Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.
Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
Below is our interview with Jessica Higgins, Chief Operating Officer at Gapingvoid Culture Design Group:
What does your company do?
Our company is the only end-to-end culture design solutions firm in existence. Corporate culture is a complex problem with few real solutions. A lot of the ongoing problem with organizational disengagement now lies with consultants themselves. Consultants sell hours, so they tend to do time-intensive projects like endless assessments, trainings, coaching, etc. These practices just aren’t scalable, or frankly, reasonable. Scalable culture design requires engineering in management sciences and the social psychology of an organization. Our team is a unique collective of leading experts in these areas.
We are on a mission to re-engineer both the art and science of how great organizations are run, using culture as the operating system for which the entire business is built. Our work over the past 10 years has led us to a client list of some of the greatest culture-centric businesses that exist, including Zappos, AT&T, Microsoft, L’Oreal and many others.
What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I’m the Chief Operating Officer of the company, meaning I manage our internal operations as well as lead the design and implementation of all our culture design projects for clients. I love helping to design organizations that make employees feel greater purpose in their work and make businesses more profitable. We’re all part of this “always on” digital workforce now. People spend far too much time and energy in their work not to receive great meaning and purpose in what they do. I love helping others, so work is always exciting. Also, our team comes from a diverse set of backgrounds and are each leaders in their field. Getting to learn from such brilliant folks every day is amazing.
What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
Our biggest challenge is that so many people are focused on safety over effectiveness when it comes to business. It feels safe to implement a best practice because the historical data shows it worked. There is a hidden challenge in corporate leadership. The demands on employees are constantly changing, technology is constantly changing, and this means the tactics and tools have to change as well.
The way we do business must adapt to meet people where they are now, or its only a matter of time before a company lands on the wrong side of the inflection point between the speed of change and their rate of adaption. Our challenge in our client engagements is to convince leaders to try solutions that favor effectiveness over safety. Corporate culture isn’t a business construct, it’s a social construct with business implications, meaning that social tools are needed. This is vastly different than what you learned back in business school and leadership training.
If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I would have sent myself this quote by Steve Jobs: “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it…Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”. I used to believe that businesses were these brilliantly perfect designs created by extraordinary humans.
As I gained experience, I realized that nothing is perfect, and we’re all just people. We all have gaps. There’s always space for improvement. What I’ve learned from experience is that if you collaborate with great people, and you’re ok with the discomfort of re-imagination, you can create far greater things. We have a client that says he does one thing every year that nearly gets him fired, and that’s the best thing he does all year. I wish I had learned this approach sooner, that status quo isn’t inherently full of great ideas.