What we learned in our fifth year

January 16, 2020

50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. When we launched PNR, we didn’t know how many years we would have. After having completed our fifth year, we’re proud of this milestone and particularly of what’s been accomplished. This past year was notably intense. Our engagements took on whole new levels of importance as we worked with management teams and their boards to help move their organizations forward.

We’d like to share some of the good things and not so good things that we learned along the way

It’s a team sport

Having a top class team makes a world of difference. We met with many strong people that wanted to join our team and it’s always tempting to hire the first “right” person you encounter. As much as possible, we’ve tried to hire the person that would best fit our culture. We’ve codified these tenets over the years in a way to ensure that people fit & build the culture.

  • Divergent opinions over consensus: if everyone agrees on every decision, there’s a problem. For the most difficult decisions, it’s usually better when people disagree.
  • Strong personalities BUT with respect and collaboration: Disagreement is fine and encouraged. Strong personalities will not hold their tongue which is great but it can’t be at the detriment of a respectful environment.
  • Non-conformity to past conventions of consulting: If we want to compete with more established consulting firms, we can’t mimic all of their practices. To drive a new way forward, we’ve focused on people with strong talent and that are not tied to past customs of the big consulting firms.
  • Team work before individual ego: Our mandates are all custom. We’re trying to define the best path forward for our customers. With that lens, it takes a team to build the best plan, not a single individual.
  • Continuous learning/improvement to deliver value to our clients: there is no end state. We have to continuously adapt and grow. We need to develop personally as individuals and as an organization.
  • Work is not life: there are raging debates on the merits of work life balance versus working 100 hour weeks. We buy into the theory that people need to have a life in order to work and perform.
  • Tech aware but not tech obsessed: Given our backgrounds in technology, it would have been easy to peddle terms like “digital transformation” and “artificial intelligence”. The starting point is to help our customers achieve their objectives. Technology is simply a set of tools at their disposal.

It starts and ends with the team. Period.

Values matter

We have three core values, Trust, Impact and Ambition. They changed over time and have become our measuring stick when it comes to hiring and working with an organization.

  • Ambition is asking the difficult questions everyone else is afraid to ask. This creates a compound effect of taking our team to the next level while going above and beyond for our clients. Provoking velocity requires taking risks like getting people out of their comfort zones, which takes ambition driven by purpose.
  • Impact means leaving your mark. In business like in physics, every action has an equivalent reaction. This is why we push ourselves to deliver outsized performance for our customers and for ourselves. It requires going above and beyond the call of duty which leaves a lasting impact and legacy.
  • Trust: At the end of each interview process, we hypothetically ask ourselves the question “would we rob a bank with this person?” That’s the level of trust we look for in our team, clients and business partners. We speak our mind and provide candid feedback even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

Strategy is not static, it needs to be in action

Our first claim to fame was incorporating the principles of Agile into strategic planning. Back in 2015, very few people were talking about Agile in management. It has now become a mainstay of the business press. We’ve now moved beyond only talking about the benefits of Agile (while there are still many). We’re focusing on the concept of Strategy in Action.

Our mission is to help companies take action move faster and adapt to their market by taking action. This means moving away from the belief that companies are defined by plans, we prefer to focus on people. Strategy is a collaborative exercise and just like strength training, needs to be worked on a regular basis.

S*** happens

We made a lot of mistakes along the way. Bad hires, inflated expectations with clients, over ambitious growth plans to name a few. The key insight is that intellectual honesty is the best way to deal with these business challenges. Every important decision has a probability of failure. When the inevitable mistakes are made, reversing course quickly is often the best course of action.

2020 will be a landmark year as we bring our level of customer impact to the next level. We want to thank everyone that has helped us along the way, especially our customers that trusted us. We’re excited for what the next five years will bring and plan on changing how organizations plan and execute their strategy.

If you’re curious, here are the past annual insights (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015)