By Mikko Tamminen | September 2020
As companies grow, they often try to let go of the startup DNA they embodied in their early days in part because of two reasons. First, they want to reflect a mature image to the world, especially to their potential customers. Second, they see that holding onto their startup legacy may be construed by some employees as permission to act scrappy, cut corners and not always follow corporate procedures. These are both understandable.
Trying to manage a culture which emphasises operational rigor throughout scaling processes and at the same time continuing to embrace an entrepreneurial drive is extremely challenging. Many may wonder then, when is it appropriate for me to think outside of the box and break the rules if I feel it’s justified?
However, there are companies that have been brilliant at scaling while continuing to embody that innovative spirit that made them successful in the first place. I would argue they have been successful at this by amplifying the entrepreneurial mindset in exactly the areas of their organisation where it counts, and therefore setting limits to where it’s no longer beneficial. Apple as an example is often referred to as the world’s biggest startup, and their product development teams still operate using many of the same philosophies that startup founders live by: agile, lean, and fail-fast just to name a few. Another organisation that proudly talks about its entrepreneurial culture is Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager. Still today the company’s founder, Steve Schwarzman, talks about the idea of expanding into new business areas by almost incubating a new startup within the organisation led by a 10/10 professional. This is for example how their real estate business came into existence around the time of the financial crisis of 2008. I’m sure that this opportunistic attitude is never entertained around deal vetting or compliance processes, and everyone in the organisation knows that.
I have grappled with how to incorporate entrepreneurship into our company culture and whether we will be able to successfully balance it with the responsibilities that come with a growing organisation. I want to believe we can, and it’s something worth fighting for. Ideas such as “making something out of nothing”, and “doing more with less” are very much ingrained in our culture still today, however I also believe that continuing to hold onto that entrepreneurial culture in the right areas of the business can prevent an organisation ending up in the same predicament as once-great technology companies such as Nokia that quite simply killed off their ability to innovate by suffocating that exact risk-taking mindset that made them great.
We are therefore announcing entrepreneurship as our fourth corporate value.
At its core, I see entrepreneurship as that almost magical notion that a mere idea in one’s mind can be transformed into something of value, whether it’s a manager creating an internal training academy to be used for all new hires or indeed a founder growing a company into a unicorn.
Some of the best ideas within companies come from individuals wanting to improve something that is perhaps not in the company’s core strategy at that moment, and unfortunately larger companies often eliminate those ambitions because it would be too difficult to manage them as a part of the big moving machine. When I decided to become a founder, I was told by many that with every year I worked on my own company I would become less employable. I believe they were mostly right, and unfortunately it’s because the great majority of large organisations do not know how to manage entrepreneurial minds.
I want Quantanite to be different. I want to hold onto that attitude we have had since our early days when anyone could throw out an idea to see if it was worth looking into. I know it will be difficult, but boy will it be exciting if we can achieve a position of being a company of tens of thousands of employees that still allows its individual contributors to dream and bring up ideas for development outside their core duties.
Making entrepreneurship a value is a good and significant first step to making that a reality.
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