The Path Less Traveled
I’ve always been a big fan of Robert Frost’s Poem “The Road Not Taken”. I particularly love the way that the poem ends:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I would say that, deliberately or not, my paths have frequently been the ones less traveled. The trend is clearly evident in my personal choices, and it shows up in the rTraction corporate decisions.
Recently, there was a very large fork in the road for the future of rTraction. It was also a very deeply personal fork, which made it all the more daunting to choose the right path.
When we created rTraction, the primary motivation was to keep our existing team together after the dot-com meltdown. It was not a strong purpose but it was an important one. We felt that we had a great team, and that we were stronger together in a difficult time than going our separate ways. That value set still holds true today with our core value of “Team > Self”.
In the early decade of our growth, and leading through to winning the 2014 Business of the Year award, we were perceived as a technology leader in London. It was very personally gratifying to be recognized as a leader of such an amazing company and group of people.
However, there was a negative consequence to the attention we received. I became far too focused on growing our company for the sake of growth… addicted, if you will, to the thrill of success and being a regional technology leader. We expanded our company to take on new and different business lines and serviced an ever-widening variety of clients, culminating in a decision to create two brands to respond to the dual-nature of our business.
Over the years we have tried to crystalize our core purpose. It’s harder than it sounds. There is no one clear blueprint to be able to articulate why your company exists. Understanding it yourself is a challenge, and articulating that externally once you have figured it out is even harder.
Eventually, we came to a concept or notion that I liked, but we did not fully commit to it. It became clear that the core purpose and vision that we wanted to bring to our organization would be at odds with my desire to drive immediate growth to our company. That’s not to say that our new direction will not lead to growth, but it will lead to growth because we are achieving our vision versus growing just for growth’s sake.
After some discussions with my wife and in considerations of our commitment to family, further clarity was gained — if high growth goals meant sacrificing family time then that was a trade-off I am no longer willing to make. As I have children ranging from 19 years to 17 months, has become very clear how fast time passes and how cherished family time is for me.
It took some time for me to convince myself that it is acceptable to focus in on a single more defined purpose rather than focus on the business objectives like “being the biggest in the region” or “having the most clients” as business leaders often do (and the broader culture of business all but mandates). But I was finally able to get there:
We believe doing good & doing well can coexist.
We think that technology can and will advance our ability to improve outcomes in communities.
We use technology to improve those community outcomes.
It is important to recognize that the reason that rTraction exists today is not exactly the same reason that we started rTraction, though I do still believe in the strength of this great team. The purpose that I knew was there, that helped me drive our organization through some significant change, and that I love about what we’ve built here, has recently come more clearly to the surface.
The path I am leading rTraction down is the path less traveled. Our growth will only come at the successful execution of our vision, rather than being led by financial, headcount, client count or accolades. It may mean slower growth, it may mean no growth, it may mean exponentially faster growth; however, what matters to us is that any growth is directly linked to our purpose.
It was a large moment in personal and professional growth that the path I choose to tread is the one that focuses on our ability to improve the outcomes of other organizations rather than focusing on the specific performance of our business. We will only succeed as a social purpose business when we have helped our clients also succeed in better achieving their mission.
As a B Corp and big fans of socially sustainable business it became clear that we have a large opportunity to help our sector adopt better use of technology. We think we can have a positive impact on the social purpose / social innovation sector and improve the outcomes within the communities that those organizations serve. I’d invite you to check out the post on the rTraction site to find out more.
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