From the Desk (and Mind) of Marc Landsberg

What Makes Our Startup A Success

A lot of people, recently, have asked me a fascinating question. “What” they ask “has been the key to our success @ SOCIALDEVIANT?”

First, I find it funny, and a bit odd, that people are asking about our success. After all, we’re only 30 months old and have a long, long way to go until we can step back and say “yeah, hey, we’ve made it.”

Actually, I don’t think we’ll ever do that, no matter what’s going on for us.

For starters, startups like life are all about the journey – there is no finish line, no end state, no exit we’re pursuing. Instead, we’re a learning organization and are learning every single day how to be the world’s kindest company and create ever more value for our clients. Full stop.

Second, success is a temporal and highly relative term. What we think of as success may be completely irrelevant for you. Or relevant perhaps, at another point in time. So, ok. Back to the question on the table. Setting aside generic or traditional definitions of success, and making the assumption that still being in business after 30 months of operation qualifies me to answer the question, then….here goes.

Firstly, we’re focused. We are all about two things:

1. Creating value for our clients in a socially connected world, and

2. Building the world’s kindest company to enable and lubricate the pursuit of job #1.

Startups often get wrong the art of the pivot. They turn and zig and zag constantly, chasing shadows. I’ve learned that the most powerful tool in a startup’s toolkit is intense focus – to avoid the temptation to chase the latest fad/idea/opportunity/investor suggestion. I’ve learned that the most powerful word in an entrepreneur’s vocabulary, is No. It’s easy to say No to bad ideas – a lot harder to say No to things that seem really, really tasty.

Secondly, we obsess about turning thoughts into things. We strive to be kind, so instead of just a set of words and values, we’ve translated these beliefs into an operating model. A model that guides behavior day in and day out. We do our level best to act on our intention. Too many startups talk a lot, white board a lot, off site a lot, manifesto a lot. We do that as little as possible, and have an intense bias for action. For deeds to follow our words. Always.

Thirdly, we are decisive. Because we own the company, we can and do act in our clients and our own best interests, always. We take pride in being decisive and in moving forward on every issue and doing so with speed and urgency. We don’t let things fester.

Fourthly, we are constantly looking for ways to be better. To hire better people. To onboard and train the amazing people we do have. To deliver better bigger more impactful ideas for our clients. To be even faster, more efficient, and even more collaborative. We are eyes wide open about our areas for improvement, and are unvarnished in our interest in discussing these, openly. We know we’re not perfect, and instead of focusing on our imperfections – or worse, glossing over them – we try to fix them. Above all, we aim to be a company of problem-solvers. If it can be better, then let’s make it better.

Fifth, and maybe most important, we are hyper transparent. We over communicate on every dimension – where we’re traveling, what meetings are happening, who’s coming into the office, who we’re trying to hire, our financial performance…all of it. Every DEVIANT is super aware of our goings on at all times. And I think this level of transparency and awareness creates an open honest environment in which every person in the company can see touch feel what it takes to drive our success.

So, there you have it. To the extent we are considered a “success,” and Lord knows we’ve a long way to go (by any measure), there’s our formula. What’s yours?

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