“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time around.” – Jim Rohn
When good things happen, I’ve learned to ask the questions, “Why did this happen?”, “Why us?”, “What did we do right?”, and “What did we not do wrong?” Albeit from an investor, board member, or customer, the answer always has a recurring theme, our team. I feel we have a unique culture in our company. Given we are in agriculture, we cultivated this mantra that “nothing is beneath you”. Yes, our CTO has chained down countless tractors, our software engineers know how to run a seed tender and all 36 people in the company know how to drive a stick shift.
I will always remember the following words of advice when I started this company, “You don’t define the culture, your first hires do.” I heeded these words of advice when I built the foundation of the company, convincing five engineers I knew to leave their perfectly fine paying jobs to embark on some crazy endeavor that will totally transform agriculture. Each one was smart, clever, honest, hard-working, industrious and best of all, great to be around.
This being my 6th startup, I can honestly say this one was the hardest. To put it bluntly, the first three years were hell. We were doing something nobody else had ever done. Whenever I see the apparent ease of creating a boundary, making a path plan, and deploying an autonomous tractor in our Mission Control (vMC) software, I am still reminded of the blood, sweat and tears we spent years before trying in vain to keep all the plates spinning at all hours of the night. Few would have the fortitude to stick with it after spending a 16-hour day, by the side of a field, during a blizzard, in a tent, leaving at midnight, only to have covered all but 10 acres in total. And yet, the next day, we were at it again, trying to beat yesterday’s dismal 10 acres. I don’t think I could have picked five better first-hires.
Five years later, I can’t help but notice their influence on the culture of our 36-employee company. Sure, everybody in the company is insanely devoted to transforming agriculture. However, if you look closely, you’ll see they’ve created an environment best described as disciplined, innovative, analytical, creative, methodical, systematic and practical. They even fostered a camaraderie amongst the teams, even between the field support and the software engineers. Best of all, everybody still knows that nothing is beneath them. So, the next time you’re with any of our employees, feel free to hand them a grease gun.
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