Category: Culture

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

When the time comes for you invite people on the bus, you should be very deliberate about some things that may not be obvious.  Being able to get along and collaborate are important, of course, and the time to start thinking about company culture is with the first employee.

But in the startup days, time is of the essence and it’s about getting to the market as quickly as possible.  The people you bring on need to be aligned with that goal whether they are engineers, programmers, finance or marketing people.  If they are good at what they do, grab them.  They may irritate you but you need to surround yourself with smart people who are willing to disagree with the boss.  That way, you will get the information you need to make good decisions.

Draw the line at fighting and insubordination but ask yourself this, if someone who is good at what they do takes issue with you or you find them irritating, figure out why.  You may learn something about yourself.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker

You culture is important which means your people are important.  A good leader spends a lot of time communicating vision and strategy.  Alignment with the vision is important.  One person in a small company can hijack the vision, strategy and the culture.

Jim Collins says get the right people on the bus before you decide where the bus is going.  This means getting the wrong people off the bus, as soon as possible.

Skill vs. cultural fit.  It’s hard to put one over the other.  Both are vital. Perhaps they are equal.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“There’s no culture if there’s no money” – Shawn Carson

I love talking about company culture.  It’s important and deserves its due attention.  Culture tends to happen on it’s own because companies are made of people who have personalities, which they tend to bring to work with them.  But it is worth the effort to define culture so that the people with the personalities have a chance to decide if they want to fit in; (blue jeans vs. suits and all that…)

Here’s the thing about culture in a startup:  if there is no revenue or profit, you have a club, not a company.  Whether you have 2 employees or 2,000, everyone should be aligned with the idea that generating revenue and making a profit is society’s way of giving your company permission to suck in air.  Everyone should know specifically how their part fits into that equation.

Tee shirts, free pizza and ping pong tables are great so long as it helps generate a profit.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Urgency rarely leads to trust” – Seth Godin

It seems like entrepreneurship is sometimes like moving from one crisis to another.  Either you’re running out of money or the big deal with the key customer is falling through or perhaps the product still has to many bugs to ship.  And there’s always another week to put off starting the SBIR grant, until there’s not.

Urgency leads to desperation which is rarely attractive.  If people sense you are desperate, it’s a sign your company will not be around much longer, which only aggravates the situation.

There’s this list of things you should “always” be doing:

  • Selling – sell something as soon as possible.
  • Raising capital – don’t until you run out of money to start raising the next round.  Investors take their sweet time
  • Customer discovery – Talk to new customers every week
  • Innovation – “ideate” every day

There’s no easy answer.  There are great tools and concepts that help manage time.  Two I like are Jim Collins’ “Stop Doing List” and Steven Covey’s “First Things First” and of course the old fashioned To-Do list.  Learn to recognize the things that are urgent but not important.

There is also your team.  A great leader picks great teammates and delegates important tasks.  It allows the opportunity to focus.

The chaos never goes away though.  It is the nature of startups.  So there’s one skill you’ll have to master and be comfortable with:

Fake it till you make it!!!


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“The economy isn’t broken. It’s different.” – Seth Godin

Times of changing cultures,  societies and economies are opportunities.  A whole new set of problems and needs that no one has thought of.  Problems that scream for solutions.

The music business has changed forever leaving musicians scrambling to figure out how to make a living.  New apps and services to assist them in this change are popping up.  Musicians now have to be entrepreneurs; learning how to be marketers and promoters and … well, business people.  The barriers to the audience are now obliterated. There are now numerous channels to distribute your music to your fans and the good thing is you can keep more of the money you make. The challenge is how to build the audience without the marketing and distribution channels of the record companies.  The cool thing is, you have the tools.

The same is true for a host of other businesses.  New challenges, new customers, new markets, new tools…

Those that try to hold on the the past will be left behind.  That’s why we need to embrace the change and relearn everything.

People still have problems and will pay for solutions.  Look around.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Without dissent, there is no creativity” – Steve Blank

If no one ever complains, if no one ever challenges the status quo and if no one ever cries “BS”, then you will miss something.  You may miss the biggest thing.

Be open to dissent.  Encourage a culture of spirited debate.  Listen to angry customers.  It’s not comfortable but it keeps you from sitting back thinking you have all the answers.

Do all this while keeping one eye on your core ideology.



Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Most corporate mission statements are terrible.” – Jim Collins

I’ve been in corporate “brainstorming” sessions organized for the goal of developing a mission statement.  All too often, these exercises are about developing a marketing position or a tag line for an annual report to shareholders.  The statement usually becomes so generalized as to not tip off competitors and obscure enough as to avoid criticism.  The result is nobody knows what you do or why.

As soon as you hire your first employee, it is very important for you to communicate the purpose for your company to exist on the planet.  This purpose must be concise and memorable but it must encapsulate a vision that inspires and captures the imagination.

Simple and clear!

It’s never too early to develop your core ideology.   Your company culture starts with you. For a start, read or re-read “Good To Great.”

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.” – Jim Collins

Jim Collins on Discipline – part 3 of 3

Everything a startup does should be pointed at getting the product in the customer’s hands and then getting the next customer.

There will be a time for processes and middle management… perhaps.

Perhaps you will be acquired by then and not have to worry about it.

Your objective is not to win the next grant or to have a detailed research and development plan.  In fact, your financials will be totally unpredictable so don;t spend hours tweaking the spreadsheet.

Spend the hours getting the product ready to ship.

“When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.” – Jim Collins

Jim Collins on Discipline – part 2 of 3

Rules generally mean one thing: people can’t be trusted to do the right thing.  Their presence also indicates ineffective leadership.  It’s easier to make rules for everyone than it is to deal with to root cause of a problem.

When you have rules, you have to enforce them and keep track of them and update them.  Before long, you have people whose job it is to enforce, keep track and update the rules.

Then it’s the rules that become the main thing.  Then we have the Federal Government.

Hire the right people.  Make sure they know the mission and their contribution.  Fire the wrong people quickly.