A team of believers who are wedded to the idea, who are unshakeable in their conviction of the vision and relentlessly pursue it.
“It can get really lonely at the top” is something that we get to hear a lot. I have had this discussion with multiple entrepreneurs in the past, and this seems to be a common refrain. The extent of this “loneliness” might vary from case to case, but the startup founder generally tends to feel aloof and isolated as the business grows.
One solution that is oft recommended by the startup founders and experts is to focus intensely on building a founding team or core team from day 1. This is the team that will form your “Tribe” which sticks around through the thick and thin. This is the team that subscribes to your vision and co-builds the business from scratch, brick by brick. This is the team that can never be poached, and this is the team that is always self-motivated. I can personally vouch for this, and this is a story that I never get tired of sharing.
Arriving upon the idea of UClean was not very difficult. I had seen the concept of assisted laundry work like magic in southeast Asia, and the stage was perfectly set for India. The bigger challenge was the paucity of funds. My wife, Gunjan, generously offered to work for free till we were decently capitalized and also continue to maintain her regular job so that we are able to run the home. The next daunting task was to build a team of co-founders who would share the passion, zeal, and vision we had for UClean. More importantly, be prepared to work at minimal salaries until better times come. Having worked at a heavily funded startup before UClean and having co-founded another in the past, I was clear that we are not looking for pedigreed folks. As an IITian, I don’t have an aversion for fellow IITians or equivalents. But the nature of business demanded folks that understood the nuances of laundry business and were willing to do the on-ground heavy lifting.
In our search process, we came across two individuals who were as different as chalk and cheese. Aman, who was in his early 30s, already packed an extensive work experience in the laundry industry and had been a hustler through and through. Dinesh, on the other hand, was just 22 but his parents and forefathers had been in the laundry business for generations. With the duo on-board, our founding team was sorted, and we took the leap of faith. In hindsight, we couldn’t have been luckier. In my startup journey, I have made a lot of hiring mistakes, and some of them have been horrendous. It is only because of this founding team, which I fondly refer to as “my tribe”, that we have been able to overcome all these obstacles and continue our march towards Swachh Bharat.
No words can do justice to the importance of having your own tribe in the system. And the tribe does not necessarily have to be your co-founders. It is the team of believers who are wedded to the idea, who are unshakeable in their conviction of the vision and relentlessly pursue it. The biggest advantage of having a tribe, especially for a startup, is that it has a positive rub-off on all team members and you see the power of collective in action! When the COVID-19 onslaught was at its peak, it was our tribe that first stepped up and volunteered to work on minimum salaries.
So, if you are a startup founder, focus your time and energies on building your own tribe. Nurture them, motivate them, and inspire them. They will do the rest for you.