At Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC), we are a two office, one-bedroom home. That might sound funny, but it works well— for us.
I am a corporate anthropologist who launched SAMC almost two decades ago to help organizations change using the theory, methods, and tools of anthropology. In my past, I had been a tenured professor and then had been an executive in large banking organizations and healthcare firms—all helping them to change.
My husband, Andrew Simon (Andy) joined SAMC several years ago. He was a founder and CEO of a company he grew into the 5th largest in the K-12 summative assessment space. One day he called and said: “I have 2,500 people on staff now. I am an entrepreneur. It is time for me to hand over the reins to another CEO and join your company.”
Really? I could see the press release now. “Successful entrepreneur grows bored of success and joins wife’s business!” Or, maybe it was just a great time for us to share the business and grow it in new directions.
As my husband joined the business, we knew he was not an anthropologist. Our positioning was not going to be an easy one to fit him in. He was a successful entrepreneur and really understood how to grow businesses at all stages of their development — from start-ups and early-stage companies to mid-market companies ready to expand their scope and shape.
Could he help others do the same?
When he joined what was now “our” home-based business, we knew we both had to change.
Even our staff knew they would have to change as well. Our team is comprised of all home-based freelancers, and most have been with us over much of the time we have been in business. They too have realized over the years that they will have to adapt their skills to our business, and theirs were each transformed.
My husband was adding new services to our portfolio, and our freelancers were an essential part of its success. Indeed, he started a SAMC-Inbound division to handle inbound marketing and became a HubSpot partner. This required content marketing support with bloggers and social media support. It required him to evaluate the skills and attitudes of the folks working with us. Even though they were freelancers, they had to fit our styles and provide the right skills.
Andy also realized that he had a lot to learn. What he realized quite quickly were some of the gaps between what he knew and what he had support teams to help with before:
We realized quite quickly that, as Darwin wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” So, if we have been adapting to change since before we stood erect, why is it so hard?
So how do you adapt your own business to change?
We both have figured out how to adapt to a new business work environment. And, in fact to a new business, where the cash flow for the next year is uncertain, and the future of a client is unpredictable. We have only had successful years, and this home-based business fits our styles perfectly. Andy learned a lot quickly, and I did as well.
First, remember that we do hate change. The brain is most efficient when it is following its well-honed habits. Think about it. You are no longer going to an office or having lunch where you always grabbed a sandwich. You have no secretary to grab your coffee for you. And you are now both self-employed and self-serving. Since I travel a great deal, it often meant that my husband was on his own. For someone who had built a large organization, this was a significant change.
Second, we both knew that practice makes perfect. How could my husband begin to take his expertise and apply it in ways that worked within our company’s market positioning? If he wasn’t a corporate anthropologist what was he that fit in this space? We knew he was a great innovator and knew how to build new businesses.
Ironically, some clients came in that fit him to a tee, but not in ways that we might have imagined.
One of his first clients was an online healthcare concept that was terrific. It would allow hospitals to post their fees for different services and permit consumers to shop online for the right procedure at the right price. Great idea? It sounded like it might be. It was undoubtedly an excellent way for my husband to learn his way into the healthcare market space and online websites suitable for e-commerce concepts.
Another client had a travel pillow that was doing well in airport stores but not online. So, Andy took it and turned it into a very profitable line of business, learning all the way how online shopping was developing and the power of Amazon stores for sales.
Then HubSpot came along. An inbound marketing platform, it found us. We were using its blogs and marketing materials and changing our website for content marketing very early in the Google game. HubSpot asked us if we wanted to be partners in their program. First, we tried it on our own business and found our search volume and lead generation moving up dramatically. Then our clients gave inbound a try, and it worked for them as well. Next thing you know Andy was launching our SAMC-Inbound division and building a team of content marketers.
Did we have to change?
Could we have stayed put? Sure. We were doing a lot of corporate anthropology to help businesses better understand their cultures and change their strategies. We had become Blue Ocean Strategists and were applying that methodology very effectively. Our speaking and workshops and content marketing were bringing in great clients.
But, we changed, adapted and expanded to add value with innovation and to build our organization while remaining the two-office, one-bedroom home business.
Could a little “Darwin” help you adapt?
Darwin was right. In these rapidly changing times, only the most adaptive are going to thrive. So, it is up to you to help your team see change as a “big new adventure” rather than a scary black hole. You must help them gain the skills and confidence to thrive, and in so doing, you’ll share the journey. Enjoy!