De-risk Your Startup By Doing It Again: The Joy Of Getting The Band Back Together

In 1980, following the breakup of the American band The Eagles, Don Henley was asked when the group would reunite. His response, “When hell freezes over.” Surprisingly, hell froze over 14-years later, when The Eagles launched a highly lucrative tour and TV special. According to Guitarist Glenn Frey, “We never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation.”

The story is familiar. A young band gets into music for the sex, drugs and fame. They record a few songs, have a couple hits and then hit the road. The rigors of touring, along with the instant notoriety and unending public scrutiny cause the band to disintegrate, often to the point of declaring they will never work together again.

In many cases, once the money (and sex and drugs) run out, the band members forget the days of rancor and only recall the “good old days” when creating something from nothing was fun. Eventually one of the band mates swallows their pride, picks up the phone and proposes a reunion tour. A similar phenomenon occurs in the startup world, without the drugs or drama endemic in the music industry.

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A+ Players – Hire Employees Who Can Foster An “A” Game In Themselves AND Others

It actually was a “dark and stormy night” on June 17, 1816, when the poet Lord Byron invited each of his houseguests to tell the scariest impromptu ghost story they could think of while sipping cocktails around his fireplace.

Lord Byron’s bold challenge, combined with a supportive environment and the significant talent of the participants, resulted in two of Western literature’s most enduring gothic horror creatures.

Understanding how you can emulate the cooperative, yet competitive atmosphere created by Lord Bryon will help you foster a team of A+ Players.

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Core Values That Sustain Your Startup’s Culture

The following is a true story. The names have been withheld to protect the entrepreneurs’ competitive advantage.

Once there was a startup that grew to the point that the newly hired employees began making decisions that troubled some of the long-time employees. Distressed, the tenured employees approached the CEO and expressed their concern that the company’s culture was being damaged by the newer employees.

The CEO was initially at a loss. The new employees were well-educated, hard-working and dedicated to the adVenture’s success. However, the CEO agreed that some of their actions were inconsistent with the company’s values, desires and purpose. The CEO was confused, as conveying the Company’s cultural tenets had never been an issue that he had to proactively address. In the past, everyone just knew the company’s Corporate Creed.

Understanding how the CEO solved this dilemma may benefit your startup.

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Dirty Team-Building

Stop complaining about how difficult it is to encourage well-mannered, highly educated, civilized professionals to work together.

How would you like to transform twelve convicted felons, with an affinity for violence and no desire to work together, into a cohesive, effective team?

That is exactly what Major Reisman is forced to do in E.M. Nathanson’s World War II novel, The Dirty Dozen.  The steps Major Reisman takes to create this unlikely team are enlightening to entrepreneurial leaders who seek to unite far more willing team members.

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Roping in the Legal Eagles

Johnnie Cochran was an effective, albeit smarmy, defense lawyer who would say or do anything to defend his clients (anyone up for a glass of OJ?). He was a master at encouraging jurors to disregard facts and base their legal verdicts on emotions and conjecture. Yet, despite his exceptional courtroom theatrics, you would be foolhardy to hire good old Johnnie to review your software cross-licensing agreement.

A startup-oriented lawyer may not be able to convince a jury of a guilty man’s innocence, but they can guide your adVenture through the menacing legal shoals it will no doubt face. Working with startup lawyers also minimizes the risk of losing control of your adVenture, as they can help you avoid common fundraising and investor pitfalls. Such attorneys can also add tremendous value in your negotiations with Big Dumb Companies (BDCs), as they can ensure that you focus on the deal points that are of most significance to a small entity. As such, a startup-oriented lawyer is a critical member of your extended adVenture team.

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Peace & War Corps – Creating A Low-Pay / High-Reward Startup

As noted in Frugal Is As Frugal Does, it is unlikely you will be able to pay your startup employees market-rate compensation. So how can you recruit top talent while rationing your cash and equity ownership?

The answer may lie within successful, yet cash-strapped organizations that lack the ability to grant their employees stock ownership, lucrative performance bonuses or other incentives often deployed by entrepreneurs.

How are such organizations able to recruit and retain talented and motivated team members?

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(Non)Sense of Entitlement – Entrepreneurs Need The Whole Package To Succeed: Talent, Temperament and Tenacity

Talent alone is usually not adequate for your adVenture to succeed.

A tragic number of young athletes, musicians and scholars who master their sport, instrument or area of study are unable to translate their natural gifts into a level of success commensurate with their abilities. In some cases, the relative ease with which they achieve their accomplishments is a handicap that precludes other aspects of their character and personality from developing in an appropriate and healthy manner.

Sometimes, when winning comes relatively easy to such prodigies, they develop a poor work ethic, an inability to constructively deal with adversity and a glaring sense of entitlement. An entitlement mentality can lead to a feeling of irreplaceability. However, successful entrepreneurs realize that some people are indispensable but no one is irreplaceable.

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Joining An adVenture

Bilbo’s offer letter from Thorin in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit exemplifies the proper attitude that you must have when joining an adVenture.

“Thorin and Company to Burglar Bilbo, Greetings!

For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of professional assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all traveling expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for.”

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Humble Pride –Steadfast Resolve Is Vital To A Startup’s Success

In the Western movie The Magnificent Seven, the protagonists are escorted out of the town they were hired to defend, unarmed and under gunpoint. Once they are a few miles out of town, their gun belts are tossed on the ground and the banditos who defeated them ride away.

The group’s leader, Chris, played by Yul Brynner, surveys his defeated men, trying to assess his team’s morale. With no preamble, James Coburn’s character, Honest Britt, jumps from his horse and straps on his gun belt while saying, “Nobody throws me my own guns and says, ‘Run.’ Nobody.”

Honest makes it clear that he is going back to town, with or without the rest of the group. Several of the other riders dismount and silently strap on their gun belts as well, indicating their intention to join Honest.

However, Harry, the Magnificent Seven gunslinger with the most overtly mercenary intentions, derides the group for their willingness to ride to their deaths. He attempts to enlist the support of his friend, Lee, by trying to convince him to abandon the team’s objective.

Harry (angrily): “You’re crazy, all of you.”

Chris (calmly): “Ride on Harry, it’s alright.”

Harry: “Come on Lee.”

Chris to Lee: “You don’t owe anything to anybody.”

Lee (after a long pause): “Except to myself.”

Harry then rides off alone. The remaining riders turn their mounts toward town, despite the risks they face.

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Great Expectations

“Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

A: You win a $20M lottery. Several days later, you learn that four other people also had the winning number and thus your actual winnings are reduced by $16M to a total of $4M.

B: You win a $2M lottery. Several days later, you learn that due to an accounting glitch, your initial winnings were misreported. Your actual winnings increase by $1M to a total of $3M.

In which situation would you be happier?

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Follow John’s Startup Oriented Twitter Stream. He promises to never Tweet about sunsets, kittens or awesome burritos.

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