You know how Nike has made millions with their slogan "Just Do It".

Well, I feel like I should perhaps trademark the phrase "Just Own It" because of how much I tell that to my early-stage startup team.  Maybe George Friedman of Stratfor just beat it into my head one time too many in startup #1, and it's now the only value-add I have left in my mid-30s.

Ownership is a simple, yet often misunderstood concept in the startup.  Owning something means taking responsibility for every aspect of a job.  It's about being a true expert, knowing everything there is to know about one's responsibilities.  It's a PhD in part of the business, but less the politics and with more accountability and action.  It's being able to anticipate problems and doing something about them proactively.  It's about looking for improvements obsessively.  It's about working with other people on the team and making things happen.

It isn't a nice to have either, it's a have to have.  People have to take ownership, because if they don't fault lines appear in your early-stage startup.  Now all of this isn't to say that people should have strictly regimented roles — generalists are needed in most early startups.  But you need generalists who are great at their specific specialty and who take ownership of it such that other people don't need to do so.

It's pretty easy for a startup CEO (or investor for that matter) to detect.  You know a startup employee takes ownership when you can't possibly ask him/her a question about his/her area without it being considered and without action already taking place.  When you can (and yes I'm idealizing just a tad here), you know that someone isn't quite fully engaged.

That's all, have a great day and Just Own It™