How To Inspire Your Startup Employees To Work Longer Hours

Talkeenta Coffee
A smile isn’t enough. Here are some ideas for inspiring your employees.

One of the challenges with a startup is getting a lot of work done without much cash.

For the founder, it’s difficult to inspire others to care about your baby as much as you do.

You’re investing all your effort into the project because you have belief in what you’re doing. But it’s difficult for others to feel the same passion. They might really care about the success of the venture, but it’s hard for them to care as much as you.

And they’re likely still in need of a paycheck. They need to pay the bills and take care of themselves and their families.

So how do you inspire your employees to work the necessary long hours when you can’t really give them money?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Find A Common Enemy

There is something about having an enemy that seems to unite a team. I think back to my days in high school when I played on the basketball team. There was always one team that would give us fits (Medford). They were good. We usually weren’t that good, but every year we brought something extra to the Medford game.

They were our common enemy. It seemed like everyone on the team was more focused, more in-step and always ready to go when we went there and when they came to play us. We didn’t always win, but my junior year we pulled off the upset and it was great.

There is even evidence that a common enemy can bring coherence to a team.

When you can’t pay your employees much right now, but still need them to work hard you can use this proven strategy to bring them together so everyone is on board with working hard.

Identify the enemy in your industry. Create a plan for “attacking” them. Communicate that plan to your team. Make sure everyone knows what their role is in the attack and then get started.

You might be surprised at how inspired everyone is to “beat” the enemy.

2. Create A Big Company Vision With Small Steps

One of the struggles with many companies, not just startups, is having a single vision. A vision gives everyone on the team something to work toward. When you know what the goal is it become easier to see what you’re working toward and from there you can work backward figuring out each step on how you can contribute to get there.

In general, people like to accomplish things. People are less likely to just work when they really don’t know what they’re working toward. Give them a vision and the lay out the small steps that they’ll contribute along the way.

And as you and the team work, celebrate and recognize the small steps. You don’t need to throw a party every time something is done, but acknowledge it. It’s like the thermometer that cities put up when they’re trying to raise funding for big projects. Every small step seems to make people respond more and more as you inch closer to the goal.

3. Tap Into Each Employee’s Ambition

Each one of your employees will show desire for your startup, but like you, they’re mostly out for themselves and their families. It’s not selfish. It’s the way the world works. We all seem to have evolved to make sure that we’re taken care of and we do what we need to in order for that to happen.

It’s a good thing and you can use it to your advantage as a startup founder.

This shouldn’t be too hard of a task especially if you only have a handful of employees. Sit down with each of them individually. Ask them what their ambitions are for their own future. Ask them what they would like to accomplish in the future. It might be difficult for them to give honest answers especially if they don’t see themselves working for you in the future.

Do all you can to get them to be honest. See if there are ways you can fulfill their ambitions by keeping them with your company. Change the work they’re doing now and create a plan for their future with your company in a way that satisfies the things they want to accomplish in their career.


All startups struggle with money and inspiration. It’s hard for people to work hard unless they’re being compensated, but all the money in the world might not make people happy.

We all have our own ambitions and desires. Use the steps above to inspire your employees to work hard on what you’re trying to accomplish with your company.

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