Welcome to the third blog of Kodo Startups. As I mentioned in the last blog, I’m writing about the mindset of a startup founder. There is a continuity between this blog, and the two previous ones. So, if you are reading my blogs for the first time, you will be able to go back and read the others, and your mind’s self-correcting process of knowing will organize all the insights in order to make sense of everything. Kodo Startups comes from all the struggles I’ve had in the startup scene. I’m blessed to be part of an amazing team that I help built. We all want to add value to your life in terms of helping you get the proper mindset as a founder who wants to create a successful startup from idea to launch and beyond.
In the first blog, we talked about the four key components of a startup venture as being a big idea, a team, a product, and an on-going revisable plan of action called a flexiplan. So, then, the idea comes first, then building your team.
If you are starting out alone in your startup venture, then you need to do a self-assessment of your character. This is a challenging thing to do because you have to be brutally honest with yourself. As a team member, you and everyone else on the team, have to have, or start right away to chisel out, a character that has the ability, likeability, and aptitude that fits with the big idea of the problem you are attempting to solve in coming up with a product. Everyone’s ability is really based on talent. A person either has it or does not have it. For example, it takes talent to be a great opera singer, or a world class athlete. So please don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have the ability to do something, if you don’t have the talent for it. If the talent is there, then there is the further issue of having developed a natural ability through constant practice and self-training. So, then, you have to determine if your ability, and a potential team member’s ability, are such that they are at a level that is appropriate to be qualified for the roles that will be played. To put it bluntly, you and your team members have to have the talents and hard work ethic just to be able play in the startup game. Now likability is a combination of attitude and fitting in with the rest of the team in terms of being a team player. You and your team members have to either already have or develop the soft skills of being a likeable person so that other people will want to work with you. This characteristic is also called an attitude because a person's behavior in a given situation reflects his or her character. People may be completely oblivious to being a jerk, and after a while, nobody wants to be around them. I remember one person use to always say that he didn’t like to work with jerks, but in reality, he was the jerk. After being around these types of people, you may come to realize that the thing they accuse others of are in fact what they are oblivious to and guilt of themselves. The moral of the story here is not to be a jerk because no one will want to work with you. The anecdote is that if you can’t figure out who’s the jerk on the team, it is only because it hasn’t dawned on you that the person is mostly probably you.
In a startup venture, especially in the early stage, everyone will be doing a lot of different things such that a person’s aptitude will come into play. This is the ability to learn fast and adapt to a situation. A potential team member has to be aligned with the vision and mission of the startup venture. The vision being what the startup company hopes to accomplish in the future. The mission being the core reason for the existence of the startup company. Team members need to be able to fit in with the culture that the company wants to set. Team members will add positive value to the culture or take away from the culture that is being built by adding negative value. It so happens that negative value takes away from the previously added positive value. These two dynamics of positive and negative values adding will at some point reach an inflection point that will form into the collective human texture of the culture of the company that is impossible to undo. Once the culture is set, it is close to impossible to change. Please note that I'm saying that the culture is impossible to undo, and close to impossible to change. A typical startup venture has to have a web developer, a designer, a product developer slash manager, a project manager, and a social media person. It doesn’t mean that a person with no technical skills cannot have a successful startup. But a non-technical person with no ability, no likeability, and no aptitude, as it relates to the world of startups, will fail. You may still be a non-technical domain expert and succeeded. You may also be a non-technical and non-domain expert and succeeded.
As you may clearly understand by now, there is a lot that goes into team building. The vision and mission statements, and setting the culture of the company are crucial components. You may think of the vision statement as a future goal that your startup wants to reach that encapsulates the core meanings and values that your startup believes in. You may think of the mission statement as the ever-present core characteristics that the people in the company embody that is reflected in the product. The culture of a startup is the core values that exist as a reflection of the living characteristics that the people in the startup embody. It cannot be faked. The first members of the team will set the culture of the startup, and it cannot be undone. The core values of honesty, sincerity, respect, and being open and transparent are all a must. I am not talking about the rhetoric of corrupt politicians that use the word transparency in a deceptive way, which they all do across the board, either willfully, or passively by looking the other way. Rather, I am talking about being honest with yourself, team, and customers in an open way that may appropriately be called transparent. Both the people of the company and the customers come first simultaneously. If you sacrifice one for the other, or focus on one and neglect the other, you will most likely fail.
A team has to be agile, which means building a product incrementally, listening to customers, getting feedback, refocusing, adjusting to changes, and revising the flexiplan. A timeline with milestones that is subject to revision and the product manager in certain startups acting as a project manager, or a dedicated project manager, are all important things to consider and act on. A team may be local, or it may be remote, or a mixture of the two. It is a mistake to say that only a local team, or a remote team, or a mixture will work. It will work if the team members make it work regardless of physical location.
To sum up, then, an idea needs team members with a vision to act on in order to build a product. While also setting a culture that will attract people to join the company in order to grow the company out to its full potential and be successful.
I welcome all of your comments and suggestions below this blog. Please feel free to reach out to me on social media. A teacher that teaches, and a student that learns, are the same thing in so far as they are both sharing insights. A lovely little saying that tradition attributes to Aristotle. If we share our experiences and insights, then we could grow together in our knowledge of what it takes to go from idea to launch, and perhaps have a startup that will add value to people’s lives. So please share Kodo Startups with your online circle of friends and share these blogs via online word of mouth. Thank you.