Four Qualities That Make a Startup Unforgettable
November 19, 2014

Four Qualities That Make a Startup Unforgettable

by Brian de Haaff

When you walk into a startup where everyone is smiling and happy to be there, you know you are in a special place. It just plain feels good to be somewhere everyone wants to work. As a guy who has been fortunate enough to be the CEO of a few companies, I have learned over time that it’s important to make a startup a feel-good place.

Terrible workplaces get a lot of airtime, but there are a lot of workplaces that are really terrific. I know — I have worked in a few of them. Some qualities really set a company apart, making it unforgettable not only to those who work there but also to anyone with whom it does business.

Fabulous employers make you feel special, and you do not want that feeling to go away.

In 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth,” after three years of studying what makes “a workplace of your dreams.” Their findings are consistent with my experience — virtues like nurturing individual differences and the workplace standing for something matter.

In order for a company to be a destination rather than a stop along the way, I believe that it needs to have four key qualities. I have been thinking about these qualities a lot recently as we have been rapidly growing the team at Aha! (visual roadmap software for product managers).

Identity
People need to know what the company is. This is not the same thing as what a company does. When a company knows its identity, it is aware of its place in a broader ecosystem and acts holistically. A shared identity also brings the team together.

Purpose
When companies stand for something more than making money, purpose is more than a line in a mission statement. Intention pervades every interaction and transaction and makes business feel more personal. We are all working for a higher purpose and a company should have a soul.

Aspirational
Unforgettable companies work towards a better future. They do not have limited purposes; they have lofty goals and continually strive to deliver on them. They also challenge employees to bring and to be their personal best. They are defined by what is next and improvement.

Human
Human-focused companies respect their people, support them, and give them space to be awesome. They do not expect their staff to be cut from one cloth; they attract and celebrate differences. This makes for a company that gets stronger from diversity and celebrates each person’s contribution.

Business is personal. We spend more time at work than anyplace else, so we should aspire for it to be a special place that is supportive of us and makes us feel good. It should be a place to which we are connected by more than a paycheck.

If you have not already, you should think about your company and how it and you will be remembered.

Your life will be defined in part by what you accomplish at work. There is no denying that. And what you are able to accomplish will be strongly influenced by who you work for and the workplace. You deserve to work at an unforgettable company and, if it is not one yet, help it transition towards greatness for both of you.

Is your startup unforgettable?

Comments on Hacker News.

Brian de Haaff

About Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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