People ask me frequently if it’s hard to start a company. My answer is simple; the act of starting a company is incredibly easy. Quitting a nine to five job is simple: walk into your boss’s office and politely resign. The next step is to incorporate, wait in line and sign a few papers – again pretty easy stuff. Where the going gets tough is when you’re six months in and you have no traction, no revenue and wonder why the hell you left a job with free food.
Despite these difficulties, it can be extremely rewarding to venture out on your own. Part of the fun is making it on your own, but the real pleasure comes from making it as a team. My partners JF, Martin and I spent a lot of time talking about our values; what did we care about? What makes us happy? What doesn’t? By spending time on what we’re really looking for, beyond just financial or career success, was extremely important to make sure we’re in this for the right reasons. When the time came to resign from our well paying jobs, the decision was quite easy.
When thinking about those values, it was a deeply personal discussion. What the f*** were we doing and why? It boiled down to trust, ambition and impact. JF had been nurturing a list of people he trusted and wanted to work with. I’m happy that Martin and I were on that list. When it comes to hiring, we ask first and foremost; does this person fit with our core values?
Martin is always raising the bar in every aspect of his life. He pushes us every day to be better and to be more ambitious. There is a saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. For me, Martin raises that average by a country mile.
Making an impact was something I really believe it. The reason I joined was helping people thinking differently about their business and playing a role in their growth. Seeing customers happy and making a bigger dent in the world gets me excited every day.
The original business plan was simple. Help companies figure out how technology has impacted their business and help them figure out the sea change they are facing. We launched with no track record in consulting, no existing customer base but with a lot of motivation and a core set of beliefs. The beliefs were simple; technology has fundamentally disrupted the value chain for all industries; the impact which will be felt throughout the entire course of this century. To respond to this, organizations must strategically get closer to their customers. Creating an adaptable organization that responds to the market in real time is the defining trait of successful organizations in this century. What we hadn’t figured out yet was how exactly do we help these companies do this – not a small detail. It became quickly apparently that the large corporations we were trying to reach out to were not interested. Instead we gained with smaller technology companies that used our past experience to help them grow.
Our breakthrough came when we combined strategic planning and Agile used in software development. This new methodology focused on making strategy much more focused and action oriented. The core tenets of agile made perfect sense in a strategic planning setting. Strategy sessions were no longer only about big ideas and priorities but also about charting the course on how to get there; helping companies move faster using Agile became incredibly valuable. Our mission came clear; make strategy actionable, accountable and measurable.
We have pretty big ambitions and to achieve our mission, we knew that we needed to build a team of like minded individuals. But what can we offer smart people that have many options to choose from? The same thing as our customers, learning. By working at the strategy level, we’re trying to help our customers develop the mechanism to constantly learn and adapt to their market. The same type of mentality is applied to our team; always strive to learn, challenge ourselves and think differently about the problems our customers are facing. It’s not just intelligence that counts but the sense of ownership and constantly questioning assumptions are the key traits that are important. We don’t want to build another McKinsey or BCG, those firms are hugely successful in their own right and not where we want to focus. By applying a more data driven approach to strategy, I really believe that we can build a firm that moves away from a pyramidal partner structure and foster true entrepreneurship.
Working at an early stage strategy firm is an immensely rewarding job because of the amount of new skills developed and deep business experience gained. Sure, you also get a roller coaster ride – but it’s all worth it. Sitting next to passionate individuals that push us to be better single day is one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life. We try to give back with things like flexible vacation, profit sharing options and curated Spotify playlists. Ultimately, I know that these benefits are ephemeral in nature. Smart people want to work with smart people. The journey to building a new kind of strategy firm has only just begun and with the team in place, I know we can go really far. If you are interested in joining, a rebel motley crew – drop us a line!