By Andrew McConnell, Co-Founder and CEO of Rented.
As one year closes, and a new one begins, it is a time of reflection as well as of aspiration. Lists of new year’s resolutions, actually followed through on or not, and commitments to “a new year, a new you” abound. This sort of personal rebirth and rejuvenation, especially coming off of a year (or two) as difficult as many experienced recently, can be the difference in turning the page to a new and better chapter versus (using a word Adam Grant popularized in 2021) “languishing” in an old story in which we feel we have no agency.
However, it is not just on a personal level that this sort of reflection and rebooting can be useful, nor does it only apply to turnaround situations, as I recently realized with my own company. Over the past three months, the team at my company grew by about 25%. With these additions has come all of the excitement you would expect from new hires. With that excitement has in turn come a flood of ideas for innovation and improvement.
In a recent one-to-one meeting, one of our new team members shared a few ideas for how we could better document and automate more of what we routinely do as a company. She mentioned it might be difficult to get the team on board with these sorts of changes since “that isn’t how we do it.” I found that phrasing jarring.
“That isn’t how we did it,” I reframed. “If we are to get where we all agree we want to go, we are going to have to do things differently going forward.”
From Words To Action
This is all, of course, easier said than done. Just as I found the phrasing jarring, how much more jarring will individual team members find it when it seems as though the world in which they operate is no longer on stable ground?
Balancing these company imperatives with individual concerns, I have found it helpful to be able to turn to our company’s core values as a sort of North Star. Our values are unlike many I have seen elsewhere in that we did not come up with some aspirational list of attributes we wanted to embody and then document them on a poster we put up in our lunchroom, but rather we spent months working as a team asking what we already valued about how we operated at the company, and what we would each particularly miss if it changed and was no longer true.
The end product is a succinct list of six core values on which every single candidate is still tested as part of the interview process. This is not to say other values are not good or important, it is simply that they are not core to who we are as a company. If you do not embody and value the same things, it is unlikely that you would enjoy working here in the first place.
So how do these values come into play for something as difficult as reinventing a company that by any objective metric was already on a roll?
One of the six core values happens to be “Continuous Growth: We pursue continuous learning, improvement, and personal growth.” This means we all have knowingly opted into a company, a culture and a mindset where we commit to continuing to change for the better. This is not just to change when things are not going well, nor is it change for change’s sake. It is change in pursuit of improvement, always, even and perhaps especially when everything seems to be going well already.
Another of our values is “Intentional Execution: An idea is only as valuable as its execution.” This means we have all also committed to a bias for action. If there is an idea for something that can and should be better, that is not enough. We have to intentionally do something about it. This means, again, we have all knowingly opted into a situation where we commit to undergoing change, even when it is plenty warm and comfortable where we already are.
I won’t just list out each value, but I will close with one of my favorites: “All > Any: All of us is greater than any of us. Given the immensity of what we are pursuing, no individual can accomplish our goals alone.” This means that any idea or change cannot simply be mandated from on high. We all have to buy in, and we all have to be ready to execute against that idea intentionally. Only then, only working together, can we even begin to pursue the enormous challenge we have set out for ourselves.
Which brings us back to where we began, and to the very idea of reinvention. At a company like mine, part of the fun is in the knowledge you are building something new. And yet, as exciting as that may be to some, even more inspiring is the idea that you are founding something new. And so, as a new year begins, rather than think of each year as an opportunity to tweak around the edges, even as things have never been better, we are setting out to re-found, reinvent and build from the ground up an even better and more impactful version of the company.
May you use the turning of the calendar as the opportunity for the same. Happy New Co!
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