Funded Startup? Don’t hire to train.

Yesterday morning Dan Martell tweeted “If you’re a funded startup and hiring people you need to train, you’re doing it wrong.

I’m a big believer in education but I can only agree with Dan’s tweet. A startup shouldn’t be a startup for too long, that’s the whole point. In my mind you should have a clear defined route to revenue and an even clearer route as to how you’re going to get the product out the door.

Whether you’re doing it the ‘lean’ way or not, if you’re taking your time in delivering product to clients and/or customers then you are slowing down that road to revenue and speeding it up to a closing door and calling it a day.

Start-ups are hard work, they’re not for the feint-hearted and the pressure is on from the get go. More so if you’re funded as you have investors looking for momentum and of course their return-on-investment. I truly believe in the sentiment of Dan’s tweet, for the first 12 months of a funded start-up’s life it is not the right place for people who need trained. Intern’s, Student’s and Placement’s might cost you less than an old-guard professional but you’re sure as hell not going to get what you need from them. It is a harsh truth, but it is the truth.

Even if you do have old guard members of your team, if you have people who need trained on your team as well, your old guard are not concentrating on the product as they are too busy training to even think about doing. This is detrimental to your product, your idea, your start-up and most of all the investment which you’ve received.

After the twelve months and hopefully when you’re in revenue you can maybe think about taking on members of the team who are needing trained but it’s got to involve a lot of thinking about where your product is at.

Where can people with less experience get experience if I’m saying some companies shouldn’t take these people on? Well it would be great if the larger companies had the ability and willing to do just that. I know Facebook hire a lot of intern’s, but they’re around the right size to do so. I know some young start-ups who do the same but they limit the amount of intern’s who they take on and put them through rigorous testing before hand.

Dan was right in my opinion. If you are a funded start-up, and are taking on people who need trained, you are doing it wrong. You should be focusing on the product and releasing product quicker. Releasing product at a 3 month point and then regularly after that is far better for you and your investors than hiring people who need trained to release product after twelve months when your competition is already a success and in revenue.

Forcing Culture Doesn’t Create a Happy Culture

I read an article last week by Matt Blumberg titled ‘The Best Place to Work, Part 0‘. It was a short interesting read which detailed 7 ideas for creating the best place to work. Matt points out that they’re not *the* 7 things you can do to create the best place to work, they’re just things which could be done to help the process.

Here’s the outline:

  1. Surround yourself with the best and brightest
  2. Create an environment of trust
  3. Manage yourself very, very well
  4. Be the consummate host
  5. Be the ultimate enabler
  6. Let people be people
  7. Create a thankful atmosphere

I’m a big believer in good company culture, that thing which makes people happy in their ‘working environment’. I’ve often said that I don’t go to ‘work’, I just go somewhere to do the things I love doing. Whether it be designing, thinking, problem solving, making decisions, the list is endless as long as I keep myself busy.

About 3 years ago I read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, it was one of the most inspirational and moving books I’ve read. One thing which stuck out was how Zappos, who are well known for their positive company culture, just let things happen. If you’ve followed Zappos or the Delivering Happiness book you’ll see that often the crazy happens but people are allowed to decorate their workspaces however they like, pets are welcome amongst countless other things.

There are many other large companies where culture is positively embraced and more so because the culture isn’t the thing that is embraced, it’s the freedom which feeds the culture. Whether it be free lunches, BBQ’s on the roof, work from wherever you want whenever you want, these things all add in to the same happy culture calculation.

I’ve been fortunate to have various employed experiences of company culture where some were great and some not so great. I’ve seen first hand how a company can have a fantastic culture and then visibly see how little things can make such a tremendous difference to it. For all of the excellent company cultures I’ve seen, they happened because of the people within it by letting the people in the company just be themselves. Matt’s article rings really true to me;

  1. Surrounding yourself with great talented people keeps you on your toes and enabling them to go on to do great things invokes self-appreciation for them and you and the people you’re serving (customers / clients etc).
  2. An environment of trust between co-workers is paramount, this usually happens psychologically when people know that you’ve got each others back.
  3. Manage yourself very well and everyone around you will do the same, they’ll use you as an example. If they don’t, coach them in to getting better at it.
  4. Be the consummate host by just doing the right thing for the people around you.
  5. Be the ultimate enabler to reduce natural friction, friction slows people down, friction frustrates people.
  6. Let people be people. Everyone is different, everyone has their own way of doing things but people are like that. Just give them the freedom to be their own person and they’ll do right by you and the people they’re serving. If they’re not in to freedom or doing what they love, then you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place as they’re not right for culture full stop.
  7. Creating a thankful atmosphere helps enables someone to stop thinking about what they don’t have. Not all companies can afford everything but it’s the little things, weather it’s breakfast cereals or a full-time chef.

I’d say the biggest stand out for me is No. 6. Just let people be people. Don’t try and change them or mould them in to something you think you want. It’s not about ‘you’ it’s about them and your clients / customers. And if you are in the process of trying to change them, stop and ask why you’re doing it in the first place? Everyone in the company can’t and shouldn’t be like you, play to people’s strengths or did you just get your hiring process wrong, or indeed is that person so right for the company that it freaks you out? Remember that thing about hiring people who are the best and brightest?

The world and people are changing around us but remember not every company can provide an environment like Facebook, Zappos or Twitter. We need to have the foresight that forcing a culture that you think is right doesn’t create a happy culture. Feed the freedom and enable people to do what they love to do and the happy culture will create itself.

The Story of a Great Grandfather’s Military Career – Part 3

If you’re looking for Part 1 of this story, go here. If you’re looking for Part 2 of this story, go here.

We left Stanley in Part 2 as he was yet again in the thick of the action, this is what happened next…

3. The bulk of our men were held up approximately on a line 150 yards East of COUNTY CROSS ROADS, but a party of 1 Officer & 6 men, the remains of a platoon, pushed on as far as V.26.b.40 15. Another small party under a sergeant got into the enclosure about OXFORD HOUSES and fortified a shell hole at V.26.b.25.40. Another party under a sergeant dug in at about V.26.b.b.05.50. No advance appeared to be made on our left at all and so “C” Company found a defensive flank facing North with three posts and one Lewis Gun post.

4. The Machine Gun in the Cemetery was silenced almost at once by the 6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and a number of Germans retiring North East of the Cemetery came under Lewis Gun and rifle fire and suffered casualties.  There was a lot of movement during the day between the MEBUS at V.26.b.60.35 and the enemy post at V.26.b.60.25. This was always fired at and numerous casualties were caused, as was proved by the large number of stretcher parties about that point on the 10th inst. A lot of movement around OXFORD HOUSES was kept under fire.

The two Machine Guns in the breastwork about V.26.b.33. 45 were dealt with by rifle grenades and during the morning some of the enemy doubled round to the back of OXFORD HOUSES with the guns and returned later with a light Machine Gun.

The Machine Gun at V.26.b.97 60 was also dealt with by rifle grenades and unfortunately no Number 23 grenades were available on the spot and Number 20s had rather too long a range to fire accurately at that short distance.

5. What actually happened during the 5 p.m. attack will no doubt be dealt with by O.C. 1/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. I have seen none of the officers and men who took part in it but my own men report that the Worcesters went through our line well up to the barrage, which came down just in front of our main line but was right on top of the advanced posts mentioned in para 3 – these fortunately sustained no casualties, though several blind shells landed very near them. The party in OXFORD HOUSES enclosure report that they were 50 yards in front of the barrage. It was this barrage which made the Officer and N.C.Os Commanding Companies in the line decide to retire and consolidate after dark 100 yards in rear of their present positions. This was carried out and it was that rearline that was handed over to the Camerons.

6. Very few messages were received back from the line after the attack, owing chiefly to the fact that most of the Officers became casualties and also that the heavy and accurate sniping made movement very difficult.

This also greatly hindered the collection of casualties, the Germans sniped a great deal at our stretcher bearers on the 9th inst. On the 10th, however, they were left alone probably because large enemy stretcher parties were out collecting their wounded under the Red Cross Flag.

7. The chief lessons learnt with regard to the barrage; 4 minutes before the first lift was not sufficient; with the ground in its present condition, 10 or even 15 minutes would not be too much to allow the infantry to get well up to it.

The 100 yards lift was too much; after it had “jumped” away from the infantry for the first time it was never caught up again. It also failed to deal effectively with enemy snipers and machine gunners who were situated between the first and second lifts; if it is practicable the 50 yards lift is much better.

In my opinion, the reason why we failed to take our objectives were:-

(a) The exhaustion of the men, most of whom had been tramping over the heavy ground for the greater part of the night.
(b) The sodden condition of the ground.
(c) That the barrage was lost after the first lift and never again caught up.

 A.L.W. NEWTH, Major. Commanding 1/4th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.

48th Division was then moved into reserve near Arras and on 8th November 48th Division was ordered for the Italian Front, leaving by train on 24th November and arriving in Italy shortly afterwards.  Between 24th December 1917 and 22nd January 1918 1/4th Gloucesters were training at Bressanvido, and on 10th January Battalion Orders recorded 22582 Private Stanley Drinkwater, “C” Company, as being awarded Class II Proficiency Pay at 3d a day, backdated to 28th June 1917.

They arrived at the front line on 28th February 1918, taking up position in the Montello sector before moving to the Asiago Plateau sector in March. 1/4th Battalion reached Granezza in the southern Alpine foothills on 21st April and remained mostly in reserve during the Austrian summer offensive. The Battalion was much more involved in allied offensive operations that autumn with a very successful raid on 23rd/24th October, taking 229 prisoners.  The Battalion War Diary recorded:-


Assembly was carried out without a hitch and the head of the Battalion passed the gap on the SAN SISTO at the time laid down. The taped line was followed without difficulty. Crossing the picquet line white armbands were removed and 50 yards were covered on hands on knees. Forming up was complete at Z minus 1 ¼ hours. Covering party of Oxfords and Bucks L.I. withdrew at Z minus 1 hour and were replaced by our own men who were recalled at Z minus 15 minutes. At Z minus 20 minutes enemy put down a barrage considerably on our right and a few shells fell in the vicinity of front line behind us.  At zero the whole Battalion moved forward over the crest and reached the enemy wire before the barrage lifted. At zero plus 4 minutes barrage lifted from enemy front line and Battalion entered. Several prisoners were captured in front of the wire just E of the AVE road. Battalion Headquarters proceeded direct to RED REDOUBT which was unoccupied. Within two minutes Signal communication was established with advanced Brigade Report Centre.

The scheme of the raid comprised three separate Company operations which were exactly carried out.

“C” Company. LEFT – Met with M.G. fire and resistance from enemy front trench opposite AVE. This was soon overcome and a machine gun captured. Wire here new but not very thick. Coy. then attacked its further objectives.  A few of the enemy were captured in the front line towards  SILVEONAR  and 20 men running away towards T. GHELPAC were machine gunned. Majority of prisoners obtained in MAXIM dugouts, 7 of which were set on fire. These are connected by tunnels and have each two entrances. Two machine guns were also captured here. Total captures of this Company were 3 M.Gs and about 50 prisoners.

“B” Company. CENTRE – Captured several enemy in shell holes in front of wire – found wire poor – passed straight to objectives. Quarry is apparently a H.Q. of some kind. A large red signal lamp was burning and there is considerable accommodation. 20 prisoners captured here. REDOUBT has many dugouts and had a large garrison who showed fight until outflanked from the rear. 30-40 prisoners taken here. V shaped trench was empty. Total captures:- 60 prisoners, 3 M.Gs.

“A” Company. RIGHT – Went straight to their objectives and cleared the LOWE dugouts right up to those at the S.M. MADDALENA X roads. About 100 prisoners and 2 M.Gs were obtained from there.

“D” Company. 2 platoons attacked and occupied front line from AVE to LONE TREE HOUSE, the remainder provided a flank guard and a Battalion reserve. This Company captured 15 prisoners and 2 M.Gs.

Battalion Headquarters remained throughout the raid at REED REDOUBT. Runner communication was maintained with Companies and Signal communication with Brigade through the whole period in the enemy line.

Withdrawal was effected at Zero plus 50 minutes, area then being reported entirely clear of enemy. Companies returned directly across GUARDINALTI ridge and met with no casualties while doing so. All troops except Battalion Headquarters had re-entered our picquet line at Zero plus 70 minutes. Battalion Headquarters returned at Zero plus 2 ½ hours, having sheltered in a gunpit on AVE SPUR. Enemy barrage did not come down on his front line till after our departure. On Picquet Line and front line it was fairly heavy. It increased on Picquet Line after our guns ceased firing and continued till Zero plus 2 ¼ hours.

The valley in front of SILVER posts received special attention, also the W end of GUARDINALTI ridge and the village itself.

Total casualties:- 1 killed, 3 wounded (remained at duty), 1 Jugo-Slav killed.

Fierce fighting for the possession of the village of Bosco led to initial success for 1/4th Battalion on 1st November before they were driven out by an Austrian counter-attack. However, successful attacks by the remainder of 48th Division mean that 144th Brigade with 1/4th Gloucesters was soon able to advance again until hostilities with Austria-Hungary ceased on 4th November 1918. Battalion Orders of 20th November 1918 show Stanley Drinkwater, still a Private, but by now with “A” Company, as having rejoined the battalion after 14 days leave in England on 3rd November, meaning that he missed out on 1/4th Gloucesters’ last battle. The battalion was then stationed in Cornedo where it was gradually reduced in strength, with the last men finally arriving in England on 31st March 1919.

Stanley Drinkwater seems to have returned to England and re-enlisted as a Regular, leaving for India with 2nd Gloucesters later in 1919. In 1920 his service number was changed to 5172511. He was entitled to the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

I started this journey looking for a little more information on the man who I’d never met. I did know that he was a Regimental Sergeant Major but knew nothing of the information recorded above. I’ve since found out that he actually retired from the British Army as a Major but know very little about his latter career. I am however going to look in to it further and commission the museum to dig a little deeper in to the latter part of my Great Grandfather’s military career as there are things which my Grandmother has mentioned which may be true and very interesting.

Thanks for reading along! If you want to know what happens follow me on twitter.

The Story of a Great Grandfather’s Military Career – Part 2

If you’re looking for Part 1 of this story, go here.

We left Stanley in Part 1 as the billet’s he was staying in were shelled for 3 and a half straight hours, this is what happened next…

Stanley Drinkwater was sent back to England on 1st June, reasons unknown. It is possible that he had been wounded on 29th May or 1st June, but it is also possible that his true age had been discovered and he was sent back because of that.

Stanley Drinkwater returned to France on 12th May 1917, and this time he was posted to 1/4th Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment. 4th (City of Bristol) Battalion was a pre-war Territorial Battalion. The flood of volunteers on the outbreak of the Great War led to many Territorial Battalions being split into two and brought up to strength.  1/4th Gloucesters left Swindon for Danbury (near Chelmsford) in late August 1914 for a training period which lasted until 31st March.

1/4th Battalion formed part of 144th Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division, which left for the Western Front on 31st March 1915, Leonard Andrews being with the battalion. On 11th April the battalion arrived at Armentieres in France and 48th Division was assigned to the Ploegsteert (“Plugstreet”) Wood sector under the command of III Corps, Second Army, with 1/4th Battalion occupying the south-eastern corner of the wood and the village of Le Gheer.  48th Division was relieved in late June and in late July was moved forward once again to line the trenches opposite Serre. By later September 1915, 1/4th Battalion was entrenched in the front-line village of Hebuterne. These positions were occupied with the Division being much engaged in sporadic fighting and patrol work until July 1916.

By July and the battle of the Somme, 144th Brigade including 1/4th Battalion were being held in reserve around Sailly au Bois, Couin and Maillet-Mailly until 14th July when 48th Division was ordered to the attack on Ovillers. 1/4th were heavily involved and some progress was made. After having been withdrawn from the fighting during the first two weeks of August 1916, 48th Division was back in action around Ovillers until 28th August when it was moved to Auchonvillers in the Ancre sector. Late autumn and winter remained quiet for the Division which transferred to Cappy in late January 1917.

During the spring of 1917, 1/4th Battalion was involved in the battles during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, seeing action at Villers-Faucon and Queuchette. In May, 48th Division came under the command of XVIII Corps in Fifth Army. Battalion Orders of 19th June 1917 note 22582 Private Drinkwater, B. [sic] as having joined the battalion with two others on 16th June and posted to “C” Company. The battalion was resting in billets at Lebucquiere at the time. Between 4th and 20th July, 1/4th Gloucesters were training at Blaireville, and Battalion Orders of 8th July shows Stanley Drinkwater being admitted to the Field Ambulance on 6th July. At least 30 others went at around the same time, presumably either injured in training or sick. He rejoined the battalion on 12th July.

The situation remained quiet, with few casualties being suffered until October when 1/4th Battalion was involved in the battle of Third Ypres, or Passchendaele, where it was fighting in support of the attacks on Poelcappelle on 9th October.

The Battalion War Diary states:-


Reference Map POELCAPELLE Ed. 4, 1/10,000.

1. The plan for moving the Battalion to the jumping off position was as follows:-

The Second-in-Command went on an hour in advance of the Battalion with 3 N.C.Os per Company, this party was to lay out the tape lines 50 yards and 200 yards respectively behind Country Cross Roads and then to return to TWEED HOUSE to guide the Battalion in. The Battalion was to move up by the ALBERTA TRACK and then along the POELCAPELLE Road to U.30.d.63 80, where they were to have been met by Bucks Battalion guides, who would guide them to TWEED HOUSE by the taped track via BAVAROISE HOUSE.

On arrival at U.30.d.63 80, Lieut.Col. Crosskey found that the guides were not there and after waiting for a time decided that he would turn about and move up via the Trench board track and HUBNER FARM, a route which he knew himself to some extent. This he did and arrived at TWEED HOUSE about 1.45 a.m. but then discovered that the three rear Companies and about one platoon of the leading one had lost touch. Battalion Headquarter runners were sent out to look for the missing Companies and “C” Company, the leading company, was guided down to the jumping-off point.

At about 4.30 a.m. “A”, “B” & 2 platoons of “D” Company were brought to TWEED HOUSE and were taken on down to the jumping-off point. These Companies were just forming up along the tape when our barrage came down, so that the Battalion started the attack less two platoons “D” Company and a few men from “A” & “C”. “B” Company was complete.

2. The leading Companies “A” on the right and “D” on the left, started off at once and got to within about 50 yards of the barrage before the first lift. “B” & “C” Companies, “B” on the right, moved forward a few minutes after “A” & “D” Companies.

At the first lift the barrage was lost and owing to the sodden condition of the ground was never caught up again.

Immediately the advance commenced our men came under Machine Gun fire from the Cemetery in V.26.d., a Machine Gun in a post about V.26.b.60 25, 2 Machine Guns in a breastwork in front of OXFORD HOUSES at V.26.b.33 45, and a Machine Gun about V.26.a.97 60.

Snipers were also very active from the large rectangular hedge South of the Road in V.26.b., OXFORD HOUSES, BEEK HOUSES, and other points North of LEKKERBOTERBEEK.

The story will continue in Part 3, where Stanley Drinkwater was now once again in the thick of things fighting for his life.

The Story of a Great Grandfather’s Military Career – Part 1

I’d always known that my Great Grandfather had been in the military. A trinket bearing his name had been sat on top of the fireplace in my Grandmother’s house for as long as I could remember. I had visions that he was a grand military commander yet knew nothing about his history.

My Grandmother rarely if ever spoke about him other than “He was in the Army and we traveled a lot.” As I got a bit older and understood the inscription on the trinket I understood that when he was given it, he was the rank of RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major), quite a high rank in the Army and meant that he would have indeed been very successful in his career. I didn’t know how he got there and always wanted to find out. Luckily my Grandmother has always been interested in family trees and collecting things like books, pieces of paper, photos etc and also had my Great Granfather’s service number. I already knew that he was in the Gloucestershire Regiment which eventually became the RGBW (Royal Gloucester Berkshire and Wiltshire) due to the inscription. I wrote away to the now Gloucestershire Regimental Museum in hope they had more information about him.

They did, and what came back was whirlwind read and the story of great determination, selflessness and possibly the odd crazy. Somehow my Great Grandfather’s survived when in fact the odds were against him from the very beginning, this is the start of his story…

Stanley Drinkwater was born in April 1899 in Worcestershire, 15years and a few months later he lied about his age and enlisted as a regular soldier in 1915. He was posted overseas on 3rd March 1916 to join 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment on the Western Front.

On the outbreak of the Great War, 1st Gloucesters had been mobilized at Bordon in Hampshire (where they had been based since 1913) on 7th August 1914 and landed at Le Havre on 13th August. The battalion formed part of 3rd Brigade, 1st Division B.E.F.  Taking up position to the south east of Landrecies on 26th August the battalion fell back with the rest of the B.E.F before the German advance.  1st Division fell back with the rest of the B.E.F before the German advance until finally coming to a halt across the River Marne at Monroux on 6th September. The battalion was involved in the B.E.F’s counter-offensive when 1st Divison attacked along the Chemin-des Dames ridge around the village of Chivy. 1st Division was relieved on 16th October and moved from the River Aisne to the north of Ypres and a few days later was involved in heavy fighting around Dixmunde and Langemarck. On 24th October 1st Division were replaced by French troops and moved into reserve in the Ypres-Hooge-Zillebeke sector. Two days later, 1st Battalion was again involved in heavy fighting losing around 160 officers and men around Gheluvelt. Fierce fighting continued during this First Battle of Ypres until 15th November until only one hundred or so men of 1st Battalion out of around its starting strength of around a thousand were able to march back to Ypres. Once having rested and recuperated until 20th December 1914, 1st Battalion took part in the recapture of Festubert, again suffering heavy casualties. The battalion was in and out of the front line trenches over the next few weeks but saw little further action in this period.

A German assault on 25th January 1915 was stopped at Cuinchy and Givenchy. On 9th May the battalion again took heavy casualties during the attacks on Aubers Ridge. The situation remained generally quiet for 1st Gloucesters over the next few months. In the autumn of 1915, 1st Battalion was involved in the battle of Loos. Another hard-fought action took place in October, at Chalk Pit Wood.

In the spring of 1916 1st Battalion was in and out of the front line around Loos, sustaining steady although never very heavy casualties, mostly from shelling. It was during this that Stanley Drinkwater joined the battalion. The Battalion War Diary noted a draft of 69 men joining on 13th March, with another 39 on 4th April and 100 on 10th April. It is quite likely that Stanley Drinkwater joined on 13th March. 

After a week in Divisional Reserve at Les Brebis, 1st Gloucesters moved back into the front line inn the evening of 26th April between Scrub Lane and Carfax Road near Loos.

The Battalion War Diary states :-

14th May 1916. MAROC.

4.20 a.m. Camouflet blown by the enemy opposite Mine 11 doing no exterior damage of any sort. Sap J and front line around shelled by field guns intermittently during the day, doing damage to sap and front trench: probable reason for shelling was searching for a Trench Mortar.

9.10 a.m. S.O.S received from left Battalion, left Brigade. Our front however was unaffected and all was quiet. Captain D. Baxter rejoined from Hospital. Draft 38 other ranks also joined. 1 man was wounded.

15th May 1916.

Quiet day except for some intermittent shelling of Sap J with Field Guns. 2 other Ranks wounded.

16th May 1916.

Trench Mortars in early morning worried the CRASSIER Company and some small shells, otherwise a quiet day. 7 other ranks wounded.

On 25th May 1st Gloucesters were sent back to Les Brebis again, still being within enemy artillery range.

The Battalion War Diary states :-

29th May 1916. LES BREBIS.

Divisional Reserve. A good deal of hostile shelling of the mine, otherwise quiet. 1 man wounded.

1st June 1916.

In Divisional Reserve. Billets shelled 1 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. by 4.2’s. Casualties 3 men killed and 4 men wounded.

It wasn’t good news, Stanley Drinkwater had been in those Billets… look out for Part 2 coming soon.



Last day at Happiest

As of this Friday, the 13th (hope it is not a jinx) I’ll no longer be at Happiest, the startup which I’ve been at since December 2011. It’s been a fast 7ish months, full of new things and continuous development.

What am I going to do?

Few things are lined up as well as take on the occasional freelance project amongst some other things, now is the time I really want to focus on some personal bits and pieces which I’ve had on a long list for far too many years. I’ll be spending more time with the family, and hopefully going on our first ‘family’ holiday later this year.

If you’re looking to work with me, check out my dribbble profile and get in touch.

I’m looking forward to and excited for the future post-Happiest.