I’m finding myself increasingly giving the same advice to entrepreneurs, who are looking for funding. I tell them: “Shop for values.”
Many of them are in sell mode, trying to convince a VC to invest. But, I hope they remember they are also in buy mode: they’re looking for people with whom they can work, and, ideally, with whom they feel comfortable.
A group with aligned values can stay united and overcome challenges. Things may not work out, but you feel that people are on the same team. And, when things do work out, an aligned team really feels incredibly close and productive. I’m a big fan of common values; that’s one reason why our firm has Operating Principles.
Different values ultimately will mean different agendas, which will lead to distrust. I know, for I’ve been on Boards of both types. And, I’ve worked at both types of companies in the past. The cultures where people mistrust each other are absolutely exhausting, as everyone is trying to figure out who is manipulating whom and what folks are really trying to say.
I think “values” is one of those loaded words that means everything and nothing at the same time. It all depends on who is using the word. And, it’s difficult to shop for values. I mean, if you ask someone if they have good values, nearly all people will say, “Of course, I do!”
For me, having common values involves this:
- You want to spend time with that person
- There is mutual respect in the relationship
- You feel that you are being treated fairly and with transparency
- You feel you can be yourself
Unfortunately, I’ve run into entrepreneurs who seem to view financings as transactions. And, I’m sure some entrepreneurs will say the same things about some VCs.
And, I really believe that transaction-focused people can still make things work. But, time and again, I see that people focused on common values do extraordinary things and create extraordinary results.
You see this in other areas of life, too: dating relationships, marriage, etc. Common values create energy. Divergent values deplete energy.
Alignment is very powerful.