Fred Wilson’s AVC post today included a quote from another post of his, it goes as follow;
“Companies are not people. But they are comprised of people. And the people side of the business is harder and way more complicated than building a product is. You have to start with culture, values, and a committment to creating a fantastic workplace. You can’t fake these things. They have to come from the top. They are not bullshit. They are everything. There will be things that happen in the course of building a business that will challenge the belief in the leadership and the future of the company. If everyone is a mercenary and there is no shared culture and values, the team will blow apart. But if there is a meaningful culture that the entire team buys into, the team will stick together, double down, and get through those challenging situations.”
This reminded me of how your first hires, core team, really need to be earned - they have to want to work for you; A thought that gave me clarity on the issue was this blog post. If anyone is there purely for equity purposes, then I can see it not working out so well.
The people that have become interested in joining me in my ventures have a genuine interest, understand what I am trying to do - think it’s cool-to-awesome, and this will link right into their passion because they know they can have an impact and get things done.
Developers, as an example, don’t generally enjoy the act of programming - it’s what they can create with the language that excites them - they enjoy the problems they solve.
I recently talked to a local CS Phd student who’s hired on to assist someone else in their work this summer, and his eyes lit up with excitement and could hear it in his voice when he mentioned getting access to play with supercomputers that crank out 100,000,000s of calculations per second.
I know with anyone I hire I want to support them with their passion, so they’re growing and evolving with their own interests - at same time keeping them loyal and happy being productive for you.
That’s why I think it would be great to work at a place like Google as you’d have a lot of different departments and products you could transfer to if you start to find interest in something else - or just need a break from the same-old.
Culture is really defined by intent.
So, it’s all about intent
You need intent in order to have direction, to have guidance.
I think this is likely where big companies fail-out with losing culture. They don’t on-load people and help them understand the intent(s) that are within the company.
You need intent for the individual to be able to self-check with,
a) so they don’t waste anyone elses’ time asking questions (or dwelling in their mind, or worse - feeling cognitive dissonance and therefore disconnect with the company), and
b) can feel more confident in making decisions that they can later explain to others.
So how do you create culture?
Easy, set an intent.
Apple’s intent was essentially ‘Think Different’ - how that intent is discussed in their culture could vary depending on what they are working on, though really it means pushing the boundaries of technology and quality of product.
Intent is powerful, though you need to be good at understanding the implications of it in order to set a good intent. The highest up need to understand intents. This usually requires some level of empathy..
I enjoy figuring out the intents that will work with any given situation, or person for the matter, to help them move forward to where they want to go. I wonder if I should brand myself as a hard-to-access consultant for a variety of things I enjoy doing that don’t take too much time — though you really need to surround yourself in an environment in order to see what intent is needed / would help, so that’d likely mean travelling - which I’m fond of as well!
If you have no intent?
What’s guiding them? Making money? If that’s their goal then they should start a religion, though even religions have intent behind them… whether genuinely or not, they usually have the purpose/intent of wanting to help people and be supportive - though they target potentially the most vulnerable, those without guidance, community or supports.
Is culture driving growth, or is money?
It’s dangerous to let money and ‘growth’ be used as the base metric.
If you throw millions of dollars advertising, you certainly can create demand and increased sales - though in a way it’s artificial and with no way of knowing how much was genuine / organic growth and if there’s true demand.
If all it takes is money to get, then the barrier to entry is likely relatively low - and you’re in trouble there too.
You won’t know if you actually have the best product or offering, or if your market is open to disrupting and making you irrelevant.
So, all this talk about intent - what’s your intent?
My intent is wellness. Pure and simple.
I want to help people be healthy, and in a non-aggressive / non-violent way.
In doing so, this has the effect of making life easier for people. It will also make them more productive and happier. They will be thankful for this.
Everyone I talk to about my ideas can’t wait until they’re created. I can’t wait either - though I’ve learned to be patient and focused solidly on what I need to do next.
This summer I’m focusing and making my rounds to,
i) find talent, and
ii) get the initial funding to hire the help that will help me push this snowball I’ve been building, to push it up over the peak of the mountain - and to start to enjoy the ride down the mountain on this ever-growing snowball - to reach traction and watch help it grow.