Just as h2g2 offers rules for surviving in the often hostile, sometimes humorous realm of outer space, so Robbie Stamp, CEO of the Digital Village, offers rules for creating a company that lets people survive in the often harried, sometimes heroic realm of work.
1. Never tolerate bullying behavior.
The worst form of bullying comes when people in power make unreasonable requests of people who have no choice but to say yes.
2. Don't just give people a chance to speak - let them know they are being heard.
In a startup, you can't always show people how much they mean to you - but you can listen to them. Tell people, "I've heard that and there is something I can do." Or, "I've heard that, and there is nothing I can do now." Either way, you're showing people that they matter.
3. Nix the "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions" mentality.
A business has to know what its problems are. People basically like me, so they hesitate to bring me bad news. With Starship Titanic, for example, no one wanted to tell me that we weren't going to make our ship dates. I failed to provide the right context for telling the truth.
4. Hire people who are like your customers, rather than just like you.
At TDV, we want to hire nurses, teachers, teens. Drawing on a wide range of backgrounds makes us more creative.
5. Everyone speaks three languages - that of speech, that of silence, and that of the body.
The last one is the toughest to fake. If you really want to know what people are saying to you, study their body language.
6. Teach people about the business, so that they can fall in love with it.
If you hire bright people, you don't want to demotivate them. If they understand how the system works, if they know the basics of management, they can tell you what they need to do their very best work.
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.