Are you happy with your work?

There is an “old” saying, when the MBA’s moved to Silicon Valley in the late 90’s the end was near.

The rationale: they were in it for the money, not the mission.

The reality is that MBA-line was a bit simplistic.

I was in SV and I saw it first hand. Everyone wanted to work in a startup. And many had the wrong intentions. Not just MBAs. Hiring became very tricky because you were trying to figure out people’s true motivations.

The labor market became so tight companies were giving BMW’s as a hiring bonus.

Fast forward thirteen years and I’m concerned we are heading back in the wrong direction and the mercenaries are showing up in droves. As far as I know Randy Komisar was the first one to point out the difference between mercenaries vs missionaries in startups. And it’s true today as it was when he made the point. Fred also talked about it earlier this week.

For example, we have execs joining companies with massive guaranteed compensation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with people holding out for what they feel is their worth. And I’m not even suggesting that he doesn’t deserve this package. My question is whether it’s missionary or mercenary. Can you build a leadership team at a place like Yahoo without a guaranteed windfall?

It’s sort of reminds of when a RIM or MSFT pays third party developers to build apps for Blackberry 10 and Windows 8. Can you truly buy love? Can you buy inspiration?

And it’s not just executive pay either.

Every single startup I work with is having a tough time hiring engineers. I routinely hear of starting salaries for new grads (from the best schools) with zero work experience at over $100k and experienced ones are much higher.

And we now have things like Developer Auction where engineers get salary and stock bids from companies first, even before they meet each other.

I don’t know how companies feel good about bidding on engineers they haven’t met. And I don’t know why candidates want companies to make an offer before they hear about the gig, meet the founders and understand the mission.

My advice to startups is to remain highly selective. Don’t get into this bidding war. First of all you will lose that game to big companies. Your natural advantage is that you are small. Find people that sincerely believe in your vision. Find folks that want to make an impact and not just a cog in the machine. Find people that want to be part of a team that has an opportunity to change the world and believes in the work.

My advice to engineers thinking about their next job?

Ask yourself: are you happy?

If not, take your time and make sure your next job is a place you truly love. When you find that place, I assure you, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. And I don’t know what’s worth more than that feeling.