The Loyalty Effect

I almost quit my first startup. I was in a 60-40 partnership, I was the 40. We were working ridiculous hours and we were well into our third year as a startup and it felt, at least that night, like we were making no progress and no money.

Just before I was about to leave the office, I told my partner “I don’t think I can keep doing this.” I’ll never forget what he said. “You are a great partner and this is going to be a great business but If you don’t believe in me or the business anymore then I’ll buy you out.”

I left asking myself, “Do I really want to leave?” I got a good night’s sleep, came back in the morning and hit it hard again.

My loyalty was tested that night. I often think, what would have happened if I quit? I don’t think either one of us would have succeeded on our own. It was a crossroad moment which tested how much I valued loyalty. I thank my partner for the loyalty he showed to me. It was a valuable life lesson.

We are all tested at some point in our career on whether or not loyalty is a part of our value system.  I believe everyone should embrace loyalty as a core value because of the positive effect it will have on you and your life, your business and your market.

The Positive Effect on You

Only you can choose to be loyal. You can not demand loyalty and it can not be demanded of you. It is a business’ core value only to the extent each person on the leadership team practices it, starting with you as founder or cofounder.

Our loyalty as partners was rewarded in a life-long friendship, the rewards of building the business together and ultimately a new career, when we enjoyed a successful exit. None of this would have happened if we abandoned each other. Loyalty is the glue which keeps a life and career on track so you might realize the greater rewards, together.

Positive Effect On The Business

Your employees are the heart and soul of the your business. You practice loyalty and you will attract employees who are loyal. This is how you build a business which feels and operates more like a family. Family members are not continually looking to join other, better, families.

There may be disagreements and hard times but you can be certain everyone in the business is looking out for each other. When this occurs, you are a force to be reckoned with. Who would want to compete against you?

Look at Kyle Porter, founder and CEO of Sales Loft, and his relationship with David Cummings and his partner Rob Foreman. If any one of them jumped ship over the last few years, Sales Loft would have been a flameout. See David Cummings blog on the ups and downs of Sales Loft.

Instead, they stayed together, their company discovered the hot product for their market and now are adding other great products. They are growing rapidly and just landed $10 million in funding from a Silicon Valley VC.

I recently met a few of their employees and was amazed by the excitement and commitment in their eyes. Loyalty at the top is now demonstrated by loyalty in the ranks. The Sales Loft story is exciting to watch.

Positive Effect On The Market

Think about the businesses you love. It is always about the people. We love our pastor who served our family and community for the last 25 years, the local restaurant owner, the support rep who remembers us and our issues, the Publix employee who remembers our favorite deli meat, the service rep at the car dealer who asks about our family.

There is no shortcut in getting to this level of customer loyalty. You can not fake loyalty as the core value of a business. You and your people must be loyal to each other and to the market you serve.

The result of loyalty is a business which is celebrated and supported in the marketplace. The loyalty of the marketplace, built over the long-term,  makes your business valuable and attractive from the inside-out.

Building Long-Term Value

When the founders of the business are loyal to each other they will attract loyal employees, vendors and customers who also practice loyalty. Think about the power these relationships will have on the long-term value of your business.

What’s your startup entrepreneurial challenge? Your tweets help me decide what to write about next. @cpaparelli