Discover more from Texts with Founders
Texts with Founders: Company Values
Use them to attract and repel.
This is the 17th weekly post from Texts with Founders — tested tactics for early-stage startups. If you haven’t joined yet subscribe for free here:
Exploring starting a company? Take a look at the upcoming On Deck cohort kicking off at the start of November
When founders ask for feedback about their culture, they often wonder when to start creating their company’s cultural values. The truth is that the cultural values already exist—they just haven’t been written down yet.
Even if you’re a solo founder and have yet to hire anyone, how you go about your day defines your company’s values. Do you prioritize being responsive to customers? Do you spend significant time intensely focused on the small details of a product’s design? That is your culture. Want to change your company culture? You must first change yourself.
I’ll save the topic of behavior change for a future TWF entry. For now, let’s talk about why you should not hold back when sharing your culture with others.
Attract and Repel
As a founder, you will annoy some people with your product. Your company culture will almost certainly upset some people as well. Fully remote? The IRL-maxis will be saying you’re an idiot. Entirely IRL? Some will criticize you for not promoting a healthy work-life balance.
Your goal is not to please everyone—but instead to attract and retain an incredible team that is as excited as you are about the mission your startup is pursuing. Make sure that your culture matches what they want. I’ll go even further—your goal should also be to actively dissuade people who are not a culture fit from applying to join your company in the first place.
Keith Rabois recently commented on Traba’s company values and how they help the company hire excellent talent:
Traba uses this “anti-sell” concept — which is they’re very explicit about their company values, and if it’s not for you that’s great. But for the people who want that, they want to be a magnet who want that kind of talent.
Mike (Traba’s CEO) just hired this woman who is a great Head of Finance. She’s like, “I was looking for something like 9-9-6 and so I searched around for an American company that had that culture. This is why the Asian companies succeed.” And she found Traba. So he wound up having this great Head of Finance as because the culture was a positive signature to her.
Check out more about Traba’s culture (like “Olympian’s Work Ethic”) and values on their careers page (they’re hiring)
Don’t just show — tell as well.
Culture is visible through your actions and where you spend your time. But it can also help to promote it. As you tell prospective investors and teammates what the goals are for your business, make sure to also share the cultural values that will enable you to achieve them.
Anthony Pompliano recently recalled how hearing about Traba’s culture early on had a significant impression on him:
One of the things Mike (Traba’s CEO) said to me when we first met was “9-9-6” — that is who you’re competing against.
Let the Free Market Decide
Build the company and culture you want. Let others build the company and culture they want. Be open about what it is you stand for. Then, let people self-select into the culture they want.
Remember: if you believe success for your business will positively impact the world, you have a moral duty to build a culture that can help make it happen. Be honest with your prospective teammates, and you’ll become a magnet for the sort of people you will want in your corner.
That’s all for this week — thanks for reading.
If you find TWF useful please share with founder friends: textswithfounders.com
Want to get in touch? Reply to this email.
Support - Create the headspace to help others
VCs that Ghost - Dealing with investors that drag out the process
Intros and Forwardable Emails - Make it easy for connectors to facilitate introductions
App Launch: Valuation Calculator - Counterintuitive fundraising strategies
Tranche Fundraising - Give early investors a "buy-it-now" price
MFNs - Are they a lousy deal or free money?
Weekly Investor Updates - Keep investors close and yourself on track
Check Size Doesn’t Matter - Forget minimum amounts and optimize for quality people
Raise the round behind you - Avoid a drawn-out process and optimize for the best investors.
Conditional Commitments - Why they aren't commitments and what to do about them.
Handling Inbound From Investors - Avoid distractions and keep potential investors warm.
How “Good Guy” Phrases Torpedo a Pitch - And how to win over customers and investors
Avoid Hiring Too Early - Navigate external pressure focused on vanity metrics
Customers understand before investors do - And some investors will never understand
The Benefits and Downsides of Responsiveness - Where it can help and where it can backfire.
Avoiding Gossip - Nimbly navigate an awkward scenario.
No identifying information is shared in texts.