Startups Grow With People
(The Upcoming Book)
As a teaser, here is the foreword to ‘Startups Grow With People’.
Enjoy, do post comments and share what you would like to see mentioned in the book.
Let’s immediately start with laying bare the central idea of this book, Startups Grow With People.
Startups can only truly grow with the right people, coming together in the right combination, working within a functioning collaborative protocol. All indicators differentiating a successful startup from one that has hit a dead end, converge on matters that have to do with people.
The most important characteristic of a successful startup that wishes to leverage technology for value creation is its ability to tackle complex problems in unique ways. This ability to solve complex problems with minimal resources requires two things. First, the depth and width of technical and commercial know-how (which the founders, partners and the first recruits bring) and second, the necessary collaborative protocol (the culture) enabling the fruition of these otherwise personally held assets. While each individual brings the ‘depth’, the collaborative structure creates the ‘width’ through functional disagreements that is required for high-quality decisions.
In contrast to how people like to narrate success stories through heroes, unbeatable odds, and mystic coincidences; a startup’s success depends more heavily on the unglamourous realities of ‘execution’. As a startup consultant who actively advises companies on people decisions, recruitment strategies and culture building; I have seen many failed companies that had an initial great idea but were overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and complexity of the micro-problems that constantly tested its founders’ tenacity, problem solving and decision making skills.
On a more positive note; I have also directly observed how companies that relied more heavily on getting good feedback, adapting a learning attitude, valuing good work ethics and increasing their execution capacity rather than fixating on their initial idea became success stories. These companies that created awe inspiring long term growth and value through their ability to make high quality decisions and execute, did so thanks to their appreciation of the role people play in making a startup up either fly high or crash down.
Building a successful startup is a complex business. It is very similar to designing a working engine with many intricate parts. To be fair, the “people” aspect is not the only important one in building startups. But, as a startup consultant, co-founder of two startups, an avid researcher on the topic and as someone who has focused on human behavior for the last decade it is my observation that this aspect is neglected.
The complexity of the startup machine has a lot to do with understanding new technologies quickly, innovating with agility, achieving product-market fit, marketing smartly to solve awareness and distribution problems. On these topics and many more, there are some incredible thinkers and resources out there. In Part Four of the book, Ideas & Concepts Startup Founders Can’t Do Without, you will find my curation of the most important lessons. I will share the most condensed and perspective-shifting ideas from the likes of Peter Thiel, Nassim Thaleb, Robert Greene, Simon Sinek, Aaron Swartz, Reid Hoffman, Adam Grant, Eric Reis, Patrick Lencioni and Kevin Kelly among others.
In Parts One, Two and Three, however, the focus of the book will be on people decisions.
Part One: How to Pick Partners will discuss when it is best to go at it solo and when it is best to partner-up; how to choose a co-founder, which indicators and warning signs to look for before making the handshake and when to look for and how to choose investors.
Part Two: How to Recruit the Top Talent will take a look into the most important principles to keep in mind while making the very first hires of the company. For clarity, you will find this part has been subdivided into two sections. The first section is about strategy and the second section is about tactics. On the strategic level you will learn about EVP (Employer Value Proposition), narrating the mission of the company, defining the roles, defining the competencies and know-how needed. On the tactical level you will learn about discovering and contacting potential candidates, the Pinnacle Model for conducting interviews, making a hiring decision and drafting up an offer.
Part Three: How to Build a Culture is based on the appreciation that as a company grows in size, the people dynamics start to change rapidly. After a certain employee size, rather than one-on-one dialogues and agreements, the culture of the company becomes what people refer to in deciding their actions. Here, we will look at the concepts of Collaborative Protocol, Context over Rules, the big impact of small decisions and sense of mission and the pursuit of meaning.
For clarity, I will aim to adhere to the generic chronological journey of an entrepreneur who wants to start a startup and focus on the people related events and decisions that lie ahead. If you are already in a partnership, or have grown your company to a certain size, feel free to zap to between the parts. That being said, many of the concepts and insights in each part have their valuable uses in understanding and making decisions in a wide range of people related issues. So I would recommend starting from the beginning and referring back to each chapter in the coming months/years as the need emerges on your startup journey.
Good luck and have fun.