Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #103
The new episode of Web Masters is truly Rotten
Somehow I’ve managed to make it to Episode #75 of my podcast, Web Masters. To celebrate, I thought I’d try something a little different. Rather than just interview one founder, I pulled together all three founders of Rotten Tomatoes onto one call, and they share the story of building the most popular movie review website on the Internet.
If I’m being honest, having three interviewees instead of one is a lot more work, and I’m not convinced the payoff is really there in the end. But… well… it was worth a shot. Plus, it’s still a great story and an interesting episode. I just didn’t think it was necessarily better than episodes with a single guest. In other words, what I’m saying is I’m lazy, so don’t expect too many more episodes like this one… 😉
Also in this issue, I decided to expand on a topic I actually covered in last week’s Q&A. If you’ll recall, the question was about compensating your earliest investors. It’s such an interesting problem, and I got so many comments on it, I figured I’d pull together a more detailed article on the subject. Hopefully it’s helpful!
Your first investors are usually taking the biggest risks. Are you giving them the compensation they deserve?
You don’t have to be a movie buff to know about Rotten Tomatoes. Its unique scoring system has the ability to make or break even the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters. But that’s not why it was started.
To find out why three friends from college originally built Rotten Tomatoes, check out the 75th episode of Web Masters on:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
I constantly get entrepreneurs asking me to sign their NDAs, and it always makes me chuckle. Clearly, nobody has explained to them why it’s a bad idea. In this article, I give it a shot.
Office Hours Q&A
I currently help operate a small web design firm with three other principals. We’ve always operated evenly, with an even split of profits and a roughly even split of workload.
However, recently I’ve noticed I’ve been bringing in a lot more business than my colleagues while we’re all responsible for the same amount of support work in actually developing the projects. I’m wondering your thoughts on the best way to address this imbalance without creating a hostile work environment.
I don’t mind doing what’s best for the company, but I feel like my business partners have just started taking for granted that new work comes in without properly recognizing that I’m the person generating the new clients and that doing so takes a lot of my time.
How would you address this issue with your co-founders? Or, more generally, how have you dealt with co-founder issues without creating a hostile work environment?
First, everyone reading this needs to understand that founder conflict is inevitable. Any people who spend enough time with each other – particularly in high-stress, entrepreneurial work environments – are going to have disagreements from time to time, get angry/annoyed with each other, etcetera. I bring this up because you should know it’s OK to feel slighted by your co-founders. That’s normal. And it’s OK to bring these feelings up with your co-founders. Again, this is normal and an important component of having open communication channels. Speaking for myself, I’d much rather know when my business partners are annoyed with me versus having them silently brood until they get so mad that something bad happens.
Beyond the normalness of co-founder strife, what you’re describing is also just a normal part of life. We all live inside of our own heads 24/7, which means we see all the things we do in the world, but we don’t see everything the other people in our lives do. This makes all of us naturally prone to thinking we’re doing more work than other people.
An example of this phenomenon occurred for me this very morning as I write this response. I was eating some cereal when my wife, who’d just come downstairs, made a remark about how much of the “chores” she does around the house (to be fair, not entirely untrue). However, I felt insulted because I’d literally just finished the dishes a minute or two before she showed up. In her mind, I was sitting around, leisurely eating breakfast and looking at my phone all morning, but that was only because she hadn’t seen me doing the dishes for the 20 minutes before that.
The same thing could be – and likely is – happening in your company. You’re focused on all the customers you’re bringing in because that’s work you’re doing. I wonder if your co-founders are similarly feeling like they’re doing things you aren’t doing enough of.
The best way to find out is to ask! Have a conversation about what you’re feeling. Of course, don’t be accusatory. Don’t initiate the conversation by saying how much work you feel like you’re doing, and how you feel like nobody else is pulling their weight. Instead, mention you noticed all the new customers are coming from your efforts, emphasize that you don’t mind (assuming that really is the case), but point out that it’s taking extra time. Hopefully your willingness to start this conversation leads to a productive discussion about roles and responsibilities.
By the way, it sounds like your team needs to have a conversation about roles and responsibilities anyway. I point this out because you mention everyone having an “even split of workload.” I agree that everyone should have an even split. Or, more precisely, I think everyone should have a workload commensurate with their compensation. However, splitting work evenly doesn’t mean everyone is doing the same things.
Your team needs specialization. If you’re better at getting customers, great! Then you should be spending more time getting customers while your colleagues spend more time doing other things, like supporting those customers. This kind of division of labor is going to not only make your company more efficient, it’s also going to make it much easier for everyone on your team to work together.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!