What Makes a Startup Sustainable?

Hint: It’s not the product itself.

Photo Credit

Cameron Chell is a serial entrepreneur, and unlike many startup founders, admits to both his successes and his failures. He wrote a book, and as a fan of his, I had to read it. In it, he goes into detail on seven different principles for creating a successful and sustainable startup by focusing on building teams of people.

That’s right. People.

A startup founder and lifelong entrepreneur who doesn’t write about how he is “disrupting” anything or world-changing strategies to “blow this industry up.”

Chell has given talks about how to fail with style and learn from it and how most of entrepreneurship is accountability, responsibility, and always moving forward to take the next step based off what you learned in the previous one.

Chell is real. He doesn’t overhype entrepreneurship or try to sell you on how awesome it is to be your own boss, or try to tell you that every idea has merit. In fact, he specifically says that there are a million people writing about having the right ideas and creating a business around them. Instead of answering the question of “how to be the best/top/make money,” he instead posits that you have to fully understand the “why.” He stops talking about the leader of the company and starts talking about the people who actually move any company or idea forward — its employees.

The whole book is great, but I want to tell you about the part that resonated most with ME. It’s not the one about acknowledging mistakes or even the one about how the idea itself is not very relevant to the business.

No, the part I reread is “The Three Realities of a Startup.”

Chell writes, “The reality of a startup always boils down to perception.”

He discusses the three realities that matter when you are trying to create a foundation of alignment within a company culture: My reality, YOUR reality, and everything else we can’t control.

These three pieces of a whole are what can help you address and resolve conflicts within an organization in a way that really helps you find true alignment.

My reality is my own perception and understanding, and this book explains that when you try to rationalize your actions or thoughts, you intentionally blind yourself to other realities. You are so focused on YOU that you forget to think about everyone else: the market, the audience for your product or service, and even your teams.

Once you understand your own bias, you can step back and see things from other perspectives. Chell gives five questions to make you think and really identify and separate emotions from expectations.

This is the part that really struck a chord with me: the only way to hear and understand how other people see and interpret things is to place yourself in a position of vulnerability — and then trust the other people.

Basically, when we understand our own biases, we can have “situational awareness” and put them aside and truly listen to other people to understand their reasons, explanations, and even dissatisfactions.

The last step in understanding the realities of a startup is to understand that some things are out of your control, and use that to identify common ground and neutral areas to work from.

“After identifying the expectations you placed on a situation in your reality and then the expectations of others when trapped in theirs, you are able to find where the misalignment in expectations and reality are.”

Chell comes at conflict identification and resolution in a way that I have not considered. I am interested to start using these principles in my own business, not with teams but with my clients, as a way to truly understand my biases, learn to understand theirs, and let us come together to find a solution that is satisfying to all parties.

Have you ever tried to truly identify and remove your bias from a conflict or misunderstanding? If so, tell me your advice, I am still learning!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.