Sustainability vs Scalability
As a business scales, is it possible to sustain the start-up DNA that makes it unique? ABSOLUTELY. Growth in business does not have to dilute who you are, instead it should amplify the heartbeat of your business.
The Entourage experienced very fast growth between 2013 and 2015. Our team increased from five to over 100 people. As The Entourage grew, we noticed the culture changing and the essence of who we were in the beginning getting lost. People were no longer ‘showing up’ the way we wanted them to. This meant the business wasn’t becoming what we wanted it to become.
When I consulted with CEOs of other large companies, I was told that as a business grows it was normal to lose a bit of the company heartbeat. That it was impossible to avoid losing the great culture that seemingly only existed at the smaller start-up level. But I couldn’t accept that.
The notion that size was inversely proportional to a strong culture didn’t sit right with me. So, I set out to research what made great leaders build a following of like-minded teams, who cared about their vision as much as they did, no matter the size.
What I found helped me turn The Entourage culture around, and in 2015 we were voted by BRW Magazine as the ‘4th Best Place to Work in Australia’, and made it into the top 50 best places to work in Australasia.
Contrary to conventional thinking, workplace culture is not about free lunches, bicycles and ‘casual Fridays’. These are gimmicks that often serve only to detract from the true essence of an organisation. Culture goes far beyond the eye candy the media hold up to us as being great. Don’t be fooled. Go deeper.
Culture is about uniting great people around a purpose. It is about a group of people collectively sharing and working towards one vision. It’s about creating an environment that inspires and enables people to do their life’s best work.
Purposefully creating an environment with teams of people who understand the importance of what’s being done, and therefore demand of one another that every single person performs and contributes, is what a great workplace culture looks like.
It challenges, demands, invites and enables every member of the team to continuously be growing out of and into the best version of themselves. It is about giving your people something to fight for and work hard towards.
The three principles I base my leadership on, and that underpin any great culture, are vision, mission and values.
The ultimate purpose of any organisation is to have a vision. It’s the reason it exists. This purpose is to focus on the contribution the organisation will make to the lives of other people or even the planet.
History shows us that great leaders have always had a vision for the contribution they wanted to make to the people around them, to humanity, or to the world. This vision wasn’t and isn’t focused on them. It’s about a much greater purpose.
Steve Jobs wanted to make a dent in the universe. Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and founder of SolarCity and SpaceX, has a vision to enable the future of humanity.
The vision Einstein had was to be able to articulate the universe in one short, elegant formula. Oprah’s vision is to elevate the consciousness of all humanity.
It’s important to note that, while the examples I’ve just given are from people who want to make a global impact, it certainly doesn’t need to influence the scale of your own vision. Legacy cares not for scale. It’s not about how far-reaching it is, only how deeply your vision resonates with you and your people.
Mission is the measurable and company-orientated target for what you want to become. While the vision focuses on others, the mission is centred on you – the ultimate goal for what you as a company or a team, are trying to grow into. By achieving the measurable goal of the mission we fulfil the purpose found within the vision.
The vision for my business, The Entourage, is to push civilisation forward by enabling more people to live on purpose. Our mission, however, is to become the world’s number one education institution for entrepreneurs and innovators.
Values are the set of standards and principles that guide and govern who we are and who we must be. Great companies have soul and a set of values bring that soul to life through language; they articulate our essence in a way that would otherwise not be spoken.
Values shouldn’t be manufactured to engineer productivity or loyalty. Values should represent an authentic representation of the true heartbeat of an organisation. They are the way by which we bottle the magic that lies within every great company. Values, like brand, should not be about creating a label that sits on the wall, rather a confirmation of what is. In this sense, values are not created. They are discovered by providing genuine answers to the questions ‘Who are we?’ and, ‘Who do we strive to be?’.
Great culture is all about the alignment to company values and how well an organisation lives them. Once you have clearly defined your vision, mission and values it is essential that you recruit, induct, train and manage your team to them consistently.
You must create a culture so strong, that it is impossible for those who do not fit, to stay.