The Very First Question All Founders Should Ask Themselves

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If you don't know who you are and what you stand for, you're setting yourself up for failure. So what's your company's ethos? By Jennie Mc Ginn (CEO & Co-founder, Opsh)

So you’ve made the decision to start your new business. You’re pretty sure your ideas are about to change the world forever. You’ve fired up the laptop, set to work on a business plan, started hiring, rented an office space and started scheduling marketing campaigns.

But you’ve probably neglected the one job that could make or break your business.

Go on, try and guess what I’m talking about. I’ll give you a minute. Branding? Management structures? Distributing the tea-making duties evenly? Nope. What I’m talking about is more important than anything. It’s the heart and soul of your company, and it should inform each and every action you make for the lifecycle of your business.

I’m talking about company ethos.

"What's Our Company Ethos?"

It’s one of the major benefits of starting your own business – but it’s vital that you put time and effort into nailing it down before you grow too fast. A steadfast set of values or company practices can make decision-making easier, it can inform hiring practices and marketing spends; above all, it makes sure your business reflects its founders, and what they think is important.

Your ethos can take shape in a variety of ways; perhaps you want to dedicate a specific percentage of profits to charity, or maybe you want to insure your offices operates only on clean energy. Google’s ethos is summed up by three famous words. Zappos had a ten-point “family values” plan. It’s not important how you put the ethos into words, or images, or even action – but it’s vital to create your own unique culture as soon as you start your company.

"Who's Our Audience and What do We Want Them to Feel?"

When Opsh was incorporated, we spent days at the office’s tiny kitchen table, discussing who we wanted to be as a company. We honed our origin story, debated what we stood for, whiteboarded specific cultural phrases we wanted to use across our communications, and decided how we wanted to be seen by our customers.

We spoke in terms of what we were not to find out what we specifically were. We crafted an Opsh customer from scratch - writing her life story on pale post-it notes that soon covered the walls like leaves on an autumn street. She had a name and a backstory and hopes and dreams by the time we were through. And when the time came to decide on a company direction, we called her to mind before we made any choices.

Answer Those Questions and Everything Else Will Follow

It was the best prep we could have hoped for. Now, with real customers taking shape and getting in touch, we know exactly how to communicate with them – we know exactly what values we want to portray. And if we hadn’t spend those early days nailing down our corporate culture, we wouldn’t have a clue.

So before you do anything with your startup, decide what you stand for.

If you don’t, it’ll be all too easy to fall.

What's your company's ethos and how did you decide on it?

Photo credit: phloxii via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Jennie Mc Ginn is CEO and co-founder of Opsh -- a revolutionary new shopping platform that lets you shop across your favorite brands with just one account. Prior to that, Jennie and her sisters co-founded the shoppable magazine Prowlster and a ran an award-winning fashion blog called What Will I Wear Today. Jennie started out as a freelance journalist after studying in the London College of Fashion and worked across film, art and youth work.