When Cobb Systems Group (CSG) formed, I would love to have said that creating a family friendly, community engaging firm was at the top of our agenda. It wasn’t. To be honest, we wanted just to survive the first few years. Like most entrepreneurs, we were excited, full of hope, full of energy, and . . . we were poor.
We decided early on that we would not solicit or accept external investor money. Instead, we would achieve our mission or die trying by winning customers to pay for our growth. Our customers were employers — organizations that hire people. Our mission was to invent a talent analytics platform that employers would pay to use. The platform would help employers give great raises to new hires whose talent and value would more than pay for the employer’s cost to use the platform. A worthy mission in which everyone wins, right?
As far as money goes, we had personal savings accounts and retirement money as our asset base. We also had another intangible asset to invest — our relentless work ethic. Still, the toughest part of having no money is that you have very limited means to solve very large problems. The best part of having no money is that you never solve problems by throwing money at them first . . . or last . . . or ever, actually. You aim your creativity and grit at the problems.
A very large problem for any startup or small company is finding talent. When you are new or small, you lack the financial means and market presence to draw in talent and the organizational infrastructure to place a clear, predictable boundary around every job. I will sum up this difficulty with a description of the job that we at CSG all signed up for:
WANTED: Super dedicated people who are willing to work long days on tough, ill-defined problems with little direction. If things work out, we will reward you later.
Who would sign up for this? . . . Well, it turns out that full-time mothers already do this job, and very well. However, when you are a full-time mother ready to return to work, you may find that employers overlook you completely or match you to jobs that don’t advance your career. Employers see a resume that lacks continuity of work history and that omits current industry buzzwords. Jobs prove relatively easy to find, but a career can be challenging to re-boot.
JOB vs. CAREER: A job is a more immediately focused transactional arrangement in which someone does something to earn money now. A career, on the other hand, builds on jobs, experiences, and accomplishments to grow competency, results, and value over time. Careers result in greater pay, job satisfaction, and impact to something that matters — for example, making employer-employee matches in which everyone wins.
Our first return-to-work mom was previously a technologist who dropped out of the workforce to raise children. She found re-entering the workforce difficult. She passed up other positions, at larger firms, because she didn’t want just a job, she wanted to re-start her career. She needed training to get back into the swing of things, however, so we used our platform to train her. (Yes, the platform can be used to match people to jobs, teach them about jobs, and train them to do jobs.) We later created an internship program to institutionalize the training, and we expanded it to working fathers in school, exceptional high school students, college students, and others.
Effectively, we used the tool that we formed CSG to build in order to solve our own problem of finding talent, whom we did not have the money or clout to attract en masse. We found and hired return-to-work moms and other interns, many of whom were being overlooked by other employers — but, they were a perfect fit for us! As part of the CSG family, all of our interns worked long days on tough ill, defined problems . . . advancing our mission of making great employer-employee matches while starting or re-starting their own careers.
Many, many interns later, I must say that I admire the moms the most. They are indefatigable problem solvers and have incredible work ethics. I am so proud of their career advancements and even impressed by how they’ve grown their children into fine young adults.
Our firm has grown too. It turns 8 this year. With the impact of our moms, especially during our formative years, I can’t help but feel that they helped to raise CSG too.
Cobb Systems Group, LLC is a technology-based product and solutions firm that delivers business strategy and technology consultation, software engineering solutions, and specialized talent acquisition to public, private, and non-profit entities. www.cobbsystemsgroup.com