Entrepreneurship is a game of ups and downs, so enjoy the moments when you accomplish something great. Jack Welch noted in his book Winning that teams do not celebrate enough. It is an important point for entrepreneurs. When you run a growing business your team gives blood, sweat and tears to meet each milestone. So celebrate when you hit them. Have fun. Build camaraderie. Create a team that knows they are in this together and are fighting for a reason. I’m always frugal with investor money and am not encouraging frivolous behavior. But the spirit of celebrating an accomplishment is more important than the venue or the budget. A few dollars go a long way when you are excited about launching a product or landing a big account. Here are a few thoughts about how to use celebrations to increase both happiness and performance.
Make your goals clear, measurable, and visible to the whole team. Critical milestones should be visible to your team every day they come to the office, either in a software tool or on a big whiteboard (for a tech geek I still love a few old fashioned management tools). Goals should also be precise and easy to measure. When a football team walks off the field they always know if they won the game, no exceptions. Your goals should be the same way. Measure them by exact product releases, user metrics, revenue targets, or business development deals (deals must be signed contracts, not “discussions” or anything fuzzy). Having a scoreboard with real-time metrics can help you focus on your company’s key performance indicators. Then celebrate when everybody executes and you reach a milestone.
Have a healthy mix of short-term and long-term goals. It is helpful to keep spirits up by having incremental milestones that are followed by quick celebrations. But nothing is more satisfying that reaching a goal you have been working on for months. “Long-term planning” can be an evil term in startups because you need to iterate and adapt over time. However, it’s still important to have a vision for the company and everybody should understand that vision. Carving out milestones over various time frames and planning celebrations when each one is accomplished is a healthy process to go through.
Suck it up and celebrate during work hours. You put in long hours, work weekends, and sleep is a novelty. Your team does the same. Once in awhile it’s alright to get out early, celebrate and simply have a good time. Throwing a celebration at night means forcing your employees to choose between your celebration and something else in their personal lives (especially those with families). It’s fun to have an evening holiday party or take your team out after work. But I believe in celebrating milestones during typical work hours. This way it’s truly a special event and everyone can attend without sacrifice. Productivity that day might decrease, but your results overall will be ten times greater when you have happy employees.
Do not underestimate the power of celebrating your successes. Break up the intense work once in awhile and show your team that you appreciate them. Running a business (or any organization) is about getting a team to work together in pursuit of the same goals. So set clear milestones that everyone understands, measure progress constantly, and energetically reward your team when they succeed.