The DNA of Greatness

I love the buzz you get after hearing an inspirational talk or by being surrounded by brilliant people. This week I had the privilege of both. After two days of strategy and team building with the incredible team at Instant Financial, Janet Bannister paid us a visit. Janet is the Founder of Kijiji and Partner at Real Ventures, one of Canada’s leading Venture Capital firms. With a wildly successful career Janet was the perfect candidate to share her thoughts on what makes companies great.

Mission. The most successful companies have a big vision, and an unwavering belief in the mission. This is what excites you and gets you out of bed in the morning.

Team. Companies thrive when individuals recognize that the whole is greater than any one person. When people are in it because they want to build something meaningful, they bring that team spirit and hunger to create something monumental.  

Diversity. When teams have people from different backgrounds they gain new perspectives. When co-founders have different strengths they bring their unique viewpoints to the table. When these relationships are built on mutual respect and listening to each other, magic happens.

Accountability. If you were to follow Janet into her meetings with clients and be a fly on the wall, you’d leave thinking that the least successful companies are the most successful and that the most successful companies are the least successful. This is because the strongest teams talk about the obstacles. They’re really good at identifying the problems then making decisions about how to fix them. Weaker teams don’t acknowledge the challenges as often, but rather focus on the positives.  

This piece really resonated with me. At Instant Financial we talk a lot about self accountability. We need to have the ability to look at ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility in order to deliver exceptional results as a team. When we lose, we talk about failures in the context of learnings and celebrate these. Of course, when we win we celebrate too.

Targets. Great companies hit targets! They don’t find an excuse, they find a way. They’re like a dog with a bone. They don’t ask ‘if’ they ask ‘how’. Then, they execute and they execute well.

Marketing. Build a brand that’s almost bigger than the product itself. Win the hearts and minds of your customers and then leverage your brand. Can you turn your brand into a verb (i.e. I’ll Google that or I’m going to Uber over).

Product. Be relentlessly focused on the user’s experience. Test the product continually.

Hiring. My favourite topic, of course - Top companies know that hiring the “best” person is not always the right move. You’re trying to build a high performing team and should look to hire the best person for that team.

In tech startups, or in any fast changing environment, it’s important to ask how this person will behave when they don’t know the answers. Are they resourceful, intuitive, creative, go-getters, team players, and do they know how to overcome obstacles? Adaptability is by far one of the most important characteristics in 2018. Finally, if you haven’t already, stop talking about “culture fit”; instead, ask if the candidate in question is a “culture add”.

In conclusion, Janet left me with a few key themes. What’s really going to stick with me from her incredible talk is the importance of having the right people on the team, of being relentless in the pursuit of goals, and the need to have the hard conversations. What else have you identified as a vital component of your company’s recipe for greatness?