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The Eight Startup Commandments

Startup Business Illustration

Starting a business affords one many opportunities. For me, the most rewarding aspect has been the opportunity to use the learnings and lessons I gathered over 20 years to shape a company the way I always wanted. In doing that, I’ve learned startup life is a fine balance of risk and reward.

When it comes to risks, well, they’re huge and doubt is real. What if my ideas don’t work the way I thought they would? What if they don’t translate to business success? The reward, of course, is when they do.

With that in mind, here’s a glimpse into tenets I’ve held close since hopping on the startup horse and founding Cavalry.

Never stop building. The greatest benefit of building a company from scratch is that you’ve brought together a group of passionate individuals that are committed to building a business around a common vision. You are agile, energized, and obsessed with bringing your vision to life. Because you are nimble and don’t wear the shackles of corporate bureaucracy, you are free to pivot and evolve as needed, on the fly. The key is that you don’t stop. You never stop. Because once you’ve started on your journey and reveal something new and potentially disruptive to the market, every imitator that is already entrenched will move to copy or crush you.

No one individual has a monopoly on good ideas. Successful ideas are not the sole domain of executives and CEOs. As soon as a company’s culture begins to shift from democratized innovation to boardroom group think, the battle is lost. Building a successful business demands you seek out new ideas and innovations at all levels of the company. Dynamic approaches and opinions from team members that see problems and solutions from different angles only improve ideas. Those opinions may also be what births a new one that could be the next big thing.

Respect. The larger an organization becomes the easier it is to lose sight of the fact that regardless of pay scale, job title, and duties, every team member has an important role to play. I would even argue critical. Recognize that each individual, both as a professional and as a human being, deserves your respect. A successful company culture begins with respect for fellow employees as people and professionals. If you start with that, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

If you’re going to do something, do it right, or don’t do it at all. Never produce a deliverable unless you are committed, in both effort and resources, to doing it right. If you don’t have the time or capabilities to deliver a quality product or service, don’t do it. Your business is only as good as the people you hire and the work you produce. If you become known for mediocre deliverables, your edge as an innovative startup has been tarnished. You may as well be just another faceless corporate entity.

Hire for accountability. One of the most sought-after qualities that we look for is accountability. In a small and fast-growing business environment you have to know that the people you surround yourself with have a “buck stops here” attitude. No one shirks responsibility. Without rigid corporate reporting structures and layer-upon-layer of department silos, your scope and responsibility as an employee does not have a hard stop within the bounds of your job description. You must be capable of taking ownership over everything you encounter and be willing to help execute as flawlessly as possible. And if you see something that needs fixing but don’t have the ability to do it yourself, knowing that you have team members right next to you that can and will help ensures the collective body remains accountable to each other and the mission.

Candor and honesty at all costs. Top-down honesty about strategy and tactics is the best way to keep your team focused on the mission at hand. Harnessing the value of your teams’ strategic brain power can only be effective when they have all of the information necessary to give complete and thorough feedback. On the flip side, bottom-up feedback and critique is also a necessary ingredient for success. Every team member has a different perspective, and many times the unique perspective that is only on the fringes of a particular task can provide valuable insight that makes or breaks the overall success of a product or service deliverable.

Everyone benefits. Build a company that offers incentives for collective success. The days of working for a company where you don’t benefit from that organization’s collective success should be a relic of the past. In today’s gig economy, it has never been easier for an individual to side hustle their way into a few extra bucks. All it takes is some elbow grease and initiative. People have woken up to the notion that their time and effort is valued differently than the traditional model. Build incentives that compensate team members for the value of their individual effort and the overall success of the company. Because people are THE lifeblood of an organization. Even if your tech stack puts your services on auto pilot, it was a human that built, designed, and initiated that, and they deserve to be recognized. And for those managers out there that feel employees in administrative roles don’t qualify or deserve to benefit from overall company growth because they are simply performing an administrative role: you’ve missed the point.

Life is more than work. In life, we often lose sight of the fact that regardless of wealth, notoriety, and stature, we are all moving towards the same end. And we’re all going to experience the same ultimate fate. Which is why even though we give everything we have to the Cavalry vision, we recognize that at the end of the day the real lasting impact we can have and the legacy we leave is solely dependent on the people we help along the way. That help can come in many forms. At Cavalry, we believe it’s imperative that we give back our time and skills to the communities and people around us. Big or small, those efforts produce a positive ripple effect that will outlast anything we accomplish behind a keyboard.

If that ethos resonates with you, take a look at our careers page – we may just have the right opportunity for you.

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