This is part three of a series on Extreme Ownership. View the previous parts if you haven’t already: Part 1 Part 2

Many are familiar with the words “if you build it, they will come.” While this phrase was instrumental to the film Field of Dreams, it is seldom wise advice for businesses in the real world. No matter how good you think your product is it isn’t guaranteed to generate a profit. Most people in the world aren’t interested in what you have to offer. Either they find no use for it, or they discover it at the wrong time, or they’re not on the platform where your product is offered. Others - people who are a better fit for your product - can’t come to you because they simply don’t know you exist.

I’ve been at a corporate job for a little less than a year now and I’ve enjoyed it. There’s comfort in having big-name clients who’ve signed big-ticket contracts with my company. Even in this global crisis my employer is here to stay and so is my job. I can focus on honing my skills as a developer and on making my team the best team it can be (thus these blog posts) instead of fighting for the team’s right to survive.

A startup on the other hand is a huge gamble. You have no support system; you are the support system. When your startup’s in a crisis you’ve got no one to check down to because you’re the company’s last line of defense. Individual incidents don’t immediately lead to a startup’s death, but every opportunity to earn revenue matters. In order to put up with these conditions, you need to believe that your startup can pull through in the end.

I’ve always felt sorry for Ellen, Makr’s CEO, because she had a lot to contend with throughout the startup’s history. A designer left at the very beginning because she wanted to work at an app agency that went from project to project, not be married to a multi-year venture. Makr’s co-CEO dropped out during fundraising, and as a result our investors pledged less than a million dollars. Our CTO, who reluctantly took the title as a result of shareholder input, called it quits after a year. Without funding and without key staff we were at a disadvantage.

When it came to time to work on Makr for iPhone it was a desperate time. The conversation shifted from whether the company can grow to whether the company can deliver to begin with. As far as engineering was concerned, I was at times the last man standing. I had to stay with Makr to keep the show going, and in order for me to stay I had to believe that Makr had a future.

Extreme Ownership states that leaders must understand the weight of their position and how powerful their influence can be on their team. If Ellen thought Makr’s best days were behind it, the team would’ve disbanded in the summer of 2014 and Makr would’ve went down in history as a niche iPad app that suddenly disappeared after a few months. Instead, Ellen reminded her team of the company’s potential. We’ve built a close relationship with Apple, and our app was featured regularly on the App Store. There were numerous small businesses and DIY’ers in the US and across the globe whom we could cater with our design app. The ceiling for success was high, but we had to at least show up. Ellen believed in the mission, and so did I.

We pushed beyond our setbacks and launched Makr for iPhone in September of that year. Soon afterwards we caught the attention of Staples and they bought the company. Apple continued to feature the app providing us with a fresh stream of users. Makr got to live on for another few years. This was only possible because the CEO served as our flagbearer and carried us past our doubts.