Startups change. It’s the nature of the beast. Ideas change. Plans change. Teams change. The one constant for startups is change. But how can a startup handle and excel through so much change?
Some companies have a very strong system of corporate values in place. They use it as a definitive guide for everything they do. They use it as a decision filter for hiring, feature development, etc. Google’s “do no evil” can be considered one such corporate value, although I wonder if it’s definition is too open for interpretation.
Here are two great examples of companies that have DNA-like corporate values, with slightly different styles:
Using strong, well-defined corporate values as a decision filter is very interesting. Startups face so much uncertainty and so much change, it’s incredibly easy to fall off the path of success. It’s tempting to chase every opportunity, make quick decisions to keep momentum, and “do what’s necessary to hopefully survive.” It’s easy to lose your vision and ability to execute on it effectively.
One of the most common startup failures is a lack of communication with customers (as obvious as communicating with customers might seem.) Beyond that, you see patterns of startups that had an idea, assumed it was great, built something, launched it, and kept on running based on intuition, instinct and opinion. And most of the time, they failed. We see the importance of getting out from behind the computer screen, interacting with customers, testing assumptions, etc. But beyond that, where do company values play a role?
So these are questions running through my mind — hopefully you can help me answer / discuss them:
- How important is it to have strong, well-defined corporate values?
- Have you ever created any, or participated at a company that had strong values?
- Can strong corporate values serve as a worthwhile decision filter?
- Can using corporate values as a constant decision filter improve a startup’s response and resilience to change & craziness?
- Do companies stick with them through thick and thin, or abandon them when it’s convenient?
I believe companies have a personality. I believe they have a culture. And I believe startup founders have to visualize that personality and culture upfront and build a team to evolve and refine things from there. The definition of us is important. But how important?