What Do You Do When You’re Not Working?
Not too long ago, a CEO (of a company we are not invested in) said to me, “I knew Jim was the perfect guy to be my CFO when he told me he had absolutely no hobbies outside of work.”
I stewed on that comment for a while, before coming to two separate conclusions. The first was that Jim is probably not going to be a successful member of the management team. The second was that I probably would not want to invest in the CEO.
Building a team is so important for early stage companies. Success or failure often depends on how management interacts with one another, and how they lead the rest of the growing employee base. They must be able to communicate with their colleagues, and relate to them both professionally and personally. I have found it remarkably difficult to connect with someone who can only talk about work (or only wants to).
Most of the successful entrepreneurs that I have worked with have something, other than their the company, that they are passionate about. Whether it is something as intense as flying planes or racing cars (remarkably popular pastimes for risk tolerant founders) or something as routine as collecting wine, early stage entrepreneurs almost always need outlets for their passion. It is usually why they have started a company in the first place.
If people don’t have outlets for their passion, then they probably don’t need outlets. If they don’t need outlets, then they probably aren’t wired for the start-up environment . If they are not wired for the start-up environment, then they will probably have trouble adapting to the culture and their colleagues. This is not to suggest that employees need to share the same passions — only that it helps to have some.
That is why, when I meet with prospective hires (either my own or within the portfolio), I always ask what the person does when they are not working. The question is usually met with a sigh of relief and a very relaxed answer. More often than not, it is the most telling part of the conversation.