Is Your Company As Much Fun?

I recently ran a strategy workshop for a large NGO. They get given a cool $11 million grant from the government every year plus their work contracts are bought by the government. That is a lot of support from tax payer money. The NGO staff work in a beautiful office building and the culture exudes quiet competence. Their skills and staff are impressive and I have to say, I had a great time working with the top team. What a lovely group of happy, proud and smart people.
Attending the strategy workshop was a branding expert. As the top management team went through their branding exercise, choosing key words to describe their business, this consultant talked about MARS - the venture capital incubator for uprising start ups. He spoke about how there is a sense of urgency with crackling energy in the air. The core brand MARS has developed is "speed to market". The brand expert could see that the NGO needed that same fire to the feet urgency to get their many products to market rather than dotting every i and making it 100%. In the real world of finding customers to transfer their cash from their wallet to your hand, there is real pressure.
This NGO might want to be speedier but everything in their business model cuts them the slack to not feel pressured about making money from satisfied clients. They are enjoying making Canada a better place - seriously - and they have made Canada a better place in their way. Plus their culture is very supportive, making it a truly marvelous place to work. Except that employees now push back at any mention of the D word - dollars.
I think we all need to understand the enormous differences in culture that develops and grows from the forces and demands exerted on the staff and owners. In the case of the NGO, there ain't ever going to be a sense of urgency because if some division has a shortfall, guess what, it doesn't matter. The bank is not going to threaten the owner and the staff will get their payroll paid. Where is the force to push for urgency?
These not-for-profits provide a great job environment. I looked around the room at the impressive team. They were more intellectually rigourous and more open to discussion of sticky issues than many management teams. It was almost like being at a Club Med resort because everyone was so relaxed and - hey, tomorrow was another day making a difference for Canada.
When I work with early stage companies, there is none of that laid back, let's think about it and reach consensus attitude. It's time to make money or bust. It's a fight every day. That's why MARS has to make "speed to market" a core part of its brand rather than making Canada a better place. There is just not the luxury of being socially responsible.
Is it dangerous for the Canadian economy to have so many great people working in these tax backed companies rather than having to make their way in the commercial world? Maybe these NGOs are keeping the great talent for themselves rather than the economy which makes the revenue to pay the taxes that then get passed to the NGOs. Whatever. I honestly can say I enjoyed myself so much I think I'm going to get myself a job at a not-for profit. Then I can stop worrying about making customers satisfied.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The days of big tax of entrepreneurs may be coming to an end. Then what will happen to the Euro model of big tax, big companies, big unions, big social welfare?