Small Steps to a Happy Startup

By Kyle Pollock on November 30th, 2012 / Comments

Starting a business has often been called lonelyrisky, and even compared to eating glass. Although entrepreneurs go though many more struggles, the main reason to do startups, or any job is to be happy. Whether you set out to improve people’s lives or provide a value in some way for a return, you are ultimately on the pursuit of happiness. What brings you the most happiness when you’re working 17 hours a day, knowing your chances of failure are high at a startup?

Below are a few theories and examples from entrepreneurs, and authors that define our route to happiness.


The Path of an Entrepreneur

Young entrepreneurs dream of the moment they conquer their first great benchmark of success. If they have a vision for their market, then they are definitely envisioning themselves to reach their highest potential. However, it’s not when you hit a point of success you will gain the most happiness, but it is in fact with each step of the way. Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, says we gain more happiness from making progress towards our goals than what we gain from achieving them. In other words, it’s about the journey and not the destination. Tracking your progress can have a positive impact on your startup as well as your overall happiness. Tony Hsieh, CEO of and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purposegives employees small promotions every 6 months instead of one promotion after 18. Some employees also reach a pay raise by progressing through different skills sets similar to the merit badge system in Boy Scouts. Employees seem to be happier with a sense of control of their pay and progress. The lesson is to be more aware of your progress. Focusing on smaller steps may not only be easier, but acknowledging forward progress can improve happiness and morale of a startup team.

happy startups

A Higher Purpose

Giving your startup a global commitment may seem like too much when trying to focus on more immediate issues to survive. However, being a part of something greater than yourself and your business, gives a stronger sense of worth and community. Serving a higher purpose that aligns with your startup’s commitments could also help you tell your story and improve the company brand. Tom’s Shoes is well known for its “One for One” exchange. When a customer makes a purchase, a separate pair of new shoes will also be donated to a child in need. Zappos offers amazing customer service and has developed a company culture that employees love. Tony’s book, Delivering Happiness has evolved into a separate company and is helping spread the happiness that began at Zappos. Having a greater purpose, particularly one that addresses a social issue can help you make your brand emotional.


Principles to Keep

In many ways principles will be determined by a company’s purpose, but values begin with the founder(s) and help establish culture. When it comes to happiness at work, culture is everything. Dennis Bakke, president and CEO of Imagine Schools and author of Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job, believes values and principles themselves are timeless. Our understanding of values may change over time, but the principles themselves never do. Although principles may be different for each company, making them clear and implementing them is important to support the culture.

Think about what you can do to track and acknowledge progress, commit to a greater cause or establish clear principles to follow. A happier startup team means a happier product or service for your customers.

Image via Tom’s Shoes and Zappos.

About the Author

Kyle Pollock

Formerly with Booklify, he is a freelance writer, web designer, and enjoys different cultures. He sports Vibram FiveFingers on his runs and is a big fan of Michigan family owned businesses. He is an MSU graduate with a degree in Professional Writing.