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Aye, aye, Captain: Getting your startup team on board with your brand strategy.

Andy Snuggs

August 15th, 2018  •  2 minute read

Startups are like ships.

Stay with me now.

The founder (in this soon-to-be over-egged analogy) is the captain. They know where they want to go and what route they want to take to get there.

But a ship can’t be sailed alone. It needs a crew.

With 75% of startups failing¹, those that succeed do so by gaining traction through razor-sharp focus and clear-cut execution. The aim isn’t to do everything, but to work collectively to reach one goal.

So, how do founders communicate this goal? How do they avoid assumptions, presumptions and misconceptions? And how do they onboard people with their brand strategy and avoid going off course?

1. Hoist the sails.

Founders should clarify what kind of business they’re building and what problems they’re trying to solve from the beginning. They should be able to boil it down to a few short and snappy sentences. The crew needs to know exactly what kind of ship they’re sailing before they leave the dock.

2. Plot a course.

Define what success looks like in the short and long term, and plot a course to get there. Having checkpoints helps the team focus on one goal and keeps them moving in the right direction. Think of it like pinpointing a destination on a map and marking the stop-off points.

3. Find your North Star.

Founders aren’t pirates — they’re not just out to make money. Most are motivated by a desire to do something worthwhile, to build, create and innovate. The founder’s personal objectives should be shared with the team as it provides clarity of purpose and an emotional focal point for the business. The best captains earn their crew’s loyalty by striving for something meaningful.

4. Choose your sea shanty.

Core values really matter. They aren’t silly, made up rules — this isn’t a game of battleship! They guide how the team communicates and behaves with customers, stakeholders and each other. They should be fundamental to your business, sung loudly and proudly by everyone in the team.

5. Check the compass.

Startups go through cycles of change where they need to recalibrate how they manage communication, planning and execution. Whether through huddles, one-to-ones, Slack or away days, founders need to regularly check in with their ever growing team to make sure they’re still heading in the right direction. New people need to be onboarded the moment they step on deck.

Ultimately, the team are there to drive the startup forward, so they need to know exactly what they’re trying to achieve and why. If founders want a life on the open waves, they’ve got to get their team aligned first, otherwise it’s going to do as the other 75% did and sink.

Having a clearly defined brand strategy will bring all of this to life and make it real for the whole crew aboard the HMS Startup.


Photo of Andy Snuggs

Written by

Andy Snuggs

Managing Partner