Last year was a scary time to be an entrepreneur. Uncertainty about the health of our people, businesses and governments prevailed as we grappled with a global pandemic. At the time, we simply hoped to stay afloat as businesses shut down. As we adjusted to the “new normal” and learned more about COVID, we got creative. We adapted our services to reduce contact, focused on using digitization to help businesses struggling to adapt to remote work, and ramped up our offerings for healthcare companies who were hit hardest of all. As a result, the company grew by 18% – exceeding our pre-pandemic target!
After 10 years of exceeding challenging growth goals, our results in 2020 were particularly rewarding. I recently sat down with my father and business partner Powell to set goals. As I reflected on the last year and what made it a success, an unexpected highlight was the limitation of quarantine, and the time it gave me at home with my girls. I had a sense of dread about getting back on the road, and the other sacrifices that would be required to push for another year of growth. For the first time I asked myself, “why do we need to grow?” Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same question.
Let’s start with the obvious. I benefit financially from our companies’ growth, and take great confidence from our results - they are a validation of my ideas and efforts. But there are trade-offs. I have never set an “out of office” message. I am always logged in. And I am ultimately responsible for the families of the 34 employees on our team.
In our consulting business, we often tell clients to step back from a tough issue and ask a better question. As I considered why we should grow, I remembered the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Verse 29 stood out to me: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
As I turned this story around in my mind, I changed the question I was asking from “why grow?” to “what are we growing?” and the answer became clear.
Our mission is to improve the lives of others. And in the case of our company, this applies to three distinct categories: our team, our clients, and our community.
Ten years ago, I walked into a team of five. Today, we are 34 strong and growing. The business growth has increased the number of jobs we offer and the type of labor we need. Our team members have grown with us. Brett Barclay joined SRS as a driver shortly out of high school. His 11 years of knowledge, work ethic, and willingness to go above and beyond, along an investment in training by the business, propelled him to the role of Operations Manager where he leads a team of 10. If the company had not grown, there would not have been a need for this role.
We have a culture that our team unanimously describes as “family.” We overcome problems together through collaboration and reward team members who outperform. We challenge one another to grow into better versions of ourselves. For all the fun we have, we take our responsibility for the welfare of our people seriously. We have an internal committee whose mission is to meet the needs of team members outside of work.
My title is Chief Problem Solver, and I spend a lot of time learning about the issues our clients face. Secure Records Solutions has built on the model of famed consulting group Accenture: we think differently to solve problems, then offer those solutions to others.
We are constantly refining our solutions and looking for new applications. This philosophy differentiates us. We don’t just listen to what our clients say they need; we challenge them to look beyond the obvious solution. Several years ago, an Alabama hospital system asked us to undertake a job of about $1.5M worth of scanning. As our team studied the problem, we realized the solution they sought wasn’t efficient. We suggested an alternative approach that saved the client $1M and provided better long-term results.
When our bottom line improves, it indicates that we are increasingly efficient in solving clients’ problems. This allows us to keep costs low, reinvest in the company, and look for new problems to solve.
When I joined Powell in business, the industry was beginning to consolidate, and we had a decision to make: should we sell to maximize value or grow our way out of a shrinking category? Always entrepreneurs, we opted to rebuild the plane at 30,000 feet. It wasn’t just the challenge that attracted us – we wanted to keep the jobs, few as they were, and to grow our impact on the communities we serve. As we have grown, we have designed our operations to serve the entire country from our small corner of it. Sometimes opportunities are sacrificed to fulfill this mission.
Our love of this place begins with the land. Therefore, we are efficient in the way we use the earth’s limited resources. We eliminate waste, re-use whenever possible, and recycle everything that can be. Our shredding business recycles millions of pounds of paper, cardboard, and electronics for clients annually. As a family, we plow our resources back into the land by growing forests of trees in Thomas, Brooks, and Grady counties. Success will ultimately be measured by our ability to conserve this natural habitat for generations to come.
Which brings me back to the original question: “Why do we need to grow?” Going back to the allegory of the talents, the goal is not to preserve the value of the talents, but to grow them. And the value of the talents isn’t the point - that is simply the scorecard. The point is the investment activity - how each talent was used. Money is a tool. Results are a scorecard. But after meeting our basic financial needs, the purpose of our business is the reason we aim to increase them. It is our why.
So why should your organization grow? If you do not have a better answer than to increase shareholder value or improve cashflow, no matter how far you grow, I don’t think you will find satisfaction. Success will always feel shallow. Though the days can be long and the sacrifices real, I wake up excited to go to work every day, to set increasingly challenging goals, and to celebrate success with our team, because our mission of improving the lives of others – our “why” - is worth it.