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Calacanis: Working at Mahalo is Like Prison Except We Gots Better Coffee
Earlier today, Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis came out with 17 ways to save money running a business. He calls them "really good tips" – There are a couple of good ones on there like buying good chairs for employees but the majority of them show that working at Mahalo is like prison. In fact, I hear an electrified fence is going up in the coming weeks when they get the Series B funding. It’s also important to understand that entrepreneurs do not always make great leaders.
Duncan Riley at TechCrunch has his sarcastic take on the points which is well worth a read and Alain Sherter shows how Jason can easily run his company into the ground. There is a HUGE difference between the ceo/founders/stakeholders putting in time, and forcing the low-paid staff to be worked to death.
Update: Mahalo employee Sean Percival has a paragraph on how life is like for him at Mahalo.
What does Jason leave off his list? First, that all employees (including part time "guides") are basically forced into social media submission – thou shall vote, stumble, save every Mahalo content page. I call it his form of paid employee submissions – basically the same as affiliate marketing. And what I’ve learned is that to save money on paper products and water, they have only one toilet, men go on even hours, women on odd. If you need to go in-between, pee in a cup.
Why is Jason wrong in this case? Sure, having workers who bust their ass for a company is great. I did it for years and am doing it now working 14 hrs a day for CN (and for you). But it’s important to let employees come up for air sometimes. And that doesn’t mean team air, it means personal air. Jason brings in lunches, sounds great right? I’d be all for it once a week, but instead he forces employees to stay inside the
prison office to eat. But not just eat – there are meetings while eating. So while stuffing your face quickly with a burrito or burger, you must discuss how to get the next Veronica Belmont video to go viral. Now, to turn this into something good, Jason could easily give his employees pre-paid cards for a few local joints to let them get out on the company dime. That’d be hot.
Employees do their best work when they have at least some amount of downtime. It doesn’t mean being off every other day, but it does mean being able to shut off the PC once in a while. In fact, I’ve seen employees actually work more effectively by having some normalcy in schedule.
What else does Jason suggest?
- Buying 2 monitors for employees – may as well get them mirrors so left eye goes to one, right eye to another
- Buying a fancy coffee pot – Jason says this saves employees time and money – sure the money part is great, the time part not so much – wouldn’t the 15 minutes of fresh air be a good thing?
- Don’t buy a phone system – I agree with this on a basic level – tho I don’t care for using employees phones for work – there just needs to be separation – what about a packet8 voip setup?
- Rent out your extra space – excellent suggestion, I’d love to rent some extra space somewhere in NYC
- Buy your workers computers for home – why not get them something for the car too – may as well install a pc in that single Mahalo bathroom
- Allow folks to work off-hours – again excellent, as long as the hours don’t run into each other
- Ask vendors for discounts – again, good suggestion, this is the place to really save large amounts of cash
In all of my years of management, the best thing I ever did was give my teams more room to breathe. I’d put my hours worked in my career against anyone and I can assure you that I’ve lost a lot of great chances with great people because of putting work first always. Jason should consider it as well if he wants his team to stay on. Short term his strategy works, but won’t in the long run. Burnout comes quick and with all of the current opportunities out there, people will leave when they are burned out. And when they leave, it will be at the worst time.