War Time Entrepreneurial Lessons. Hint, Culture Matters.


If you start up a company the odds of winning are heavily stacked against you. As such, I am a fanatic about team and culture. Why? Because a startup generally has a binary future and it takes you down one of these two paths, (slight exaggerations):

0. Riding a unicorn on a rainbow to a pot of gold which = Happy fluffy clouds for the rest of your life.

1. Riding a train that crashes, blows up, collides with a truck of nuclear waste which = The Mr T. future of PAIN!

My Advice (For What Its Worth): Enjoy the journey and focus heavily on your team AND your culture. Funny, We named our company for this reason; Team & Culture, Ltd. As Cervantes said, “The journey is better than the inn”.Enjoy the journey and the people with whom you are launching this endeavor. The one (and only) guarantee is that you will walk away with experience. Whether your experience is a good or bad one will largely be determined by the people that are in the foxhole with you, the TEAM and CULTURE that you build. Of course with the right team, the odds of success are greatly improved. Winning is a byproduct of a correct process that your team follows zealously. As Ben Horowitz wrote in his great book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” you need a peace time CEO and a War Time CEO.

Some Nuggets From My Personal War Time Experiences:

  1. Listen to your team. Listen to your co-founders, your board, your investors, people that care about the company, and most importantly, your heart. You don’t have to do what they say, but hear them and consider their input.
  2. Be honest. Thinking you can fib or hedge your way out of every situation is only going to make matters worse. I’ve watched psychopaths do this thinking they are so clever. No, you are not. You will be found out eventually and it’s going to be much worse than just taking your medicine now.
  3. Fight hard for your beliefs. Be nice, be civil, but fight hard. “Treat everyone like a gentleman, not because they are, but because you are.” – Ed Sabol
  4. Find product-market-fit. Move on or pivot if you don’t have fit.
  5. Read, watch and listen! Read Lean Startup. Read what the experts have to say, watch videos and listen to podcasts about business, starting up, your industry and your challenges. When I read, watch or listen, not a day goes by that I do not learn something impactful.
  6. Again, LISTEN!

Written by Nate Greenlee, member of CLx Co. & Co-Founder of Team & Culture, LTD. a digital agency based in Denver, Colorado.