by William DiPaolo
Cogent Road hit a monthly revenue record last month. We have been growing steadily – and we’ve enjoyed several record months this year. I’m not going to share our revenue numbers with you – but, if you are client you can be pleased that we have plenty of resources to fund R&D and hire great people. If you are competitor, this can motivate you to keep improving because your competition is growing stronger.
However, the real point of this post is that I’ve noticed a correlation between the way you treat employees, customers and vendors – and overall business performance. It’s more than just the same old “company culture” business-speak – it’s about how you can actually expand your business from the inside out – or if, if you are not aware, destroy it.
I’ve been building enterprise software businesses since 1997 – just before the great “internet” grab. I would read the articles about kids with ideas raising venture capital and building big businesses. I had wanted to do build a company since I was a kid creating and running carnivals for the neighbors in my parents horse pasture. In 1997 I got the chance to build my first real company with real employees. We started with four people – and grew to over 75 by 2000. I raised two rounds of venture capital and thought I was living the dream. Until I received the phone call from the VC asking me not only step down, but leave the company altogether.
How ever you imagine I felt, you’re wrong. Its worse.
My wife and I packed up and moved to San Diego, CA. We didn’t know anyone – but we wanted to live in that city over every other. During our first 12 months I proceeded to lose our entire savings starting another software business. I had to pay two engineers (I am not a programmer) – and I simply ran out of runway. Shortly thereafter I met my future-partner Alan who was reselling credit reports via a third-party software program. I joined him with the idea that together we leverage his existing customer base into our own enterprise platform to streamline the mortgage production. Cogent Road was founded in 2002.
But this time, I was going to go about building the company differently than the company I started in 1997. This time we would specifically focus on “being kind” to employees, clients and vendors. This may sound easy – and I thought it was. It actually took nearly a decade to figure out how to do it.
For the first 8 years Alan and I talked about our “high performance” culture – and putting our employees first. But we were hypocrites. We constantly “stressed” when events took unexpected turns, and we forced our employees to work in the atmosphere our stress created. We were doing well, and I believe any outside observer would wonder how we were able to create such a robust platform while prospering through a historic collapse of the very industry we were attempting to serve. Yet, in my mind, I kept wondering why I couldn’t create the enviroment and culture I desired. It seemed easy enough.
As I pondered the giant gap between the culture in my mind – and the actual culture of Cogent Road I realized my hypocrisy. That’s the easiest way to describe it – I realized that I wasn’t actually being kind at all. I was being selfish – the very opposite of kindness.
I’ll write more about the specifics of what a company run by Kindness really is – but for now I will say the following with 100% conviction. When you understand the power of kindness – you will discover that kindness itself propels your business to new heights. Kindness has a life of its own that manifests in the workplace as peace, satisfaction, innovation and mind-blowing performance.
The result is a string of record months – and very happy people.