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Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s the start of a New Year. A time for looking back on last year’s journey, and for really coming to terms with everything that’s been learned, felt, experienced and achieved.

For me, much of 2018 was about finding my truth, particularly when it was inconvenient or uncomfortable to do so. One such realisation was that I need to dedicate extra time to healing and mental well-being and so I decided to reduce my working week to three days (which can be challenging to manage). I’m very grateful to my people for meeting this decision with support and a willingness to accommodate important meetings or activities on days I’m in the office.

Interestingly, it was also a year of posing difficult questions to ourselves , at GrantTree. We took time to come to terms with who we really are, as a human organisation and as a business, at this stage of our evolution. We made a lot of progress as a company in 2018. But we discovered we weren’t quite where we hoped we would be, when it came to things like organisational consciousness (or maturity), financial projections and people retention. This isn’t unusual for growing companies. But still, facing these uncomfortable truths caused moments of vulnerability for Daniel and me, as GrantTree’s founders, and called for more humility, openness and trust than ever before.

Courageous Decisions 

Yet I honour us all for posing questions and for seeking answers, every time external and internal events of 2018 challenged us to do so. After the IPC published its terrifying climate change report for example, we asked ourselves whether we are doing enough to protect the environment. The answer was no. And so we decided to publish our very first quarterly Environmental Impact Report, to make us more accountable. 

A lot of organisations – and businesses in particular – still choose to be blind to many things that matter, like the environment. They ignore their cultural and social responsibilities and just focus on shareholder value, as if that could ever be a complete indication of how much actual value is created in the world. 

Of course, I do believe in creating commercially viable and sustainable business propositions. But for GrantTree, the wealth we accumulate will never be the most meaningful yardstick of how well we are doing. There are so many more important and ambitious things to strive for. And, looking back, I’m proud that we often made bold decisions as a business – such as additional investments to grow our team and individual personal development budget available to all people working here – which expressed our commitment to this principle. 

What’s worth truly believing in and striving for, over and above great looking P&L, solid cash flow and continuous increase of overall company value, is for every founder – or team – to decide for themselves. But in the end they are the very things, whether they are shouted from the rooftop or hardly discussed openly, that will end up shaping your culture, and what it feels like, deep down, to be part of your company, or to interact with it as a client, partner or supplier.

What We Believe

At GrantTree what we believe in, possibly above all else, is our sovereignty as people. Our ability as individuals, and consequently as a collective, to make choices, follow our judgement and through that, express our power. 

But it’s not just that we can express the version of ourselves present when the company started, or when a new partner joins. It also matters what kind of people we become while on the job. Do we develop in our ability not only to handle complexity of business challenges but also our capacity to handle our own inherent fragility as human beings, and that of others we work with? As I continuously strive to open my mind while at work, can I also develop my intuition, my emotional intelligence and my very humanity (which I understand as ability to consciously give and receive love)?

Finally, it deeply matters to us that we have a net positive impact on the world. This means working hard to help our clients (often some of the most technologically innovative businesses in this country) to achieve even more and take more risks with capital available to them. That we share our vision for a new way of working and empower people to change the way they think about their time at work. And that we limit the amount of waste and environmental damage we contribute.

Hope for 2019

As 2019 begins, I hope we, and all our peer organisations who choose to ‘be in the arena’ of searching for the uncomfortable truth (as Brenée Brown might put it), make the most of what we find. I hope we take risks and think bigger than before, while striking the right balance between financial sustainability and world-changing impact. Lastly, I hope we create environments where people who form these organisations are propelled to find their own greatness.

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