Going the Distance
There are various ways of investing in a company. At one end of the spectrum it is a purely financial transaction; you buy a (minority) share in that company, you have little influence over what happens there, and naturally you hope to sell that share at a profit one day.
At the other end of the spectrum - and that's where we are with many of our portfolio companies - you take a majority shareholding and have a much more hands-on approach. You work together closely with the management team to determine the best way forward. That's the way we like to do it. For us it's about building great companies.
There are several things you can do to make this happen. First of all, you ensure the proper housekeeping is in place; control processes, KPIs, monitoring systems, things like that. Next, you develop a very clear strategy, so that in the next five years - and beyond - all the noses are pointing in the same direction and everyone knows what you expect the company to achieve.
Measures like these obviously help, but they only get you so far. If you really want to take things to the next level, you have to address aspects like behavior and culture. And that means developing people. Logical really; they're the ones who will be responsible for bringing your strategy to life and driving its success.
But before you can develop people you have to first make sure they are ready for it. They must undergo self-reflection and become receptive to change. They have to open up and be honest about who they are and what they want. This is a difficult enough process on its own, but becomes even more challenging when you're expected to do it in your normal working environment, with its inherent distractions, interruptions and limitations.
That's why I think the journey formula is so effective. I’ve witnessed many other ways of developing managers - for example seminars, leadership training courses or off-site meetings - but I think journeys offer something more. It's a very subtle process, yet it manages to make participants feel liberated and comfortable, while providing more than enough input and guidance for them to make a major leap forward in both personal and professional terms.
I've seen the results for myself. People, especially as leaders, behave differently with each other after they have been on a journey. They set themselves goals and go all out to meet them. They are proud of what they are doing. They are more enthusiastic and passionate about achieving results because they feel empowered and in control. They can look ahead rather than spend their time firefighting and dealing with short-term issues. And this, in turn, helps them inspire their people because they have a vision.
I'd even go as far as saying that if you want to build a great company, you should send your leaders on a journey. Not only is it a worthwhile investment in their potential and capabilities, but it also sends a clear signal that it's your intention to create something special - and you want them to be an integral part of it.