Expansion-Stage Companies?
Even if you are not an avid football fan, chances are you heard about the tumultuous beginning to the 2012-2013 NFL season. Regardless of your allegiance to a particular team, you may have found yourself scraping your jaw off the floor during the Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers game on September 24th. A few bad calls resulted in utter pandemonium and a call to action for the league to get the official refs back on the field.
How can this unfortunate three-week debauchery relate to expansion-stage companies and start-ups?
You can’t be greedy: The whole replacement referee scenario originated from the referees wanting a pension freeze and 401(k) match. Most of these referees hold a second job and the league deemed it unrealistic to be asking for more on top of the pay increase. Seems slightly greedy to me. Now if I (or any other employee of my firm) went in to work and told my boss I needed better benefits and overall compensation because the firm was making a ton of money, I think I would be told to take a hike.
In working with expansion stage companies, and start-ups especially, you cannot be greedy. You have to go to work each day believing that you are adding to the company’s value and that you are one of the few lucky ones to have the chance to stand on the field while helping the company succeed. When it starts being solely about the money you lose your passion.
Someone is always willing to do the work. So the NFL referees are in a lockout? Who else can we call? Mind you, I wish it wasn’t the same referees that officiated the Lingerie Bowl, but still, this is a lesson that business waits for no one. There was a job to be done and someone was willing to swoop in and do it. This is true across the board — there is always, always, always a replacement. So do not expect your company to role out the red carpet while you list off your demands. You — as well as the NFL referees — are at-will employees, meaning if you don’t like something you are free to go. Just don’t expect your company to come running after you.
Well, the refs walked out, the league brought in replacements who weren’t up to snuff, and low and behold things got fouled up. Whose fault was that? This one I throw back on the NFL. There are no excuses for not being prepared, and there should always be a contingency plan so you are not scrambling at the last minute to find talent. Always keep the pipeline going even if you are not hiring. In an expansion-stage company you need to be prepared for any situation, including when an employee comes in and rattles off an unrealistic list of demands and walks out. You always need a good backup plan.
So while you may have been throwing things at your flat screen these past few weeks, and cursing about how your 91 year-old grandma could do a better job officiating, keep in mind there are some good business takeaways, and pray that Roger Goodell is never your boss.