Why I think startups, and the startup community is like a wolf pack

Last week, on That Start Up Show, the hosts Rae Johnston and Ben Law, set in motion a challenge. The competition was to come up with an animal that best described startups. David Swan, the correspondence for the episode, interviewed some people from the floor. When he asked me what my startup animal was, I replied, “a wolf”, well rather, a pack of wolves. Here’s why I think the wolf embodies the spirit of not just startups, but the whole startup community.

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But first, if you haven’t seen the episode, click here to check it out.

It’s not about you

If you’re in a pack, nothing is about an individual person (or wolf). It’s about what’s best for the pack. The needs of the pack are put first. All the wolves work together for the survival and success of the pack.

This is pretty much what happens in startups. The needs of the company are put before the needs of any individual. Whilst everyone needs to ensure they are in good health to work most effectively, it’s about core team values rather than individual beliefs. Each person working in the company aligns to those values, and it’s the mission of the company that everyone strives to achieve. Personal goals may play into this, and may very well align, but a business is always driven by its values.

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Teamwork makes the dreamwork (Photo credit: Rawpixel)

There are many times when company needs far outweigh individuals. If people aren’t performing or the company isn’t being sustained, then there may be cause to excuse some people from the pack. These are tough times for companies and often it is needed for the survival of the startup.

Wolves travel in packs

You rarely see a lone wolf. By the same token, there are rarely lone startups. Even startups with a single founder often have a team (lawyers, mentors, accountants etc.) who help with the business. Startups individually are not alone either. Every startup, whilst the business itself can be seen as a wolf pack, the company is part of a larger community wolf pack; their local community, local city, local club, local workplace etc. The same principles apply to the micro (individual companies) wolf pack as it does to the macro (groups of companies) wolf pack.

Only together can we achieve things. Companies aren’t usually successful on their own. They require funding, mentoring, partnerships, sales, clients, talent, and many other things from the community around them. Business thrives in areas where everyone supports one another as everyone is working to further improve the economy of their community. You’ll see startups working with corporates on projects, you’ll see small businesses doing research with universities, you’ll see large corporations taking on startups as their clients. Without a community, you can’t be successful. Without your wolf pack, you are alone.

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Have you got your pack? Working together to achieve a common goal is what a team is all about (Photo credit: Kirk Design)

Young wolves are fed first

One of the interesting behaviours you’ll see if a wolf pack, is the older wolves ensure all the young wolves are fed before the others begin to eat. I liken this to talent and curiosity in startups. If you don’t feed your young talent, feed your curious nature, feed your thirst for new and innovative methods, then your company will die out with the old. Companies cannot be sustained by using old thinking. They cannot move forward by using the same old methods the company was built on. Sure, many aspects of the old need to stay – core mission, values, beliefs etc. – but new and innovative ways of doing business need to be taken on board to survive.

In the same way the wolf pack feeds its young to ensure survival for generations to come, you must feed your companies’ thirst for new and inspiring ideas to ensure it survives through technological and innovative changes.

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If you don’t look after the young, the entity won’t survive through the generations (Photo credit: ML)

Every pack has its leader

Leaders aren’t simply idols in positions of power. It’s the job of the wolf leader to ensure the survival of the pack. Whilst they are looked up to and adored, the alpha protects the pack, fighting off intruders, and anyone else who would harm their family.

In business it’s very similar. There is always a leader, not just as the CEO. They set examples, and work for the betterment of the company. The leader/s ensures the survival of the whole business, makes the tough calls, and takes ownership for both the good and the bad. Our leaders help us, build us up, and walk the same journey we do. They guide us and the company in the right direction, and if they are a good leader, provide us with a role model that we may thrive to be like.

For more on leadership, check out my article I wrote on leaders here.

Wolves have extreme pack devotion

Wolf packs are typically made up of families, with the parent wolves as alpha male and female. Thus, every member of the pack has a real devotion to its family. Whilst there may be fights and quarrels, most of the time the members forgive each other, making the pack even stronger. Yes, there are times when wolves leave the pack and become lone wolves, eventually making their own pack, but many wolves stay with a single pack their whole lives.

Whilst many people start multiple businesses, and work in multiple startups, there’s often a real devotion to the startup and community you’re a member. People fight for one another, they fight one another – make up and get stronger, they work together for the improvement of the startup and the community. Many times, a startup has been rewarded or congratulated on their hard efforts, even individuals in startups. These people will often call out the success of their teammates, they’ll talk about the companies they worked with, and how grateful they are for all the mentoring others have done for them. It’s the reason why you see the same faces around the place – everyone is working together, everyone has the startup community as a special place in their heart.

It’s why we are successful, because we work together, we care about each other. The startup community of your own business, of Melbourne (or Sydney, or Brisbane etc.), of Australia, and then globally, is all working together. We are devoted to the same thing: putting our communities on the map, leaving our mark on society, making the world a better place. We all have our different ways of doing it, and our diverse range of skills and talents, and that’s why we can be successful, and are successful. Our pack compliments one another and builds each other up.

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Work together, celebrate together (Photo credit: Perry Grone)

The Wolf Pack

So there you have it. That’s why I think startups are like wolf packs. In fact, after writing this I realise EVERY company is like (or should be like) a pack of wolves. Hungry to survive, eager to innovate, and always working together to advance the business, and the community.

Is your organisation like a wolf pack? Do you need to do more to embody the spirit of a wolf. Like this article? Got some thoughts? Send them through. I’m always happy to hear from my readers.

And if you’d I’d to take part in That Start Up Show’s startup animal competition, tweet @TSUS with your ideas. There’s VIP tickets to be won and great opportunities. Looking forward to seeing your startup spirit creatures on the show.

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