Startup Space
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Startup Space

How to get everyone on the team focused

Core Values

In my previous blog post I argued that founders really need to think about their own WHY before starting a business. Afterwards, they need to turn that why into a just cause that others can align around. After their own WHY and just cause, they should really focus on the company core values. It’s important that a company defines a set of core values and that these values are NEVER compromised on.

  • Core values should be sentences — not just words
  • They should not be table stakes
  • A company should not have more than 4–5 of them
  • People should be fired if they violate them
  • Leaders should honestly look at themselves in the mirror and ask — do I truly exhibit these values, or are they just something we say to look good?
  • In fact, leaders need to be obsessed with these values

BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

Great, so now you have defined your personal WHY, as well as company’s just cause and core values. How do you operationalize all that? One answer is BHAGs. BHAGs or Big Hairy Audacious Goals were coined by Jim Collins in his Good to Great book. They should be goals that may take 20 years to accomplish and need to be linked to a just cause. They will seem absolutely impossible from the outside, but just barely plausible on the inside.

Yearly and Quarterly Goals

While BHAGs may span several years, the company needs to also define a set of shorter term goals. It’s time to get more granular and boil those BHAGs down to yearly and quarterly plans. These plans need to reflect the order of priority and again be very aligned to the just cause and company values.

The goals themselves need to be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific and Sharable
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

There are countless examples and methodologies on goal setting. We used couple of different ones at Ceremity over time, but I personally believe that most companies should adopt OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). A great resource on how to implement OKRs in your business is a book by John Doerr called Measure What Matters.

Pulling it all together

While the just cause rarely changes and BHAGs are relatively long term, the company needs to establish some cadence that will enable it to plan yearly, quarterly, have a weekly pulse on the business, know how to evaluate employees against the core values and understand metrics that drive the business. That’s a lot to pay attention to so having one cohesive and repeatable process could be very helpful. At Ceremity we implemented a process called EOS, which gave us tremendous clarity and focus. This process doesn’t just help organizations with vision and goal setting, but prescribes how to methodically arrive at these, how to make sure everyone is accountable, how to measure progress, as well as how to create a cadence that repeats quarterly and yearly to keep it all alive. We hired a consultant to implement our EOS process, but this was at a later stage of the company when we could afford it. (These consultants are very expensive.) When you’re just starting out, you may want to implement EOS by yourself and the book called Traction may help you with that.

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Vladimir Collak

Vladimir Collak

Technology entrepreneur who loves both technology and startups. You can find me at www.collak.net

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