Redefining Our Core Values: A Startup Story of Growing Up!

“Getting the right people on the bus” is an essential part of growing a startup. Jim Collins wrote about this idea in his famous book Good to Great. The point is quite simple yet profound: “You are a bus driver. The bus is your company… and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.”

As the leader of a young company, Collins said it is all about getting the right people on the bus first, and then asking the question of “what” to do next. The culture in startups is typically easy to manage and nurture in the early days, but it becomes much, MUCH harder as you scale.

At Terminus, an account-based marketing (ABM) startup based in Atlanta, we accomplished the following five things in less than a year:

  1. We grew from three co-founders to 35 Terminators
  2. We raised a $7.5M Series A
  3. We hosted sold-out #FlipMyFunnel conferences in four different cities
  4. We went from zero to $1M in ARR in nine months after unveiling the Terminus ABM platform
  5. We wrote the first book (ever) on Account-Based Marketing

Now, after the close of Q1 2016, I am proud to announce we our customer base has grown by 84% in just one quarter and we show no signs of slowing down.

The past year as a co-founder of Terminus has been an extremely humbling experience. Since we are growing so quickly, some folks might say now is the time to think about “champagne” problems, like the company culture at Terminus.

 I think the reason our company has grown to this level so fast is because of our culture. We got here because we had the right people on the bus to begin with.

In my recent post about scaling a startup, I wrote that the #1 thing every founder must do which is to find one or two co-founders who can compliment your strengths so you can grow as fast as possible.

In the beginning, our first 30-or-so deals were closed by just us as the co-founders. We would hop on the call, do the demo, follow-up, send contracts, and somehow manage all the roles usually managed by the sales, marketing, product, and customer success departments. In our early days at Terminus, we were doing all of this rolled up in one glorified role as co-founders.

Once we found our product/market fit in the newly formed account-based marketing category and raised our seed round, then we started to hire and hire fast. Heck, our 17th employee is a full-time recruiter. We have crazy confidence in our future and knew how important it was to have someone help us hire the absolute best talent! Our goal from Day 1 was to always hire the best people we possibly could find. We wanted a team of superstar “Terminators” and nothing short of that.

In the early days of Terminus, we adopted the same core values shared by Atlanta Ventures: Positive, Supportive, and Self-Starting.

These are great words to live by. Now that Terminus has grown out of its infancy, my co-founders and I wanted to create more specific core values that are clear and actionable. These values should be something that we can call each other out on and truly be held accountable. Values that don’t just sound good on paper but represent ideas which we can rally around; these values which represent us as the Terminus brand. It was time for us to “grow up”.

We looked at various models from Hubspot’s culture code by Dharmesh Shah to watching the “Think Different” speech by Steve Jobs to get inspired. We asked each team leader at Terminus to describe the key phrases that represent “us” as Terminators. We (the entire leadership team at Terminus) ended up with a list of words which meant something to everyone.

From there, we started to compile this feedback into a story of “why” we are here and then “what” these core values represent.

The “Why” become a two-fold mission statement: Internal: We have a relentless commitment to the personal & professional growth of our team and believe in each individual having the “Keys to the Ferarri” ( read more here) External: We are passionate about building and fostering a community that believes in challenging the status quo for B2B marketers by “Flipping the Funnel” (check out the original #FlipMyFunnel post from almost a year ago). After defining the “why”, we then went on to identify our seven core values for “what we represent”:

  1. We want to win as a team and we recognize that our greatest strength is our people.
  2. We celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of each person on our team
  3. We trust, respect, empathize and show gratitude internally and externally.
  4. We are driven by a passion for life and the problems we solve.
  5. We empower each other to innovate and we dare to challenge the status quo in everything we do.
  6. We believe in communicating with fearlessness and transparency.
  7. We strive to provide the best customer experience and fanatically obsess over making each of our customers heroes.

Here is a one slide from the presentation Vass and I gave this week together at our Q2 company “blast off”:

Here’s the Terminus Slideshare with the entire presentation that we did last week:


So what do you think? I would love to get your thoughts on your core values. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or Tweet to me  @SangramVajre.

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