The North Star to Guide Your Startup: Core Values

A set of beliefs can guide a young company as it chooses new staff and lays a strong foundation for the future.

learn more about Steven Cox

By Steven Cox • Apr 24, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Startups are not successful simply because they are founded with great ideas. What's important is the execution and putting in place the right people early on -- to shape the core values and mission of the enterprise. A core belief system helps guide a young company through its daily perils and pitfalls, serving as its North Star.

Right from the get-go, my company identified three core values. You'll note that what appears to us as the North Star or Polaris, is actually three stars, as NASA's Hubble Space Telescope revealed in 2006.

My startup, TakeLessons, built a team as any good coach would, focusing not just on hiring those with the most talent but also finding those who believe deeply in our cause, share our values and embrace a unified vision of what the enterprise can be.

The legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks once said, "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right players." As critical as this truism is for sports, finding the right players is also critical to building a successful company.

Each of these three values has played a critical role in our success in building the right team. We look for these values in every prospective employee and require them of every person we hire.

Related: How to Hire Someone Aligned With the Company's Mission

1. Adopt an ownership mentality. Not only should the leaders of a company be self-motivated, self-aware, self-disciplined and self-improving, but these traits should be held by every member of the team. People who have an ownership mentality always go the extra mile, doing whatever is necessary to complete the task at hand.

They put other team members and the company's best interests before themselves; they never act as though they are above completing any task, no matter how small, and they continually exceed expectations. They own every action, understanding that everything they do represents and affects the health of the company.

2. Seek constant and never-ending improvement. We're good today, but we can be better tomorrow. Those who adhere to this belief recognize that while the company may be on top today, it will have bigger battles to fight tomorrow and can't afford to rest on its laurels or past success.

This mentality puts the responsibility for improvement squarely on each individual's shoulders, while continuously raising the bar for achievable goals for the entire team.

Nothing is more important than perseverance, always believing that you can and will succeed. All team members should be encouraged to keep moving forward, through roadblocks and setbacks, believing in themselves and that their persistence will pay off in the end. For a team that perseveres together, success is always imminent.

Related: How Making Employees Lifelong Learners Can Help Your Company Succeed

3. Respect yourself and others. A strong team comes from each individual having a positive view of himself (or herself) and others. When people posses not only self-respect but also respect others and the opinions they hold, this makes for a cohesive team.

No one person always has the right answer and every perspective has merit. This understanding contributes to a healthy, collaborative environment and enables creativity to rise the next level.

Furthermore be proud of what you do. Waking up every morning and going to bed every night with a clear conscience is critical. Every decision made by employees should be made with integrity. When that's the case, employees can reflect on their actions and decisions with pride, regardless of the outcomes.

Related: Your Mission Statement May Be Utterly Useless or a Gold Mine

Steven Cox

Steven Cox is a veteran entrepreneur who currently serves as CEO and founder of San Diego-based TakeLessons. The company is a provider of online lessons and connects teachers across the nation with students of all ages.

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