Startup Culture – Be Better

January 25, 2013

in Culture, Leadership, Team Building

The final item on our culture list is “Be Better.” It means a lot of things to us.

Direction is More Controllable Than Position

“Be Better” is a reminder that wherever we are today is not as important as where we are headed. To be pointed in the right direction is something everyone can individually control through choices each day.

“Better” as a Product Goal and a Market Position

A few years ago, I had an update meeting with Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA (a partner of AccelerEyes). I explained to him how our product beat the competition. And I solicited his advice on how a small company like ours with limited budget could position our products in a market full of noisy sub-par alternatives.

For example, we were trying to position a high-quality, faster, easier-to-use, more stable, containing many more features and functions, (the competitive qualities list is too long) GPU library in a market full of ad-hoc GPU libraries published and promoted by a gazillion professors, labs, and one-toe-in-the-water companies.

His advice was simple and powerful; he said we needed to position it with the word “better.” He shared a story of how he had used the word “better” during the early days of his startup.

The word “better” is not overly presumptuous, when it’s true. Yet, it can draw the attention of a noisy market. We like its effect.

“Better” as a Humility Reminder

The goal to “be better” can be used to spur frequent introspection and stave off complacency in areas that are going well.

“Better” as a Constructive Motivator when Criticism is Required

When crucial conversations come along, the motivating statement, “I know you can do better,” is a powerful leadership tool. It does not relent nor condone poor performance. Yet, it conveys trust and hope that the poor performer can turn things around.

Whereas “Be Excellent” deals more with the present, “Be Better” is an ongoing struggle that is purposefully designed to never end.

How do you motivate your startup to be better? What things can startups to do embed “being better” into the culture?

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