This piece was first published on Forbes Business Council.
In the past few months, I’ve frequently found myself taking a step back to look at my company as if I’m a spectator on the sidelines. It’s been important for me to think beyond the next few months to further into the future, where we want to be in five years’ time.
The feeling I keep coming back to is pride. Yes, we’ve endured some difficult months, as has the rest of the world: losing business, cutting salaries, delaying plans. But what struck me, and I’m sure my teammates reading this piece would agree, is that we’ve managed to navigate these tough conditions together — all in the shadow of our individual scenarios and limitations.
Now, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. We’re holding virtual conferences with smiling attendees, sales are up and spirits are high. That got me thinking about what exactly we did from the outset that got us to this place. I’ve concluded five important values we’ve held dear since the very beginning.
1. Summon the right people to your round table.
We were founded back in 2014 (or 2015, depending on which co-founder you ask) and we’ve been lucky enough to find loyal people who have stuck with us through our growing pains and previous tough times — for example, when we had a very small client base, when we worked from a loft above a motorcycle garage and when we had no money to pay salaries.
Their loyalty has been celebrated with yearly bonuses, and they’ve experienced the joy of securing our first major deal. We’re no longer just colleagues; I consider them friends who’ve helped transform the sense of “we have no money but come dream with us” to “come dream with us” and have imparted it onto their fellow colleagues, too. Having “Maven” DNA means the company is as much theirs as it is mine.
2. Think long term and plan ahead.
Whether toward the future of the market, your customers, your company, your employees or all of the above, it’s vital to look ahead. Sometimes it’s only possible to look at the next six or 12 months, but with the nature of our business being at the cutting-edge of tech, we try to look years in advance and ideate on “big picture” targets.
It’s evermore important to look at the whole story (years) and not a narrow POV (months). If you’re wondering what’s going to happen in March 2021, you may feel scared and unsafe. But when you look ahead to April 2023, you can more easily deal with a bumpier road. That’s how we reduce feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and distress that may arise.
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3. Be transparent and point out risks.
I hear matter-of-fact statements from many of my peers. For me, it comes naturally; transparency isn’t something I can fake. I find that in business, it’s easy to tell when someone is revealing something just to be strategic, or for the sake of keeping transparency as a value.
As a company grows, if management is trying to hide a “secret,” it will always find a way of revealing itself, often causing real stress and bad feelings. If, for example, we lost a client, realized the hit the industry would take from Covid-19, or had the worst quarter ever, everybody in the company deserves to know. We’ve always made everybody aware that everything we’re doing can vanish for any unforeseeable reason.
Being transparent results in employees caring and getting involved, ideally helping to plan for a better future. I once presented our figures in a company meeting, which resulted in employees coming forward to ask “why aren’t we cutting a portion of our salaries?” I was honest that this was a scenario we were trying to avoid. Two months later, however, we did have to reduce salaries, but everything was already on the table and people knew we had done our absolute best to avoid it.
4. Don’t make decisions out of fear (and know when you do).
If you take my first three values into account, you can understand why I and my fellow managers walk without fear. We’ve been through testing times, and we believe that what’s happening now is temporary; by maintaining constant communication and sharing ideas, problems and solutions, we create a ripple effect of fearlessness.
When one of our senior employees was told that her salary was about to be reduced, she knew it wasn’t a decision we had taken lightly. Management’s optimism and confidence encouraged her to see it as a means to an end — that it was a temporary setback that made way for long-term gain. When fear doesn’t enter your decision-making process and every move is calculated against other considerations, everybody in your company feels it.
5. It’s never the role; it’s always the person.
We put tremendous effort into empowering our employees by making them feel valued. We’re still small, about 55 people, so we have the luxury of focusing on individual talent versus a role. If you’re a “Maven,” it shows, and we want you because of the way you do your thing.
Even if we’re not looking for a specific role at the time, or if the role you’re in currently isn’t a perfect fit, we will do everything in our power to make it work so that we all see the value. I believe that by implementing this approach people become really passionate about what they do and we don’t breed a culture where employees feel they are easily replaceable. As a result, they aren’t always keeping their eye out for the next thing.
None of what I’ve said here is a secret. Everyone who enters our company knows the values that we live by. I feel enormous pride in what we’ve achieved together. I look at all of the company experiences and people as moving parts of the bigger picture, making up our unique, victorious story.
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