Apologies but I’m going to sound a bit preachy here. From my experience, I’m able to do my best work surrounded by talented, like-minded people that support me, challenge me, push me to do more, be better and are there to pick me up when I’m feeling low. To me, that’s the essence of a community.
That’s why I’ve been slogging away with the RookieOven since 2011 with the aim of creating a community for those working in technology startups. I feel RookieOven fills a gap in the tech sector in Scotland (in particular Glasgow) by smooshing together an electric bunch of talented, ambitious like-minded talent.
Since 2011 I’ve learned a lot and I’ve observed behaviours that are conducive to an effective community which I’ve distilled into “10 Commandments” (I mean, it worked for Moses), so here they are.
1 - Give sincere and honest feedback
Don’t sugar coat it, don’t soften the blow. Be honest with each other. Be critical, challenge people and push them to do better.
2 - No stealth mode, be open about your business
Talk. Tell everyone your idea because it won’t be unique.
Too often I find people are unwilling to communicate, that shows a lack of trust which is cancer to a community like RookieOven. Trust is really at the foundation of our relationships in the community.
3 - Don’t confuse PR with success, knuckle down and get the work done
Vanity. It’s a horrible thing and lethal to a startup. So you picked up an award or had a newspaper spread…. So what? Is that money in the bank? Is it winning you customers? That’s all that matters with your fledgeling business.
Distractions are common and I’ve seen many talented people being drawn to vanity over real progress for their business.
4 - Doing > talking = Get stuff done and always be improving
I see this too often. All talk no action. Get the finger out and get stuff done.
There’s always a reason not to or barriers in your way. That can be funding related for example. But the really successful members of the community don’t let that stop them and they keep working away with focus rather than fumble and talk about doing something - they get it done.
5 - Be open to challenge, always be learning
You need a certain amount of confidence to be a founder. But don’t let that be your undoing. Be open to challenge and always be learning.
The world moves on at a crazy rate. If you’re not moving forward you’re going backwards, so you need to constantly improve.
You can learn new techniques, processes and technologies that will help you. You learn from your failures along the way. And you learn from people that are just more talented than you.
6 - Confidence is a good thing but it's a fine line between that and arrogance
That confidence I spoke of is a good thing. Be careful because it’s an ultra-fine line between that and coming across as arrogant - nobody likes arrogance.
7 - Look out for others, give a damn about people
When you’re at your lowest you want to be picked up. You need people around you. From time to time you are going to be the one picking people up.
Keep an eye out for others (they’re going to be doing the same for you). If you think someone is down or struggling grab lunch with them, take them for a pint. It matters more than you know.
8 - Be curious. Embrace new talent and new technologies
Ask questions. Of society, of your peers, of competitors and of yourself. That curiosity leads to opening new doors.
If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler you’ll quickly realise they ask questions of everything. The world is a blank canvas for them and as they learn it for the first time they learn through questions. Young people in business are at the start of their careers, they aren’t jaded, they aren’t lumbered with experience so embrace young talent to help you question the status quo.
9 - Don’t ask for permission, get on with it
A cliche but so true. For startups time is crucial. It’s our biggest asset against much larger, better resource teams that don’t have the speed and agility we have. If we’re waiting around for permission we’re eroding our advantage.
The same thing goes for the community. Don’t go looking for permission from your peers, get on with it and make things happen.
10 - Be proactive, solve problems for yourself and others
Solve problems. Don’t just work on solutions. Trying to make ‘things’ better is good practice for building a business do it for your customers but also do it for your peers. Help each other out, you see someone with problems help them fix it.
11 - Don’t be a dick
The most important of the 10 commandments, the one that rules them all is… number 11. Don’t be a dick. This underpins every other rule.
These are just some soft ‘rules’ for a community that I’ve observed through being a part of the RookieOven community since 2011. What do you think of them? Do you agree/disagree or have any ways to improve them?
And if you think they’re useful please feel free to replicate it, adopt them or make additions. Use them in your community or even use them as a set of principles for your business. If you do, let me know.