Five $38 Million Lessons
There has been a great deal of buzz in NH regarding the recent announcement by Dyn, an internet-as-a-service infrastructure company based in MHT. They announced a $38million investment round and are putting together the company’s first board-of-directors. I have been writing recently about board planning and diversity and it’s exciting to see a great company take the next step. I am fond of Dyn, my family has been connected to the company for 4 years during a time of tremendous growth and change. And I know something about the challenges and opportunities the company has faced these past few years. Whenever a company goes through rapid change they face a sometimes uncomfortable spotlight. Their recent investment round has certainly placed them ever more squarely in the spotlight and changes like this are an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned. Dyn is certainly doing that, and their CEO Jeremy Hitchcock’s recentblog post attests to this as well. A strong effort has been made internally and externally to contextualize for employees, managers, clients, and future employees what Dyn stands for and where Dyn stands today. There are some great lessons other organizations should take from Dyn’s recent example, and surprisingly none of them are about what to do with $38 million.
Keep your friends close, and your friend’s friends closer.
When Dyn announced their relationship with North Bridge they reported that they had previously entertained investment and acquisition offers, none of which quite encapsulated the full magnitude of what Dyn’s executive team and co-founders were seeking to accomplish. Their announcement emphasized that the relationship with North Bridge came out of mutual interest and shared vision. We can learn from this in taking from it the value of knowing who our champions are and who our champion’s champions are. Using this information can give us immense insights into what opportunities might become available to us in the near future. Knowing this can help us recognize them when we see them.
Keep the conversation going, but know when to stop talking.
Dyn reported they had worked with a number of potential partners and advisors in coming to their current plan. They also ended a lot of conversations and closed some doors. This lesson not only applies to the conversation their executives had with outsiders, but I would guess it applies equally well to their own internal conversations. Moving their company to the next level after years of consistent growth was probably not an easy or uniform experience. Any such change is bound to come with growing pains and internal stressors. But finding that unique balance between talking it through and making the tough call is the hallmark of collaborative decision-making.
Relationships hold value; Value relationships
Again and again in Dyn’s public announcement there was a clear tone and attention paid to the people that make up Dyn. Other public events and statements the company has offered over the years have garnered them attention as being a “Best of” company, and even “the most democratic” company. It is evident that Dyn cares about their employees, they take a personal interest in what makes their employees tick and provide opportunities for them to share what matters to them with others. This creates an incredibly rich environment for relationships that in turn sets the stage for retention and productivity. This sort of value cannot be accounted for on a spreadsheet but it offers a huge return within an organization.
Your message needs to be shared and transmitted.
There is a fine line between “buzz” and “rumor”; in one case you want to build some level of interest and excitement around your information, on the other hand you don’t want to create anxiety and disruption within the system while information is being shared. Dyn messaged the opportunity and the implications by sharing transparently with followers. There is a culture that exists within the company of providing information as it is available while appreciating facts on the ground can, and often do, change. Developing your talent to appreciate flexibility and transparency requires messages of assurance and relationship. Governing an organization from a rigid paradigm won’t allow for this type of adaptive response.
Connections inside are mirrors to opportunities outside.
Do you have a company where people feel supported, feel they can make mistakes and take accountability for them, feel they can make changes and have an impact on the company itself? If you do then your employees are able to signal a sense of connection, trustworthiness, and capability that your competitor may not be able to convey. The neuroscience on relationships and behavior is incredibly powerful; people who are emotionally supported and feel connected to others perform their work behaviors better. Dyn gets this and it may be a big factor in their success thus far; they trust their employees to perform their roles, and to fill in for others, and then get out of their way. Sometimes this scores them a big win, and probably sometimes it looks like a strike. What will help them as they navigate the next set of changes is keeping this goal in mind. The degree to which they can retain employee autonomy and accountability through interconnected relationships will be a big predictor if they can remain in the eyes of their clients as accessible and accountable.
It is so great to hear about the success of high tech companies that do great work, and even better to know the work is in the service of a rich and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. And as someone who is in the business of advice and insight I find in this story a great example of my main take-home points: relationships are powerful and necessary and investing in people to be more effective in navigating those relationships can yield powerful rewards.
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Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor, Entrepreneur, and Diversity Columnist.
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Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, 2011-2014