Startup Focus Hack: Creating Guidepost Values


Starting a business is hard. Even if you’ve done it a few times. It takes a crazy amount of excitement and real vision to simply commit to making the leap, then after the high of “shiny and new” wears off, determination and continuous action must kick in to keep you going.

We’re now 11-months into AVRA Talent Partners. There have been three name changes, several rounds of figuring out our true product/market fit, and now we’re in the process of patching systems and refining our people product to deliver stellar results for our clients, every time.

Guidepost values

One hack I’ve realized that makes all of this a LOT easier, is creating a set of values, and words associated with those, that you use over and over. They’ll most likely transform, adapt and mature over time—but having 3-5 core values early on can act as guideposts along the blizzarding, mountain-climb that is getting to a viable and healthy company.

Some of our most valued, values, are:

Authenticity—We’re in the talent acquisition space, and we’re directly competing with traditional recruitment firms. IMHO we’re more effective, more thorough, and simply care a whole hell of a lot more… the value of “authenticity” sums this up to us. We try and hold true to this value whether it’s dealing with a candidate who won’t be a fit, or having to tell it like it is when a client has unrealistic expectations.

  • Words associated with this value: being human, open and honest communication, treating others the way you’d want to be treated.

Alignment—We strive for a win-win-win. This means a win for our clients, a win for the candidate and a win for us, the company. Drilling even further down, we pay our team in a way that when the company makes more money, they make more money, through our 50/50 model of compensation. Often, as humans, we fall into the trap of approaching business like a zero-sum game. It’s all or nothing, you’re either the winner or the loser. You screw, or get screwed. I use to think this way. But now I’ve realized that the most fulfilling, and profitable, business relationships (heck, all relationships) are built on mutual respect and alignment of goals.

  • Words associated with this value: win-win-win, getting in-sync, getting aligned

Extreme Ownership—We’re constantly striving to empower each and every person at AVRA to take extreme ownership of their clients, their work, and the company’s overall success. To do this, we must be really clear about what the goals are, and encourage everyone to speak up, even when it sucks to hear. This can manifest in something as simple as documenting a process, without being asked, so it’s easier for the rest of the team to do XYZ next time, or as detailed as rebuilding a financial model that someone realized wasn’t optimized. A good overview from a book of the same name, is here.

  • Words associated with this value: taking charge, empowerment, valuing your responsibilities

If this gets you jazzed about creating your own guide post values, let me suggest some of the following resources for further reading:

As always, questions, comments, interesting ideas—drop me a line.