Many of us know what it is like to taste cookies at grandma’s house: homemade cookies prepared with butter, ﬂour, and brown sugar — from scratch. ‘Gram’s’ kindness and hospitality always has a way of making you feel right at home.
In the world of startups, we all need to be a little more like ‘Gram’ … cultivating an environment where we act in ways that promote comfort with one another, both inside the startup community and within our own companies. It is within this warm and accepting environment that we can be our most creative selves.
A Culture of Creative Comfort
Consider how that same type of comfort level we feel at Gram’s – when applied to business — can allow us to do our best work. While Gram is baking, if she asked you to help out, her warmth and love would offer you the opportunity to put your own spin on her cookie creations; perhaps adding white chocolate or even peanut butter chips.
As entrepreneurs, we already have passion, enthusiasm, and a notable ability to overcome fear. Next, we must create a hospitable environment for investors, customers, and employees to embrace their creative sides too. It is crucial to remain open to new viewpoints and ideas; promoting a warm environment that makes everyone who steps into our workspace feel their opinions and voice are valued and respected.
At Colabination, we make a culture of comfort a key priority. We internalize the viewpoint that true collaboration can change limiting parameters of an average business model. Collaboration starts with finding common ground. But to do that people must feel incredibly comfortable.
Sometimes collaboration takes chocolate cookies, but often it starts with a warm handshake, genuine smile, purposeful eye contact, and a willingness to listen.
Creating a Comfort Culture
As the CEO at Colabination, I’ve had some practice with this theory and found it to be extremely successful as my team and I continue to grow as individuals and entrepreneurs. Our collaboration on a small level parallels the larger scale collaboration we hope to see between startups in the future.
Here’s a look at the who, what, when, where, and why of comfortable collaboration:
Who: Learn from everyone you meet.
Creating mutual understanding and a collaborative environment is important, but it is also crucial to remember the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. If you are open to the people you meet outside of the office, as well as those you work with on a daily basis, you may ﬁnd surprising synergies. Constantly think about how you can put people at ease while you work with them.
What: Be yourself. People respond well to ‘people’.
People respond to other humans, not well-oiled machines clearly trying to make a sale. Get to know your team, show them you’re interested in not only bettering your startup, but that you have their best interests in mind too. At Colabination, we work together constantly regardless of job titles. We know that each person we’ve hired has great ideas that are worth listening to, and showing each other this mutual respect creates an extraordinarily productive environment. Simultaneously, we strive to let other startups know we want them to succeed as well, and our collaboration will benefit them too.
When and Where: Encourage creative strategies and risk taking.
Creativity and risks are necessary to reach the goals you’ve set for your company. By giving employees a space in which they feel comfortable, they’ll be more likely to think outside the box, giving you a huge advantage. Meanwhile, use your city’s local startup community as a place to practice hospitality. For us, Philadelphia has a uniquely hospitable startup community; we’re a city on the move, and everyone’s chipping in. In our early days, University Science Center gave us a home; a place where we could get on our feet and get our company started. Rick Nucci, local founder and president of Philadelphia Startup Leaders, was one of the first to welcome us with open arms, and point us in the right direction. It helps knowing he’s a phone call away. Similarly, the guys at RJMetrics, both Rob (Moore) and Jake (Stein), agreed to meet with me and helped out as well. I believe Rob put it like this: “Absolutely anything for a fellow Philly Founder.” That mindset seems like proof that Philly is going places in the startup community.
Why: I think I’ve convinced you on the ‘Whys’.
Just as Gram’s hospitality allowed for those delicious cookies to be baked, people do their best work when they feel most comfortable. We have a core belief at Colabination: “It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it,” an inspiring quote we got from Simon Sinek. Giving people a space to do what they love brings out their passion, the root of great ideas. The building blocks of a startup are creative, new, mind-blowing ideas, and these will be generated when people feel at home. Remember that through collaboration, we are all working towards a common goal.
Open up your doors, make yourself inviting, maybe bake a batch of cookies from scratch, and prepare to collaborate!
This article has been edited and condensed.
Scott Latham is the founder and CEO of Colabination, a fashion-tech firm whose mission is to empower fashion designers to be discovered through an online marketplace and ultimately to help them foster sustainable business. He’s a fashion designer and startup mentor with a passion for collaboration and challenging the status quo. Connect with @_ScottLatham and @colabination on Twitter.
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