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The "Tour of Duty" approach to management and hiring...

This concept popped up on the Masters of Scale podcast and hasn’t gone away. It's been gnawing at me, mostly because it fits with a lot of my hiring experiences. With hindsight, this metaphor has gone a long way to explain why some staff stay, why some leave and what time commitment to expect from them.

The best form of learning is writing - so
here we go. A crash course in Tours of Duty.

Let's start with the academic overview of the concept from Harvard Business Review.

What is a "Tour of Duty"? It's a mapped out journey for both employee and employer. By setting expectations up front, you can manage the intergenerational conflict that occur between people who tend to stay in jobs for longer vs people who do a series of jobs for experience. It is an ethical contract, not a legal one - an undertaking by both parties of "what you want to get out of this".

When you hire someone, the idea is to define their Tour of Duty with them - what is the mission they…
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Open Source Startup: The Open Startup Movement

Welcome to Chapter 10 of Open Source Startup: The Open Startup Movement. This is the last chapter. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

Ever since I wrote the epitaph for Real Time Wine, I've been a strong supporter of more honest sharing in the South African startup landscape. There's a lot of ego floating around. Everyone is a CEO. Every CEO is a Rock Star. Until they fail, then they go away quietly.



Failure is stigmatised - and the result of this is we have a skewed view of what constitutes success and more importantly, we can't learn from other attempts in our ecosystem.

There's a movement in the US that may have particular relevance to our local ecosystem as we slowly grow up and de-stigmatise failure. Quoting here from a HackerNoon article...

"The Open Startup trend is a transparency and openness movement seemingly initiated by Buffer, quickly adopted by Ghost, capitalised by Baremetrics, and recently popularised in the Indie Maker com…

Open Source Startup: Codifying Company Culture

Welcome to Chapter 8 of Open Source Startup: Codifying Company Culture. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

Company culture. It's both the most frustrating, fluffy, intangible element of your business - and the thing that will sink you quicker than a bad VAT month. Startups are hard enough. Rather not spend your time with the wrong people following the wrong mission in the wrong way.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to culture besides talking about it. Choose a model, choose a template and talk about it. Then talk about it with every new employee. Then talk about it monthly. And keep talking.


Here are a few tips and templates to get you started.

Start with WHY. The famous Simon Sinek talk is a useful (and tough) process to go through. It forces you to think hard about why you're doing what you're doing. If you take the process seriously, it's also one of the best bullshit tests for a crappy vision or product.

Understanding your WHY is t…

Open Source Startup: Tools, Tools Everywhere and You Probably Only Need a Few

Welcome to Chapter 8 of Open Source Startup: Tools, Tools Everywhere and You Probably Only Need a Few. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

The tools required to build a startup, to test an idea, to get from 0 to 1 - are not as complex as you may think. In fact, it's quite easy to over-tool, to get carried away with the process rather than the outcome. Remember, there's a whole segment of startups just designing tools for other startups. Makes your head spin a little, doesn't it?


Here's good introductory set of tools - useful for companies up until 10 team members. After that, you may want to relook at your toolset to ensure it scales with the team. Many of these will work, though.

You're going to tempted to go for "everything free" - and I wouldn't blame you. But sometimes it's better just to pay. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time fixing your tools instead of building your business.

Here we go...

DEVELOP…

Open Source Startup: Disciplinary Policy Template

Welcome to Chapter 7 of Open Source Startup: Disciplinary Policy Template. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

Ah. South African Labour Law. We all know very well why it's as employee-friendly as it is. Because capitalism can be nasty and there are plenty of people that need to be protected. But it does make it quite hard to build a business in this beautiful country of ours.

As a nation, we choose not to sacrifice protection of lower-income workers, therefore we need to figure this out and find a way to play the cards we've been dealt.

The first step is to have an Employment Contract. The second is to have a Disciplinary Policy (which is specifically referenced in said employment contract) - and to make sure every employee of yours has received it and read it.


A Disciplinary Policy is a safe guard against an enormous amount of time spent in the CCMA trying to get rid of a bad egg. And trust me, everyone is going to end up hiring a few bad eggs. Usual…

Open Source Startup: Shareholders Agreement & Memorandum of Incorporation Templates

Welcome to Chapter 6 of Open Source Startup: Shareholders Agreement & Memorandum of Incorporation Templates. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

This is Chapter 6 for a reason. These documents should be one of the first things you get straightened out in your startup - but often aren't. Sometimes, you need to get a feel for the environment first. Sometimes, you just procrastinate.

Be warned and be warned well: you make contracts in case of divorce, not in case of happy marriage. You need contracts when people fight, not when people get along. The longer you leave these documents, the harder they get.

And they get hard. They get complicated. But this is just a nut you're going to have to crack.


Let's start with a few definitions and some scare tactics...

What is a Shareholders Agreement? It's used to govern the relationship between the various parties in their capacity as shareholders (and often in their positions as directors) of your compa…

Open Source Startup: Investor Reports

Welcome to Chapter 5 of Open Source Startup: Investor Reports. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

You've got investors and shareholders. Now you need to keep them in the loop and leverage them to grow your business. If you start with the simple premise that most investors simply don't have the time to read all your detailed information - then you're on the right track. Less is more.


Start by asking investors what information they'd like to receive and how often. If you don't get good guidelines, I've always found the following approach works well. And in the spirit of keeping this brief (which you should do) - this will be the shortest post in the Open Source Startup series.

Investor Reports should usually include:
Management AccountsAged Payables (who you owe money to)Aged Receivables (who owes you money)Balance SheetCash flow Summary (preferably nicely categorised)Profit and Loss (Monthly and/or Year to Date) All of these can be easil…