I’ve been struggling with whether or not to write a post on culture. I usually try to make my posts be positive and forward looking. And yet, I can’t write an article on culture without first doing a small rant on what I consider the dark side of culture. The sometimes use of culture to exclude people that don’t “fit”. Even when they might have relevant skills and can add value. As a woman in technology, and now an older woman in technology, on the surface I don’t always look like I “fit”. Though, I guess I’ve been lucky. The teams and environments that I have worked in have been diverse, just by virtue of me being on them. And now, I’m at a point and level in my career, where I can positively impact a culture, not just “fit” into one.
For this post, I’d like to step back a moment. Instead of looking at the why’s and how’s of the methodology, I would like to instead consider one of the key benefits that Agile brings to both us as product creators and to our customers. What you might think of as the “Value” with a capital “V” of Agile. This is that it brings down the cost of change.
Startups should first start with trying to understand the market and what you can uniquely offer of value to that market. That I meant not to ignore traditional branding activities, just not to prioritize that before they have product/market fit validated. And base your branding on this discovery.
I love the disclaimer that “past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future gain” that is often affixed to advice or information from investment houses. Because it’s just that, a disclaimer. I get a chuckle out of it. The goal of most business owners is to do the opposite. To find a way to integrate lessons learned into their business models and build positive momentum towards future gains. And yes, if you find a way to do that consistently then everyone does come along – customers, investors, and the best talent – regardless of the disclaimer.
A lot has changed over time in terms of company business organization. Traditionally Marketing was about lead generation and collateral production. Basically inputs to the sales process. Sales was all closing deals and achieving quotas. Marketing had the long view, trying to please all Customers. Sales had the short view, trying to service a specific Customer today. Marketing had indirect exposure to Customers. Sales owned direct relationships. The turf wars in existing companies grew naturally about these very different mandates and responsibilities. A real life “best of times and worst of times” saga.
One thing I recommend founders to do is to think of the company as being a portfolio of projects, and the founder as being the strategic owner of this portfolio. Each specific product or service that the company is offering is a project in the portfolio that sits under the umbrella of the company. Then they can look at the maturity level of each project and the company itself. For example, a company that is offering a service to a customer base and at the same time is thinking of how they can translate that service into a SaaS product offering, may already have a good problem/market fit for the company itself, be in efficiency in terms of delivering the service and be just starting validation for the SaaS service.
When most people speak about a Startup’s funding approach as “bootstrapping”, they often are referring to the Founders putting some time and capital into the company. This is actually an incorrect use of the term in Startup “speak”, as that Founder input is still an investment. And though it’s usual that Founders put some cash into their companies or minimally defer taking anything out, it’s still actually investment. Just not an external investment. It is a type of Seed Funding.
Building a startup team based on skills is a lot like the casting activity in the film industry. Those responsible for casting a movie will look at the character in the plot, and try to find actors that they know have the ability to play the role. Though there is also a secondary look at how these actors look together on film, their onscreen chemistry. So the casting activity is actually a casting of the ensemble, not just the individual actors.