True North: The Secret to a Successful and Aligned Tech Startup

True North: The Secret to a Successful and Aligned Tech Startup

In the middle of firefights and as you tirelessly work to bring your company forward, it’s often easy to get lost. A few months ago, someone on the team said:

“Why are we doing all this for? It’s no longer clear to me where we’re going.”

That’s OK. That’s normal. Every now and then, you or people on your team will lose sight of what we call at Stun and Awe, your True North. It’s the destination or ultimate end state that you want for your business.

That’s why it’s crucial to:

  • Have a clear True North defined in the first place

  • Communicate it constantly

In times of crisis, I wanted to share part of our very own True North to help you stay on track as you progress on your journey.

Why the Heck Are We Doing this

Our True North plan is a simple two-pager. It starts with our purpose or what Simon Sinek calls our why. Our key reason for getting up in the morning (apart from having to feed the kids:)) is to transform businesses into designers of positive change.

We want to help tech startups build effective businesses that are profitable and sustainable and that ultimately create a positive impact in the world.

It’s not meant to be a nice statement that you hang on a wall. That simple statement implies that there’s a lot of companies we will not work with. No let’s-make-loads-of-money-and-screw-the-rest type of businesses. No gimmicks. No startups selling dumb apps and trying to monetize them.

How We Behave Along the Way

Once we know our why, we need to know how we will behave along the way. How are we going to face a crisis, like the one we’re going through right now? How are we going to work together and treat each other? This is where your values come into play.

A crisis gives you the opportunity to discover the true nature of individuals and organizations. When shit hits the fan, you realize who your true friends are. Make sure that your values are aligned with who you really are so that you can stick to them in tough times.

Showing off values that you can’t uphold is what phonies do.

At Stun and Awe, there’re a few things we live by and believe in:

  • Aiming high and challenging the status quo are the only way to build something meaningful

  • Collaboration & diversity create better solutions and help solve big problems

  • Being authentic is the first step to building true relationships

  • Life is too short not to let our creativity go free

  • Since the world constantly change, we must constantly learn

What are your values?

Committing to Something Bigger

We love the operational part of running a business. Reviewing our company scorecard, optimizing conversions, strategizing on a new product. But we also believe tech startups should be agents of change.

Our True North two-pager also includes the causes that we want to contribute to. In our case, we decided to align them to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDGs cover a series of challenges that, if properly addressed, will help “achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Based on our individual beliefs and on Stun and Awe’s expertise, we chose to focus on three key goals:

  • GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

  • GOAL 13: Climate Action

  • GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Once you know where you want to make a difference, there are plenty of ways to act. You can donate a portion of your revenues, offer pro bono expertise to NGOs, make your operations more sustainable or partner with other organizations.

Getting Crystal Clear on Who You Serve

Our True North is not just about purpose, values, and contributions. Like Rocky would say: “the world ain't all sunshine and rainbows”. It’s also about building an effective business. To do that, you need to get crystal clear on who you want to serve.

The second part of our two-pager focuses on your target market, offer, and brand promise. Many startups make the mistake of targeting a very broad range of potential customers. It’s the constant fear of missing out. But too much is like not enough. Trying to be everything to everybody is a sure way to fail, both in life and in business. I’m sure someone said that somewhere.

Of course, it’s OK to pivot and adapt based on the feedback and traction you get from the market. Focusing on a well defined niche or personas will still get you better results.

At Stun and Awe, we target :

  • Tech startups with 15-200 employees who face challenges with their performance and impact

  • They are looking for different ways to lead and run their business

  • They are open minded, coachable, and forward-looking

We target tech companies because that’s what we know best. And we want to help people who want to get helped and who are open to new ideas. We’ve learned the hard way that trying to win the wrong client never pays off both financially and spiritually. Amen.

What’s in it for Them