57. This Is Us
I want to speak with you today about your company’s DNA. This message is really focused to business owners and founders.
So if you’re a business owner - even if you’ve been a business owner before - I want you to think back to when your company was formed.
What was going through your mind?
What emotions were you experiencing? As I speak with clients about this, one of the consistent reactions I get is a smile.
They smile because there’s an abundance of experiences that are playing through their mind like old family videos and films.
I’ve heard them say things like:
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I was naive.
I thought it I had it all figured out.
It was a blast.
We were killing it.
It was so much fun.
As I listen, I try to be careful not to ask questions too fast because I want them to stay locked into that moment.
After some silence, they’ll start to go deeper…
We had a really great group in the beginning.
Everyone just knew what to do.
We loved the competing with each other.
We couldn’t afford many benefits in the beginning, so we played video games together when we were slow.
When I watch them tell me about starting up, I see joy. I see excitement. Most of the time as they’re recalling this phase they’re not making eye contact with me. They’re looking at something on the wall or off into space.
When their eyes return to mine that’s when I know it’s OK to ask another question.
I can tell those are good memories for you. What are some of the reasons you were successful in the early days?
And their answers are where I begin to help them rediscover their company’s DNA.
They tell me about times when they landed the big account and wondered how they could possibly serve them.
Or a time when a major mistake nearly cost them everything.
We pulled together. Everyone pitched in. Everyone sacrificed.
We learned how to do things on the fly. It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting.
We learned about each other.
And this is when I know we’re getting to the best elements.
But the reality is that these elements - the best things about the company’s origins - in many cases are long forgotten. Or, in some cases, not forgotten, but they’ve lost their shine; their power.
Here’s what happens and why it’s absolutely vital to help my clients rediscover this who they are, where they came from, so they never forget what makes them uniquely better.
During a company’s startup there’s a nucleus of people; the brain trust.And there’s a powerful vision they’re following which is usually driven by the founder or founders.
They constantly talk about that vision almost as if they’re reminding themselves that “this is who we are, what we do, and why we’re better.”
It happens in meetings.
It happens in the moment such as dealing with an opportunity or an obstacle, dealing a customer who is unhappy and threatening to take their business elsewhere… or worse.
It happens as everyone is high-giving and jumping up and down because you just had your biggest month ever.
What happens next is inevitable. You GROW.
And with your growth you realize you must add more people to keep up with the work.
So you start recruiting. There’s something good about how you’re recruiting in the early days…
You have to sell great people on the opportunity to make a difference.
You know you can’t compete on pay, on 401k matches, or even vacation days.
But you can compete on opportunity and the ability to do what you do best and have that be noticed by you and everyone else.
Let’s call this the 2nd ring. These employees mostly understand who the company is, what it does, why it’s uniquely better, and mostly understand the tribal knowledge.