It is a central focus of our service offerings. When we established a firm devoted to crisis response planning, culture, inclusion, and conflict management we knew we were the partner companies needed to handle the hot button issues that detract from mission. What we didn't know was how varied and consistent the efforts would be. Our services are designed for high growth companies and non-profits; organizations that have a growing demand but limited resources to respond. These are the perfect environments to see innovation and creative problem solving. They are also the perfect storm for unintended offense, massive missteps, and sometimes outright mistreatment. What we have known all along is that little missteps during the growth phase are set ups for problems in the adapting phase. When reputation, relationship, and results are most essential is not just before a big service launch or public offering; they matter when the room size starts to double from 6 to 12, from 12 to 24, and especially from 48 to 96. We have known this and helped our partners see that too. Yesterday the NY Times shared some recent management data that support our claims (you can find their post here).
Our insight wasn't based soley on gut instinct; we had read the results of studies produced by Stamford's Emerging Company division (their site outlines a recent history of findings, and links to some full text for the wonks among you). We know quite a bit about teams, leadership, and accountability mechanisms. We know how marginalized people (read as "anyone who is different in a group of sameness") are treated within homogeneous settings. Our insight and services were positioned after witnessing multiple start-up cultures, both non-profit and high tech, burgeon and then flounder when opportunity and growth collided.
When we offer a course like "Manager's Tool Kit" it's because we know scaling well means avoiding crushed toes. When we participate in a panel discussing how women in non-traditional settings can be supported we know we are there to celebrate and inform those who work with women in all fields.
Our work with clients has taught us some valuable tips that any company facing hypergrowth would do well to learn:
- Advisers with a variety of experience are an essential ballast.
- Complaints from those in the center of the circle are "canaries in the coal mine" worth heeding.
- Change is hard but isolation is worse. Bring those along who can, help those who can't- land well.
- Seek out voices that are from corners you don't know well. Their perspective is as true as the view you currently have. The bigger you get the more likely their view will be more accurate than your view currently.
- Mistakes will happen; own them first, repair them fast, and review frequently to learn and improve.
- Outside support can make the difference in the short and long term, but relying on a 'clean up crew' won't get you off the hook for deeper organizational preparation that must be accomplished.