Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters

Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters

by Piyush Patel
Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters

Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters

by Piyush Patel


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In Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work, Piyush Patel offers an insider's perspective on how to unify your team around a common purpose by uncovering your core values and transforming your culture.

With over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, Piyush has discovered that--while leaders can provide opportunities--real culture comes from the heart. Using real-life examples and practical takeaways, Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work is the ultimate guide to creating a tribe to lead and a workplace you love. Piyush challenges readers to rethink their current paths, unveiling:

  • The business-owner wake-up call: How to tell when your company culture is failing and what to do to fix it
  • The key to employee retention is BAM--Belonging, Affirmation, and Meaning
  • Secrets to successful onboarding: How to make new employees feel like they already belong
  • Constructive ''uncomfortable'' conversations: Tips for getting positive results from conflict
  • Four questions to ask your employees to get a pulse on your company's culture
  • When successful businesses happen to poor leaders: Identify negative initiatives and reshape your company before it's too late
  • How to spot the difference between 'real' and 'faux' culture: Why a company with perks can still be toxic

As a business owner or leader, Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work will challenge you to take control of your culture and create a thriving company that's built for longevity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998646510
Publisher: Dream Big Imprint
Publication date: 08/22/2023
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)

About the Author

School teacher-turned-animator Piyush Patel founded Digital-Tutors, the foremost digital animation training company for the film and gaming industries with clients such as LucasArts, Pixar, Electronic Arts, Blizzard, and Disney. After turning $54 into a multi-million-dollar exit, he now works with company leaders to create cultures that matter. His family divides their time between Oklahoma City and their winery in Napa Valley.

Read an Excerpt



Well, shit.

I was only three years into what should've been the greatest entrepreneurial adventure of my life, and that was my conclusion.

I was screwed.

Damn — what have I gotten myself into?! It didn't take long for my life to get turned upside down. I guess that's nothing new for anyone who's quit their job, started a company, had a child, and moved to Oklahoma City, all inside of a few months.

It started when I was granted tenure as a college professor teaching digital animation less than a year after Nick was born. My immigrant parents were thrilled. My dad's voice echoed in my head, "You've got a government job. You'll get a pension. You're set forever!"

For the record, receiving tenure was something I'd worked hard to achieve and was a career goal. The reality was not the dream I'd imagined, though. I struggled to pay the bills. I struggled to support my growing family. I struggled to find joy in the job I used to love. Receiving tenure should have been cause for celebration, but it seemed like a punch in the gut. Was this what the rest of my life would be like? I didn't know what the future held, but I knew something had to change.

So I jumped. One month after tenure, I quit my job and decided to work full-time on my company, Digital-Tutors, which I'd started only a few months earlier selling digital animation courses on CDs.

When my parents found out what I'd done, they were in shock. I can still hear my dad's initial reaction like it was yesterday: "What did you do?"

Seriously: what had we done?

Lisa, my wife, played a vital role in the new business, keeping the books and the paperwork. Two of my colleagues and closest friends, Kevin and Tina, also made the leap with us.

At first, everything went well. Even better than I could've hoped. I loved being in charge of my own work's destiny. I loved working with my wife and two of my best friends. I didn't mind the sixteen-hour days. I loved the adventure of being in business for myself, solving a need, and the affirmation that came with it.

As we grew, work increased and we brought on more great employees. I loved it so much that I didn't even notice when things at the office began to change.

Somewhere along the way, working those sixteen-hour days went from energizing to draining. I was stuck in the weeds and spent my days putting out fires. I hated the feeling of a noose around my neck. I hated trying to make ends meet and always worrying about meeting payroll. I began to hate going into the office. When I left my teaching position, it was a conscious decision. It was a tough choice Lisa and I had made together, but it's one I remember making. This was different. I couldn't point to a single decision as the trigger. The first few years of hard work getting Digital-Tutors off the ground all seemed to blur. Suddenly, I realized I was in way over my head. I had a lease on office space, vendors, insurance, and healthcare, not to mention the paychecks on which other people depended to support their families and pay their own mortgages.

I loved being in charge of my own destiny.

As I reflected on how I'd gone from being a new father to becoming a tenured professor to starting my own company, it hit me: What have I gotten myself into?!

If you are reading this book, I'm sure you've had this feeling, too.

I couldn't just close up shop, lock the doors, and go home. What would I do? Go back to teaching? What would our employees do? They had believed in us, and had staked their careers on our vision. What about our customers who had come to depend on Digital-Tutors to refine the animation skills they needed to improve their own livelihoods? I'd already left the station at what was now a runaway train. I couldn't just hop off. I found myself trapped in a prison of my own making.


Backed into a corner, I started looking anywhere I could for a way out. As often happens, I found it where I least expected: during a presentation I attended about company structure and governance. One line on a PowerPoint slide changed the course of my company and my life: "What are your company values?" I stared at it. When I thought of values, the first thing that came to mind was some form of motivational poster. You know what I'm talking about. They hang on the walls of corporate America. The passage of time slowly transforms them from a decoration to something no one notices as they walk by. But it bothered me that I couldn't answer the question for my company. Digital- Tutors was making money, but I was miserable, putting on weight, and growing more depressed each day. Could this be the first step to a solution? As the seminar continued, I kept turning that question over in my mind. What were our company values? What did our company stand for? What were my own values? What did Lisa and I stand for?

I found myself trapped in a prison of my own making.

I called her during our lunch break and asked her to book a bed and breakfast for that night. We locked ourselves in and decided not to come home until we'd worked out our core values, both for our company and for our family.


Although I didn't know it at the time, the result of our stay at that little B&B was the foundation for a massive change at Digital-Tutors. When Lisa and I returned to the office, we held a staff meeting to share our newly realized core values. We needed to make sure everyone in the company was on the same page. We called these core values the "Rules of Our Game" because they were the bare minimum for someone to play on our team. Really, business is just a simple game and once everyone knows how to play, we all start playing together. Over the next decade, we refined and clarified those values, but at their core they remained identical to the ones Lisa and I originally crafted all those years ago.

Before I share them though, I need to underscore that these are ours. Copying them won't work for you because yours will be different. They have to come from your heart and spirit.

What you're going to read in this book isn't about how you need to incorporate Digital-Tutors' values into your organization. It's about how our lives changed when we got explicit about what we believed in, and what happened when we lived by those rules — no matter what.

I hope the examples in this book inspire you to discover your own core values and to help you find the courage to stick by them, no matter what. Once you find your genuine, bedrock beliefs, you can transform your culture from daily survival (under which Digital-Tutors had been operating) into a thriving culture.

That said, here's the values we shared with our team:

1. Service with passion is our competitive strategic advantage. It is the product we sell. Deadlines and tasks will not be fulfilled merely because they must be completed, but because a personal commitment has been made to someone.

2. We do more with less. Doing the right thing the right way the first time is less about speed and more about the right mixture of accuracy and effectiveness.

3. Fun creates loyalty. We are about building strong relationships that go beyond the paycheck. The closeness we share as a group and the openness to share ideas and make a difference are all tied to how intimate we are as a group.

4. Respect. We will not tolerate disrespect for people or property.

5. Embracing positive change means we adjust our goals and mission in advance of or in response to constantly changing opportunities.

Those five values transformed my company from a place I hated to go into a place I loved to call home.

Those five values turned Digital-Tutors into an online training powerhouse, becoming one of the best in the world. We grew from a six-figure company to a seven-figure company, and then an eight-figure company. We went from a handful of employees to thirty-two full-time people and three hundred freelancers. And we did it all without incurring debt or the help of outside investors. We bootstrapped the whole company the whole way.

We grew from hundreds of users to over one-and-a-half million. Our students and teachers worked with some of the biggest names and projects in the computer graphics industry, from Pixar and Marvel's The Avengers to ESPN and J.J. Abrams — even the FBI and NASA.

But more importantly: those five values transformed my company from a place I hated to go into a place I loved to call home and that felt like family.


Your values are what make you tick. They're not something you can copy from the latest Harvard Business Review or pick up from a leadership book on The New York Times best seller list. Values aren't some motivational one-liners that will magically transform your business. As an avid reader, I know we're all supposed to have core values. They're the things you put in your mission statement, your company vision; they are the guiding principles of your business; yada, yada, yada.

After my wake-up call, I started examining our company's core values for the first time. I got real and asked myself, "What are the rules? What would we never do under any circumstances? What truly matters to us?" These were also some of the questions Lisa and I asked in our impromptu retreat at that B&B. We had been so busy that we'd never taken the time to articulate what we believed.

Sure, we tried to be good people. We tried to treat our employees, customers, and suppliers right. We wanted to create high-quality experiences and products. We valued those things, but what did we ultimately stand for? More importantly, what wouldn't we tolerate?

As we searched for the answers, two key truths became clear. The first is that you can't make up your values. Values aren't some goals you want to achieve. They're not aspirational; they're not what you want your company to be one day. Rather, they are rooted in reality.

Your values are what you reflect in your actions and what you believe to be true. Your company values reflect the people who work for the company today, not some time in the future. The culture you already have in place — a.k.a. the "way things are done around here" — reflects your values. These daily decisions come from your underlying priorities.

In short, your values have nothing to do with whatever you came up with in your last corporate retreat (vision and mission statements) and then hung on a wall somewhere, to be forgotten. Your values are demonstrated every day in your organization through the actions of your employees and customers.

The second truth is that, as the owner and/or leader of a company, your own values become the company's values. Part of founding a company means pouring your heart and soul into it. You set the tone. You make the decisions. You sign the checks. You have the final say. Every time you make a choice, every time you interact with stakeholders you're shaping the culture of your brain child. As a company grows, though, it begins to take on a life of its own. Unless you make a conscious decision about staying true to your core beliefs — unless you know your limits — company culture can start running wild, like an untended garden or a neglected child.

I hadn't considered either of these two truths. Eventually, as the company's values started to deviate from my own, my passion started to wane. The less Digital-Tutors embodied my values, the less I liked it.

What does it look like when you don't live by your core values? These days, I love coaching and advising leadership teams. When meeting for the first time, my first question is, "What are your core values?" Inevitably, one I always hear is "quality." They say this, but when a customer shows up on their doorstep needing something quickly and they scramble to meet the deadline yet deliver an inferior product to do so, then "quality" is not a core value; it's just an empty promise.

Another common value often stated involves something around the idea of teamwork. If you say it's important but choose to keep a toxic employee because they're a hotshot, you clearly don't care about teamwork, do you? Values aren't something you declare; they're something you live.


In basketball, everyone plays by the same rules. When a player makes a shot, no one questions the results; the player's team scores points. When a player goes out of bounds with the ball, everyone knows that's against the rules. Imagine the chaos if an athlete showed up to play basketball, only to find one player kicking the ball like a soccer player while another was hitting it with a hockey stick.

Before an athlete starts playing, they need to know up front which game they are playing and its rules. Just like athletes, your team members need to know the rules of how to play the game of business.

We called our values the "Rules of Our Game" because it set the expectations up front: "These are the rules we're going to play by. If you're not playing by these rules, you're not playing our game."

So how do you get started? There's something tactile about writing things down. It helps cement your thoughts into something you can visualize. Start by writing down the words you think describe your core values. Sleep on it for a few days as you try to narrow them down to just a handful. Give yourself time to think on them, and circle the ones that resonate with you.

What are the rules of your game?

How will you communicate these rules? (Please don't say a poster on the wall.)

How will you keep your rules at the top of everyone's mind every day?

Values aren't something you declare; they're something you live.


Excerpted from "Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Piyush Patel.
Excerpted by permission of Dream Big Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

My Wake-up Call,
Finding Our Core Values,
Finding Your Core Values,
Your Turn!,
Belonging, Affirmation, and Meaning = B.A.M.,
Your Turn!,
Make Your Own Jerseys,
Go for the Gold,
How to Create that Sense of Belonging,
Your Turn!,
Our Meeting Rituals,
When He Wants Attention and She Wants to Talk,
Listening Is an Act of Affirmation,
Your Turn!,
Being Meaningful on Purpose,
Your Tribe Is Bigger than Your Business,
The 3 Happies—Creating Daily B.A.M.,
Your Turn!,
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,
Real Culture vs. Faux Culture,
Your Turn!,
My Second Wakeup Call,
Your People Are Your Company,
Your Turn!,
The Bathroom Bandit,
Guerilla Tradeshows,
Your Turn!,
Why You Didn't Want to Work for Digital-Tutors,
Your Turn!,
How to Make New Members Feel Like They Already Belong,
Helping You Navigate Your First Month,
Your Turn!,
Finding the Right Fit,
The Cost of Losing People,
When I Had to Let Someone Go,
Your Turn!,
Season's [Greatings],
EOM Meetings,
Office Hours,
Constant Coaching,
A Constructive Uncomfortable Conversation,
Your Turn!,
Walking Down Main Street,
How to Get Shit Done,
Your Turn!,
Lead with Pancakes,
Sincere Generosity,
Your Turn!,
Keep Digging Until You Find the Problem,
Go Find Help,
Your Turn!,
Working Myself Out of a Job,
Your Turn!,
"Hey ... Does This Stuff Actually Work?",

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