How you treat service industry professionals

I recently had lunch with an entrepreneur and I was surprised at how he treated the waiter at our restaurant. The waiter made a mistake with our order, but rather than simply request that he correct the mistake, the entrepreneur started yelling at the waiter and criticizing him and the restaurant.

One incident doesn’t make a trend. The entrepreneur may have simply been having a very bad day.

However, I think that a person’s repeated reactions in such situations is likely a good predictor of how successful they’ll be at a startup. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that a lot goes wrong at startups. If an entrepreneur has such a reaction when there’s a mistake with their order, they’ll likely have much greater reactions when more important things go wrong at their startup. If this happens once or twice, it could help get things done by motivating employees. But if it becomes a repeated occurrence, no one will want to work for the entrepreneur.

The second reason is that startups need to be, to the extent possible, meritocracies to succeed. They need to value ideas and hard work irrespective of titles. How an entrepreneur treats waiters (and other service industry professionals like taxi drivers) is likely a good indicator of how much they value ideas and hard work relative to titles. Criticizing a service industry professional simply because you can suggests that you value titles and this isn’t a good fit for startups.