Startups are like a sports team

In team sports that really succeed, there often is a lot of warmth between the players. And so it’s emphasizing those aspects, and demonstrating that when people come in, everyone tries to help them.

But ultimately, it is about performance, unlike a family, which is really about unconditional love. Even if your brother does something awful and goes to jail, your love doesn’t stop. And that’s just a different and important part of society, but that’s not what we’re about. What we’re about is collectively changing the world in the areas of Internet television, and that takes incredible performance at every level. We’re also about really honest feedback all the time, so you can learn and be the the best that you can be.

  • Reid Hastings, Masters of Scale

Over the last few years, I’ve listened to countless people suggesting that their organization or group was like a “family”. Take a second and think about what does that even means. How are a group of individuals focused on one task a family? After all, I don’t think anyone would just get up one day and look at their sibling and tell them, “tough news - I’m going through a rough patch, and I had to make the tough call of letting you go.”

Then while listening to Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman, I came accross this gem from Netflix’s founder Reid Hastings. He compared Netflix to a sports team. Every individual has a purpose. And sometimes, it’s not about performance, its just about strategy. I don’t recall anything else from that podcast, but this stuck. It felt real. It felt like how employers and employees should view their organization.

Like a sports team, no one complains when things get done. No one asks the Golden State Warriors whether they’ve been practicing lately. As long as they’re winning, they’re doing their jobs. Now, when things start shifting the other way and losses become more frequent then some person or group of people face the consequences.

Similarly, I believe that in a successful startup (or for that matter any organization), every individual should have the autonomy to steer themselves the way they wish. After all, if the results are being put forth in a timely manner, then does the rest really matter?

Most importantly, the best sports teams are built with an entire squad. Even the bench matters as much as the starting line up. There needs to be a sense of cohesion, pride, care, responsibility, and most of all every individual needs to strive towards the same goal. Winning.