Building “in” vs Building “on”

College didn’t teach me what matters most.

Why do companies fail?

Market timing and dynamics, poor strategic decisions, wrong product, focus on features over customer problems, bad hiring, failure to execute, [money]. The list of issues that compound towards a business’ demise goes on and on.

They all have one thing in common.

They each are a result of a team building “on” the business;

  • Building/launching products
  • Executing marketing campaigns
  • Selling to and retaining customers
  • Building great customer service
  • Analyzing data

These are tangible, malleable practices found in some form across every company. These are also the things universities teach as the centerfold for successful businesses.

MBA and undergraduate business schools have built entire programs with a framework of working on core business functions (finance, accounting, operations) as the focal points of building companies.

I recall a single, required, course as an undergraduate in NYU’s Stern School of Business titled “Professional Responsibility and Leadership”.

We barely even scratched the surface of building culture.

Nothing on communication.

Nothing on building internal relationships.

Nothing on management practices.

Nothing on diversity & inclusion.

When our universities and our employers only focus on rewarding advancements in IQ, where does that leave us in our path to understand each other more fully. When does EQ become part of the performance review.

There is a misconstrued belief that “execution” is the key to success. But execution in a vacuum accomplishes nothing.

Building a company also means building “in” the organization — the people, the space, the atmosphere, the purpose.

As much as the best companies get built from revolutionary ideas and great products, they are also equally devices of energy and resources put squarely behind people and culture.

This is not newfound wisdom. Success today goes beyond product market fit.

Our generation of builders and leaders care more deeply than ever before about the environment they work in.

Successful companies have a solid foundation manifested in culture.

Instilling a value system and a common language for why a group of people choose to come to work everyday warrants constant attention.

More tactically these concepts are codified within three core pillars — Mission, Vision and Values. Together each helps to answer the “why” “what” and “how” a collective group of people, regardless of size, operate in unison. [to be continued]

founder of Chief of Staff Network, founder of Propel, former CoS at Spring, producer @WatchRoomMovie

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