There will be a time in the middle of building your startup when you are going to be faced with a challenge to your integrity. It can be very expensive to have integrity when you’re an entrepreneur (aka Builder). While CEO at digitalundivided, I was faced with a number of these challenges, including one that involved several millions of dollars of funding for the organization, but required activities that were in direct opposition both to the integrity of the organization and to me personally. I walked away (slowly, because it was game-changing money) and less than 2 years later the organization received even more support without the questionable strings attached.
You will also face a slew of challenges — to your bank account, to your personal life, and even to your sanity. It’s important to be very clear about the lines that you won’t cross before you start to build your company. Naming your price — aka recognizing your core values and defining what constitutes a violation of those values — is crucial for Builders. These values start with your own personal truism: the things you hold dear that are central to you as a person, which then become your company’s foundation. This is your North Star, what will help you define partnerships and make decisions about hiring and funding. It will also allow you to check yourself to make sure you’re achieving your goals.
Genius Guild’s core values are the foundation on which everything we do — from the Genius Guild Venture Investing Model to hiring team members — is based. It’s through these values that we communicate a shared value system. As a startup, we can’t provide stability around job descriptions or even business models (these things change in startups). But where we can provide stability is around our 8 core values. The implementation of these values may expand, but the Core 8 won’t change. So instead of a new employee basing their social contract with Genius Guild on a job — which, again, will change in a startup — their relationship with us is built on the core values.
I developed our core values partnership with executive strategist Valeska Toro, who also led the core values work at digitalundivided. Creating the 8 principles that comprise Genius Guild’s core values was the first actionable thing I did when I started to build the company. What we were building was going to be complicated, and I wanted to make sure that we clearly communicated our values to potential investors, partners, and team members.
Genius Guild Core Values
At Genius Guild, we are human beings (GG core value #2), which means there will be times when we may not live up to our values. Human beings are fallible. And that is okay. The goal of the Core Values isn’t to create a restrictive set of “rules” that need to be followed religiously on a daily basis. Instead, the Core Values are guideposts. If one team member isn’t living up to these values, then it’s the responsibility of each team member to be a resource partner to help that team member get back into alignment.
The core values are also an invaluable decision making tool for our team. It provides direction on who to partner with (and who NOT to partner with). It’s baked into the due diligence process for The Greenhouse Fund.
The Black community has a history of collective capitalism leading to collective success. Whether it was the growing middle-class community of the Greenwoods section of Tulsa or the early Black banks of the South Side of Chicago, Black communities have a history of using market-based economies to great success. Our core values at Genius Guild reflects this.
Up Next: How the Greenhouse fund’s general and limited partners work together to reduce the “Black Tax” burden on Black entrepreneurs.