Three Keys To Keeping Your Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive − Despite Success
Listen to Episode 77:
Episode 77 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. And with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As usual, it’s wonderful to be joining you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper®. If this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we taking on today?
Pam Harper: 3 keys to keeping your entrepreneurial spirit alive − despite success.
Scott Harper: Despite success?
Pam Harper: Yes. Perhaps some of you listening read an article in the July/August 2016 issue of Fast Company Magazine called “The New Rivalries 2016.” It consisted of a series of pairings of what the author called the most surprising skirmishes in business and what it means for consumers and the future of competition. One of the pairings that we found especially compelling was the one between Walt Disney Animation versus Pixar.
Scott Harper: Yeah, that’s right. This is a classic tale of a successful company that is dominant in its industry that starts to get a little stale.
Pam Harper: You’re talking about Pixar here, right?
Scott Harper: I am talking about Pixar; Pixar was a very entrepreneurial, innovative animation studio. When they started out, they were head and shoulders above everything else, all other animation studios. Of course, their first big hit was Toy Story. They had Cars, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and they completely overshadowed Disney Animation and everyone else, for that matter. In fact, in 2006, Disney acquired Pixar and ran it in parallel with Disney Animation.
Pam Harper: Very interesting case of intra-competition.
Scott Harper: Right. Over time, Pixar’s founding fathers, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull worked on Disney Animation, and they really led a dramatic cultural transformation of Disney Animation. They did a variety of things; they empowered directors. They opened lines of communication throughout the company. They brought in a partnering and outside ideas and a lot of other things. But, ironically, Pixar started to kind of rest on its laurels.
Pam Harper: So here are 2 different companies. Now they are in the same, bigger parent company. They’re struggling with staying entrepreneurial. One that was having a problem comes back up. The other one, that was up, was going down somewhat.
Scott Harper: Now, Pixar is still a very successful studio. The point that the Fast Companyarticles makes is that their culture − because they were so successful, they seem to have become maybe a little insular, and a little of what we call “stuck in the orbit of their success.” What they’ve been doing over the past few years is mainly grinding out sequels. Toy Story 4is coming out. You’ve got Cars coming out, again. You have …
Pam Harper: But you know, it does make sense one level though, because when you’re talking about a studio with that level of scale −
Scott Harper: And every movie is a risk…
Pam Harper: … they have a greater reliance on what has proven to be successful.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: It’s an important thing. So it’s understandable.
Scott Harper: Yeah, it is understandable. In fact, Finding Dory, which is a sequel to Finding Nemo, just released in June this year, 2016. It made $445 million in the first week. It’s the largest grossing animation feature ever in the United States. Very good news for Disney. Very good news for Pixar.
Pam Harper: You’re right. But here’s the question. Is it that Pixar has now regained their entrepreneurial spirit, and so Finding Dory represents that? Or is it yet another example of a strategy of recreating, with a twist, what has worked in the past?
Scott Harper: Another instance of grinding the machine one more time, which runs the risk of getting stale. Sequels can wear thing, and they can be vulnerable if another studio comes up with other hits of other things that audiences are more interested in.
Pam Harper: The things that they’re going to have to watch out for is how can they − and the they in this case is both Pixar and Disney Animation-
Scott Harper: And Disney, right…
Pam Harper: How can they keep their entrepreneurial spirit alive − the things that got both of those studios so successful over time? How they can keep it fresh, because new competitors are coming up − that next big thing is out there. They’re going to have to increase their momentum. They’re going to have to be very aware of the other things that are going on around them and how they can play their game even better.
Scott Harper: Right. This is unraveling the paradox that every company that’s successful faces. You know − success is great. We love it. All of our stakeholders are happy. Our stockholders are happy. But if we fall into reproducing the things that gave us success, we can actually fall into a formula that does wear thin and makes that success go away and fade.
Pam Harper: A bigger lesson even than this is the importance of shaping and re-shaping the culture of an organization as we grow − as we become successful. In fact, despite our success, we have to look at which elements of the culture belong there, which ones don’t.
Scott Harper: Re-creating and freshening that secret sauce of creativity and entrepreneurism. And we know that secret sauce has an expiration date.
Pam Harper: Oooh… And on that note, we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll tap into part of our episode 21, where we talk about some of the elements of shaping and re-shaping your culture to stay entrepreneurial as your company grows. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper®, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders dramatically increase momentum for game changing results. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: If you’re finding this episode interesting and useful, well we have more! Check out a few of our related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away immediately useful ideas. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select episode 77 and scroll down under Resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alerts of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about how companies can grow well into, and even pass mid market size while still having that strong entrepreneurial orientation.
Scott Harper: Okay − let’s talk about the challenges and practices of shaping an entrepreneurial culture and operation as a company grows.
Pam Harper: I have one thing I want to make sure that we clarify here.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: That’s that a culture exists from day one. It exists whether you consciously shape it or you don’t. I still remember talking with somebody who’s a CEO of about − at the time it was about a five million dollar company − and I said, “Tell me a little bit about your culture.” I expected to hear all kinds of things − and he said, “Actually I haven’t gotten around putting one in yet.”
Scott Harper: “We’re too much entrepreneurial here; we don’t have a culture yet.”
Pam Harper: That’s right. To that, I say, “You have a culture the moment that you go into business,” because to me, culture comes with being a person. It comes from all of your values and your beliefs and the way you go about doing things. So you can be a gang of one and have a culture. It’s really about whether you’re shaping the culture − and that’s really what he meant. I mean, I understood that, but it was just, “No, we don’t put in culture.” You do shape them though.
Scott Harper: Yes.
Pam Harper: The shaping is the thing that is the trickiest part, because as a company grows we’re also taken up with what it takes to grow, so that it’s hard to catch how much a company has changed over time. I mean, I see it with my own company. I saw it when you joined me.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: Things changed for us when you came in. On a larger scale it happens because there are all kinds of things that happen. New customers come in.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: New technology comes in.
Scott Harper: Systems and processes…
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Above all, as you’re growing in your organization − whether you’re taking on employees or you’re doing more outsourcing − you’ve got additional points of view that are always coming in. And going back to that whole point of what do we mean about being entrepreneurial, and how do we keep what made us successful in the first place alive and well and kicking and yet do that evolution thing that we need to do to support our growth. That’s really important − keeping the eye on the ball.
Pam Harper: It’s really important to be able to take all of that in, and that requires taking a hard look at all the ways that what you’re doing currently actually reinforces that entrepreneurial spirit that you’ve defined, that we talked about in the first segment of this program. Just as an example, one of the companies, another company that I was working with − this is before you had joined me…
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: … Was very successful also, and they had grown substantially because there was a new demand for their service. What ended up happening for them because it was most logical is they had grown into fiefdoms, and each of the fiefdoms had their own norms. And because these were very forward looking people, they realized that they couldn’t stay just looking at fiefdoms, or a series of fiefdoms.
Scott Harper: Or silos.
Pam Harper: Silos; okay, they could not stay looking at silos − that they had to do something. People needed to work across functions as teams.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Yet they saw that by making some changes, they still weren’t quite getting where they needed to go. One of the things when I started working with them is they were just so mystified as to why this was happening. If they had made changes, why wasn’t it working out? And what we discovered together is that there were certain aspects that they were looking at, but that there were other aspects that they were not looking at − such as who are the heroes in their organization.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: The heroes in their organization in this case were not the people who were working in teams. They were the people who were working through those silos.
Scott Harper: Okay, the cowboys; the people who went out and got the business and got the job done …
Pam Harper: Yeah, they weren’t actually even working through the silos now, were they? They were doing that.
Scott Harper: I remember this one, yes.
Pam Harper: Right. One of the things that they had overlooked was how many ways do we reinforce the culture that we’re looking for, and looking to establish. In fact, in my book, Preventing Strategic Gridlock, we talk about eight different ways [culture manifests]. In the resource page for this particular episode we’ll have that list of the eight different ways that culture is reinforced.
Scott Harper: Okay, very good. So, what you’re saying is that, as the company recognizes it has to grow and has to implement certain structures and change how things are done, they have a culture, and they want to change the culture to a certain extent. Change some things to reinforce “now, we’re larger we have to work in different ways.” They have to look at all the different ways that what was may still be hanging on, because people resist change. I mean, “this is how I do it; this is what I’m used to.” Or when people come in from a different company − a different place and they say, “This is how I did it back where I was.” You have to look at all those different ways that things are reinforced and done. Again, stay very conscious of what is it we want to keep, and what is it we want to evolve.
Pam Harper: That’s true. In fact, it really speaks to the idea that we get into leadership habits.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: A lot of the reasons that we do things, especially when you’re talking about getting work done, is it isn’t always a conscious thought, “Okay, we want to do it this way.”
Scott Harper: Right…
Pam Harper: As much as, “This is the way that we do it.” I mean, why do we have managers? “Because that’s what I’m used to in a company we have managers.” Yet, Zappos for example is looking at taking away managerial titles and coming up with totally a different type of organization.
Scott Harper: Here’s a big company that wants to maintain − they are over a billion dollars…
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Scott Harper: − They want to maintain their entrepreneurialism.
Pam Harper: But there was a conscious thought about it; and so what I’m saying is that we get into habits of working, and as we grow and we want to become more efficient, we want to become more effective, but we are just so used to “this is how we do it” that it’s almost a knee jerk reaction. People do the wildest things. I remember going into one company and there was a person there who was weighing the mail.
Scott Harper: Weighing the mail…
Pam Harper: Weighing the mail, because it made sense based on some legitimate needs that the company had many, many years ago − and Uncle Louie was doing the mail weighing because it made sense back then. They had to come up with some reason to keep Uncle Louie on.
Scott Harper:But Uncle Louie wasn’t there anymore?
Pam Harper: No.
Scott Harper: Yeah. I remember you telling me about that.
Pam Harper: The fact is, it’s another − It’s a habit of thought. A habit of leadership. We have to look at whether our habits of leadership are serving us well.
Scott Harper: Yes, and really, it’s the CEO who really has to own this process, because that is the person − the top leader − the person who really is looking at the financials, the strategic, the operational structure and all of that − that’s the person who really is accountable for making sure for instance, that silos don’t take hold and keep holding on and locking things down. That’s the person who’s accountable that things stay coordinated as growth happens, and that the things that they really value stay getting reinforced in the right way.
Pam Harper: Culture should be owned by the CEO, absolutely. And yet in companies where there are boards, the board also has an ownership of what’s happening too, although it is through oversight.
Scott Harper: Okay. That make sense.
Pam Harper: What we’re really talking about here is the importance of making sure that once you’ve identified what entrepreneurial means in your company − you’re making sure that you are looking at all the different ways that being entrepreneurial, as you define it, is being reinforced or is being blocked. Then, you’re in a position to do something more about it.
We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk about what exactly you might be able to do to start addressing staying entrepreneurial as your company grows. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: Does your company have what it takes to meet your current commitments and move fast enough to respond to new opportunities? Take the first step to confirm your perspective by requesting your free resource, Five Questions to Ask When You Need to Move Even Faster.
Scott Harper: Our questionnaire will help you find out where to begin to focus your energy and resources so that what should be happening really is happening faster and more effectively.
Pam Harper: We’ve developed these questions based on our work with clients in over 30 industries. We’ve helped them scale faster, make innovation happen faster and more quickly respond to new opportunities. This has generated millions of dollars in top and bottom line growth. Now you can have this resource on a complimentary basis just for sharing your valid contact information for us.
Scott Harper: Don’t miss out. Go today to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select episode 77. Scroll down to Resources and click the link, download Five Questions to Ask When You Need to Move Even Faster. To learn more about our success stories, go to BusinessAdvance.com, Client Results.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments Scott and I have been talking about how it is possible to preserve a company’s entrepreneurial edge even as it gets to be a larger organization.
Scott Harper: Now, Pam. Let’s get down to specifics. We’ve talked about some of the ideas about balancing entrepreneurialism and growth. How do people actually do that? What’s the first thing that you’d recommend?
Pam Harper: Remember how we talked about creating a common definition of what it means to be entrepreneurial.
Scott Harper: Sure.
Pam Harper: That needs to be the first foundational thing that one does as a regular part of strategic thinking and planning.
Scott Harper: All right.
Pam Harper: Too often it’s left off, because there’s a lot to do and we’re not thinking about it − but again, if you think about how much can happen even in three months time, making it a part of regular strategic thinking and planning makes a lot of sense.
Scott Harper: Okay. You want to communicate this with the organization, obviously. New customers, new employees, outsource providers, and so on − and make sure that people have an idea of what behaviors we want, what outcomes are we having, and having this all guided by the strategy − so, making sure the people understand what our strategic objectives are and how are they are evolving as we grow.
What is it that we need to keep our eye on as we continue this growth? I know that some people in companies as they grow, as you said − they start to really hyper focus on, “This is my accountability. This is my job. I’ve got to really do this.” That’s why some people have said that structure and process and bureaucracy stifle entrepreneurialism. It’s because people sometimes lose track of all aspects of the business that are important, like being customer focused, being flexible, watching out for where things are going and not just where they are right now, and how I get my job done. Having those conversations this is very, very important. Not always easy.
Pam Harper: That’s true, but very worthwhile. I mean, we’ve talked about it before − when you ask people why are you doing what you’re doing, how does it serve the customer and how does it serve the mission and the vision of the company, that helps with clarity.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: Because sometimes people will say, “I didn’t realize that I was doing this. That’s something I don’t need to do anymore.” Yet you have to stay coordinated. That’s the first thing.
Scott Harper: What’s the second?
Pam Harper: Second is going beyond just saying what we want to do, what we want to see, and to actually go back and look. Take an audit and find out how many ways what you’re looking for to have happen is actually being enforced in the culture. I talk about that being “cultural advancers and blockers” in the book Preventing Stratyegic Gridlock, and I talked about how this shows up. We have to make it a regular practice to take a look outside of ourselves, and sometimes this means pulling in someone who’s not just us, but rather an outside expert who can see all of these different ways [that culture is expressed].
Scott Harper: Okay. Getting that perspective − because we get locked into thinking we’re doing a good job and we think we’re moving along the path, but these weird things pop up and we don’t quite understand why people are not doing things the way we thought they should be done. You’re saying that having a perspective and getting that outside edge or advantage of [different] outlook can really open up those conversations.
Pam Harper: That’s right. What you’re doing is you’re not just looking at what you want to see happening, you’re also looking at is it happening.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: The third step is looking at why what you’re seeing happening or not happening − why it’s happening that way.
Scott Harper: There’s always a reason…
Pam Harper: There’s always a reason…
Scott Harper: Even though it doesn’t seem sensible, sometimes.
Pam Harper: And the thing that is most dangerous is to assume that we know why it’s happening.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: Because there can be multiple reasons, as I had said in the example with uncle Louie weighing the mail − it didn’t make sense, but it did [have a reason]. There were reasons why that had been put into place; there were reasons why it was continuing, and people had to step back and say, “Is this something that we still want to do? Is it important?” In this particular case they decided no. In the discussion that we were having earlier about whether the company was going to invest in innovation in the same way that they had been, looking at what is it that we want to see happen − again they were doing something. Really, they were investing in innovation at that point in time, and they had to decide “do we want to, and why are we continuing to do this if we don’t want to.”
Scott Harper: In that particular example, the board and the CEO got together and decided to continue to invest in the costly − at that point − the costly process of innovation and product development. Looking back now over a couple of years, it’s really done them well and they are far more profitable than they were at the time.
Pam Harper: What we’re talking about often times is reconciling. That’s what all of this looking at [behaviors] and looking at the reasons why really is − it’s because ultimately, we have to come up with why it is happening and what are we going to do about it, and reconciling it, and coming up with what we’re going to do going forward [to get more of what we want and need].
Scott Harper: What you’re really saying, Pam, is that growth is not necessarily the enemy of entrepreneurial spirit, but that it has to be shaped and cultivated very carefully, and it has to come from the top so that all the pieces fit together properly.
Pam Harper: And we have to look at it frequently as we continue to grow, because life changes, circumstances change, and the business environment changes.
Scott Harper: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks, Pam. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episodes, including Five Questions to Ask When You Need to Move Even Faster, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select episode 77.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team.
Scott Harper: What practical steps will we take to keep our entrepreneurial spirit alive and well as our own success builds?