Caryn Marooney is general partner at Coatue Management and sits on the boards of Zendesk and Elastic. An advisor to Airtable, in prior roles she oversaw communications for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus and co-founded The OutCast Agency, which served clients like Salesforce.com and Amazon.
Pride. Greed. Lust. Envy. Gluttony. Wrath. Sloth.
You’ve probably heard of the Seven Deadly Sins, but I bet you’ve never wondered how they apply to starting a company. The answer: surprisingly well!
Over the years, I’ve talked about the seven habits every company should try to avoid and the seven (non-biblical) virtues each company should strive for. Done right, they will help founders focus, save time and avoid some common — and painful — mistakes.
For the purpose of this post, I’ve paired each sin with its closest corresponding virtue.
Sin No. 1: Lust (don’t focus on what other companies have)
As a founder, you have to pay attention to your competitors. Just don’t let that attention turn into lust for what they have — whether it’s a flashy marketing campaign, a fancy office or a killer staff.
Executive lust: Lusting after leadership can be especially tempting. So your competitor hired a rockstar executive who seems to be doing all the right things. It’s easy to think you need your own COO, or CRO, or CCO right now — and they need to be just like the person filling that role at the other successful company that looks nothing like yours.
Think carefully about what you need, why and what role that person will play day in and day out. What strengths and weaknesses do they have? What gaps do you need to fill? And what matters most to your customers and your business? It’s also important to think about your stage and your go-to-market model. When it comes to personnel, one size never fits all.