by Molly Kramer, Founder & Creative Director of Model Content
To nab an Oscar and a Grammy, you need good narrative. And Al Gore got his trophies by way of a brilliant storytelling strategy.
First, he breaks you down with a punishingly long list about the adverse impacts of climate change. Then he builds you back up with a discussion of solutions, before charging you forward with an imperative for action. The audience leaves transformed.
“I’m not here to entertain you,” he said to an audience of developers, founders, and other techies at Collision Conference 2018. “I’m here to recruit you. We need your help to win this struggle. We need your help to solve the climate crisis.”
He talked about the role of startups and investors, describing the efforts of his own firm, Generation Investment Management, which invests in growth-stage companies. "We invest through a sustainability lens, and our whole mission in life for the last 14 years has been to prove the business case that if you fully integrate [environmental, social and governance] factors and sustainability factors more broadly in the investing process, in every stage of it, you don’t have to sacrifice returns," he said. "You can actually enhance returns.”
Climate change was a big reason I became an environmental journalist (my pre-marketer job). So the former Veep’s comments reinvigorated my business values. In the last blog I authored, I listed them as:
Climate change is woven throughout all of these values—especially evidence and wellness. So I’m going to prioritize companies that create environmentally friendly technology and improve public health.
In fact, we’re already taking some action as a business. I’m excited to serve as I-Corps Team Mentor for Alabama-based MTE Solar as we apply to the National Science Foundation program. I-Corps would allow MTE to conduct nationwide customer discovery for their thin film solar technology, which is built with non-toxic, earth-abundant materials. Our initial interview is tomorrow! For updates, follow Model Content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Planning for Sustainability and Culture
So, clearly, sustainability is critical. I want Model Content to have a lasting, positive impact on the communities we serve. But another goal woven throughout all of the above values is culture. I want Model Content, no matter how big or small, to be a great place to work. This can be a challenge when facing uncertainty about the speed and nature of your business’ future growth. Rebecca Parsons, CTO of ThoughtWorks, talks about this uncertainty through the lens of programming.
Model Content is currently a principal and contractors, but I anticipate a first hire in the third quarter. In writing the job description and policies, I find myself trying to tackle every scenario that may arise. But Rebecca says to instead build your business’ inherent capacity to evolve, which means empowering people to develop solutions as a team.
“There are standard architectural principles that actually apply in organizations as well,” she said. “You want to make sure people understand where the white space is and understand how to get things done and understand how to communicate and what’s important.” I’m looking forward to reading her new book, Building Evolutionary Architectures.
Steering with process and compensation
Another key insight on growth came from John Chambers of Cisco (and JC2 Ventures). At Collision, John talked about linking compensation to mission. He emphasized replicable processes as a means to achieving the culture that drives success.
He echoed some of Rebecca’s themes by emphasizing that it’s not about predicting the future—it’s about knowing how to fill in your knowledge gaps as they arise. “A really good leadership team knows exactly what they know, and they know exactly what they don’t, and then they reach out,” he said.
He emphasized that process is not a “dirty word.” He advised companies to tie their compensation schemes to factors critical for leading in market transitions. These factors include customer satisfaction and culture. “You will never have a great company without a great culture,” John said. “And don’t let that happen by accident.”
Stay tuned for Part II!
The uncertainty of an early-stage business can seem unending. But every once in a while, the words of wiser people make the ground rise up to your feet. This has been Part I of a 2-part blog series on early-stage business growth. With quotes from the SCORE American Small Business Championship, Collision Conference, and the Stennis Space Center Small Business Showcase, these are the people who are blessing me with perspective.
Part II, Fuel for Growth: Partnerships and Marketing, will be published next week. In the meantime, check out our new About Us page video!
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