Of the many wonderful things about starting Homebrew, possibly the most satisfying has been working with a partner, Hunter Walk, in whom I have absolute trust. That trust stems from a longstanding relationship, a commitment to helping each other be successful and a shared vision for what we want Homebrew to be. And it makes it possible for work to rarely feel like work. Most importantly, that trust allows us to focus exclusively on the activity of the fund and being supportive of our partner companies. No time, energy or resources are wasted on questioning each others motivations, actions, decisions or feedback.
All of this has reminded me how much trust is fundamental to the success of startups (Homebrew is our own startup after all). I would argue that no characteristic impacts the productivity, motivation, camaraderie and longevity of a team more than trust. But how do you assemble a team that trusts each other when trust is usually forged through shared experiences over time? Culture, values, transparency and many other things certainly contribute to building trust. But the foundation of trust in every startup I’ve ever seen have it is a shared goal.
Whether you call it the Why, a mission statement, a shared vision, a true north or a common understanding of why the company exists, there is no replacement for everyone on the team knowing why they collectively and individually come to work each day. Startups are faced with many obstacles, unknowns and failures. People have to wear many hats and pitch in across many different areas. There’s often little, if any, time to coordinate activity, assign responsibility or formulate a plan of attack. When your team has a shared goal it becomes infinitely easier to assume, and eventually know, that your teammates are doing the right thing.
In startups, it’s the job of the founder(s) to repeatedly communicate the shared goal of the company and to make sure that anyone joining the team understands and shares that goal as well. At Homebrew, we prefer to work with mission-driven founders because they seem to do this innately. As a result, they are often successful in building teams and cultures that are based on trust. And these teams leverage that trust to become high-performing, making work feel nothing like work at all.