Your Startup's Purpose Can't be About You

Why aligning the core of your company to someone else leads to growth.

May 4, 2020

Selfish ambitions don't really get you anywhere. They cause you to think narrowly about what's good for you and gives you a good pay out (one person), as opposed to thinking about what could give a good payout to others (multiple people). Not only that, but it makes for lame brands, since it's hard to make other feel something if you have not rooted your company in empathy.

There are blatant examples of this when startup founders go into a venture with the purpose of making a bunch of money so they don't have to work anymore. No one is going to hand their money to you so that YOU don't have to work anymore. It seems silly to reiterate that, but sometimes we all need a reminder. It's rare to find a company with a purpose like this that does anything innovative or builds something others find irreplaceable. However, it's not always as easy to spot such self-centered ambition.

Where selfish ambition gets tricky is when it's veiled in altruism. Here are some example: "I see all these big companies that are selfish with their money and do a bad job handling it, I think I could do a better job."

At first glance, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. There are indeed hundreds of big companies that get caught in scams and aren't very generous with their money. But take a look at the example again but with this question in mind: who is the beneficiary?

There's only two subjects in it, large companies and the founder of this startup, so it must be one of them. Sparing you the trouble, if either of these subjects are the beneficiary, then this purpose sucks. Despite the acknowledged problem of large companies' ill-spending, the solution of trusting one person (albeit, a stranger) to do a better job with it is not much better. It's certainly not something that you could rally a team behind, convince investors to buy-in to, and certainly not customers.

Why? Because it's all about the founder. No one is going to buy into that.

It's not all lost though, with a small tweak this could be improved. Let's try this: "I see all these big companies that are selfish with their money and do a bad job handling it, so I'm going to create a company where every employee gets to dedicate a portion of our profit to a charity of their choice."

Now who's the beneficiary? The employees and the charities they choose to support. Shoot, even the founder becomes a beneficiary because they now have recognition for giving others an opportunity to do good. Despite a purpose dedicated to the service of others, the company still grows because other people have bought in and get something in return.

Point being, if you want to grow your startup, make your purpose about other people, not you.

More you say?

Mint and Chip

If someone hates you, someone is sure to love you

12.3.2019

Everyone loves ice cream, but getting people to agree on a flavor is difficult. You gauge a room of people to see what they want and no one will seem to agree. Especially if someone suggests mint and chip.

My guess is that most people are indifferent, but there are those who vehemently oppose the flavor with everything they've got. Hell, someone even wrote an article on how terrible is it.

Here's the thing though:

One of my closest friends absolutely LOVES mint and chip ice cream. It's her favorite, she will go out of her way to get it and she'd happily argue with the author of that article about why it's a good choice.

Branding a startup works the same way. Some people will love it, some will not. You have to be ok without pleasing everyone.

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The biggest positive from COVID-19

A silver-lining to make things less troublesome.

3.24.2020

I've been racking my head around this since the initial quarantine mandates were put into place. It sucks that we are in a situation like this, but there is one key things that has seemed prevalent throughout all the chaos:

Remote Work is now commonplace and it actually helps in a lot of ways.

Obviously, I'm biased, since I work from home normally, but it seems that COVID-19 was the push we needed to expand our abilities in working from home or outside the office.

What makes this important is showing the flexibility of the workforce when forced to adapt. Maybe there is something more there, a microcosm of a greater potential to overcome adversity, but I digress. Anyway, back to remote work. It's a good thing and for many reasons. These would be the top three:

More time doing things instead of commuting
Double-edged sword on this one, as more people working from home means the people that have to go in will endure less traffic. On average, this would save people two hours per day, 10 hours per week, and 520 hours per year (give or take). Wow! Can you imagine putting that time toward personal health, cooking, or spending time with family? You'd be a different person if you really took advantage of all that time.

Less chit-chat, more deep work
Being an extrovert, like me, has its advantages, but the downside is that I will always prefer to talk with people rather than being left alone to do important work. When I worked for a startup after college, I would lock myself in a private room to focus for a couple hours because I knew I would take any opportunity to talk with coworkers. And while interaction is not a bad thing and should be used when doing brainstorming or collaborating on projects, a majority of our work can be (and should be) done independently. Why? So you can focus, dive deep into the problem, and get the thing done. Which segues into the next point.

Intentional social interaction
Though working from home has its benefits, we all need genuine social interaction. This is a shot in the dark, but if everyone is able to focus on the actual work they need to get done while working at home, then they can dive deeper during social interaction, especially with coworkers. Follow me for a sec, would you rather have 10, five minute conversations spread out over eight hours, or one, hour-long conversation without interruption? If you're like me, I prefer the latter. Deep conversations, like deep work, cannot be interrupted. My guess is that working remotely will create an environment where longer conversations take the place of spaced-out small ones as meeting up in person will be more intentional and focused.

What does this have to do with design and branding? I'm not entirely sure at the moment, but there is definitely a connection to the depth attained when working by yourself on a project without interruption. Maybe this shows that work, like design, is all about intention. If you intentionally make time to work, have conversations, or have fun instead of juggling them all at once, we'll be better off.

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