Essays On Culture On Teams

Islands are the fastest way to kill your startup – how to align your team

Working on islands kill startups

There’s a reason rockets are stored in silos. Working on stuff in silos kill startups. I laugh at how we ran things when we first started our company. Fired up about every new idea we had we tried to do them all… independently. I was especially bad for this. Focusing on the next great idea, I would mentally block out what the rest of the team was doing and put all my energy into the task at hand. While it might not be the worst way to build a company, it’s still a terrible way. If we were to survive we knew we needed to change, so how did we change our core culture and align our focus?

In the last 4 months we’ve seen great strides forward with StreetText. StreetText is an SMS and web solution for Real Estate. You know those textable sign toppers that you text to get info back about a property? That’s us. We are really excited about this product. Talk to any of us and we will tell you what we think the future of Real Estate looks like and we like it. We think it’s a cool space to be in and we plan on using our passion and energy to drive the right kind of change that helps everyone win.

Well that’s where I spend my 9-5 (plus some). I haven’t posted much about StreetText here for a reason. The last thing I would want is this blog to look like a promotional website. Today I feel like it is important to bring StreetText into the mix for 2 reasons. First, I this is an important topic that we’ve struggled with, how to stay aligned with such a dynamic culture. Second, this blog is a place to write about the things I am passionate about, and StreetText is one of them. Again I hope that any article I write about will be useful to other entrepreneurs.

Let’s start with fear. I was afraid that if we limited ourselves to one idea we would lose our creativity and passion. Or it would start to feel like a job, you know working at a place where we hated what we were doing, but did it anyways because it needed to get done. The first surprise I encountered was that after aligning our team’s tasks ideas started flowing. Before we aligned our direction we were becoming somewhat tired and confused about what we were building. We were sitting in our own canoes, rowing in different directions, sometimes against the wind. We were going somewhere, but the result wasn’t impressive. After climbing into one boat rowing in the same direction we noticed a massive improvement. It’s encouraging to look back and see how far we’ve rowed in just a short time frame.
Team in alignment

I needed to overcome my fear. It was only hindering our progress. How did I do that? I started removing it from the decision process. This might sound unusual at first, but when I started subtracting it from my reasoning I was astounded at the results. Thus far the very things I was afraid of never happened and often the opposite occurred.

Next we needed to decide on a direction. This was really hard to do, but as soon as we did it, it felt great. How did we do it? We looked at our short history as a company, took into stock everything we were good at, who were our core customers and came up with a simple conclusion. We knew our market and our offering. It’s important to understand your product market fit, but that is an entirely different topic. The really important thing to mention is that we had no idea if the direction we were choosing was the best one. We’ve never been there before. That was the really scary part. But looking back at the recent few months I can see that choosing a direction is paying off.

It’s amazing the difference these 2 simple changes have made to our business. Both ignoring our fears and bringing everyone on the same boat while also choosing a direction. I would love to hear how you are aligning your teams. It can be tough, and any suggestions will be valuable to anyone else reading the comments. I hope you success in growing your companies.

By Jonathan Whiting

I enjoy sharing what I am learning and hopefully it's of interest and help to you. I live in Canada with my wife. Follow me on Twitter.

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