"Walking the walk" as an entrepreneur can be as challenging as staying upright on a balance beam when the ground is shaking all around you. You start your company with aspirations to change the world, but as the business grows, it can be difficult to continue to live and breathe those values.
BuzzFeed recently became the subject of controversy when it deleted thousands of old articles from its database because they no longer met the site's journalistic standards. The social news and entertainment company has invested heavily in elevating its coverage to help its readership gain access to better information, but ironically, many saw BuzzFeed's decision to delete the articles as anti-journalistic.
Just as BuzzFeed has to position its decision as "walking the walk" to be perceived as a credible media outlet, your company must also walk the walk to show customers and stakeholders that it's dedicated to its mission.
- Hire With Your Team in MindAs you grow, it can be tempting to hire candidates with the perfect skill set, but you need people who are just as committed to your company's mission as you are. Your team shouldn't just be full of top performers; all your employees should feel inextricably tied to the success of the company and its values.
- Establish Objectives That Encourage CollaborationWhen you establish corporate objectives, make sure that one team's success is never attained at the expense of another's. Lay out goals in a way that makes the entire company responsible for solving individual problems that align with your values, and remind your team that every part of your company is connected.
- Connect With Other Players in Your SpaceIt's important to constantly communicate with other companies in your space to identify opportunities to partner up, share ideas, and advance your mission. Even if a company seems like a competitor or the timing isn't quite right, you should open those lines of communication today.Recently, Twitter teamed up with Apple to make sure its users could take full advantage of Apple's new iOS 8. When companies with similar missions team up, it improves the customer experience and raises the bar for everyone.
- Practice What You PreachThe key to being perceived as a company dedicated to a mission is to ensure that your company's day-to-day actions reflect its values. For instance, because my company touts the importance of getting employees engaged with their health, it would be pretty hypocritical not to make personal wellness a priority for our own employees. That's why we offer gym memberships, healthy food, and weekly massages to all our employees.Warby Parker's values include serving the community and creating an environment where employees can "think big, have fun, and do good." But Warby Parker doesn't just send employees out to volunteer once a year; it lives these values by distributing glasses to people in need through its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.
- Communicate Tough Decisions to Your TeamAs your company grows, you may occasionally have to make choices that seem to contradict your principles. In these cases, communicating with your employees is key to making sure everyone involved understands the company's long-term goals. If they can understand the long game, the short-term decisions will make more sense.
Walking the walk requires a full commitment to growing a team that is just as fanatical about your mission as you are and aligning your company's actions with the values you preach. Remember: Being genuine isn't a product feature, and it goes way beyond branding. It's a human trait that comes down to how you treat your team, your customers, and your partners on a daily basis.