In this letter:
- Thoughts on knowing when to leap
- The benefits of better organizational learning
- A link to a conversation about my personal faceplants
I’ve been thinking about the phrase “leap and the net will appear” this week. I’ve never felt so strongly that this is terrible advice (sorry John Burroughs…the Internet attributes this to you. It really sounds lovely though.) I’d be more likely to say “leap without a net and you might end up with a broken face, but that’s actually okay because you’ll learn something.”
I’m more of a net-builder myself. I take big and small leaps all the time, but not without at least some version of a net underneath me. That net may or may not hold, but knowing it’s there helps me move confidently in the direction of something new.
For this reason, one of my first goals as CEO was that we’d have a 6-month runway of paid expenses. This may seem like a lot or a little to you, but for us, it feels long enough to give me a sense of safety and short enough that it allows for flexibility. Anything above that number, I feel good about investing in our future selves.
Well, we hit that number already (yay team!). So now that we have a net, I get to figure out what leaps to take.
One of those leaps is to hire for a few strategy-related positions. (I’m already talking to a couple folks, so I’m not currently in need of referrals.) I’m really excited for this because the folks I have in mind are stellar (both as people and at what they do), and I love working with wonderful people. Beyond that, it will help us prove that we can create internal systems around our strategic approach, rather than depending on a particular consultant (who is currently me).
As confident as I am that this step is both good and necessary, I’m also kind of terrified. I’m not scared for myself, or that these folks won’t do an amazing job. I’m mostly scared because our team has gone through a lot of transition and has worked hard to help us get to a place where we can see farther out than what’s directly in front of us. Part of me just wants to stockpile whatever money we make into a large vat and never touch it.
Even so, I know even more deeply that if you’re not investing in your growth, entropy eventually gets the best of you. Based on what we’ve learned over the past few months, I’m confident that these leaps are both manageable and impactful, and I’m excited about where they’ll take us.
• • •
One impact of our work that we don’t talk about much (and probably should) is organizational learning. Which, at the end of the day, simply means knowing what leaps to take.
Growth is a much easier concept to talk about and wrap your hands around, but increasing sales and revenue and bodies in the seats is only one outcome of strengthening customer relationships at every level of your organization. As you build the systems that integrate customers as collaborators across your company, you’re creating an organization that continually gets smarter and smarter about the market it’s in and how it can have the most impact serving the people within it.
This means you don’t have to constantly second-guess your decisions or make wild leaps in the dark. It means that you build lots of nets, and every leap you take builds on the leap before it. It means you can be yourself and not be at the mercy of best practices that end up leaving you following the crowd rather than building your own path. It means you get to see your customers and clients growing in specific, measurable, meaningful ways that you can point to and remind yourself (and everyone else) why your company exists in the first place.
• • •
This is one reason our company exists. We’ve experienced the pain of the highdive-into-a-concrete-faceplant style of learning more times than we’d like to admit, and we want to help our clients avoid it. And at the same time, we want to make sure the strategies and tactics we use encourage them to continually grow into their fullest potential, as organizations and as humans.
Here’s to happy leaping,
P.S. If you’d like to hear about some of my own personal faceplants, have a listen to my conversation with Death to Stock founder David Sherry on this episode of the Creative Caffeine podcast.
@andyet / @sarahavenir