By nature, I am a coach. From being a tutor in high school and college, to being the unofficial “IT help desk” for my project teams at work, to coaching my kids’ soccer teams throughout elementary and middle school, I can’t help myself. And I love it. I love the look on someone’s face when they finally get a concept, and I get more excited than the kids when they master a new soccer move. There’s something satisfying about helping others learn.
So when my wife, Ruth, and I decided to start our own company, I knew our “Why” instinctually. I felt it. Management consulting is about helping companies get better, and I knew I wanted to build a company driven by that goal.
Several years into our company journey, we discovered Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and something clicked. He formalized and fleshed out what we had already done informally. It made so much sense. We took the time to formally define our purpose, and then make sure everything was centered around it. The result? Sendero’s Why is to unleash potential, and we challenge ourselves to apply it to our people, clients, and community.
Like most coaches, my passion is developing people, and we instilled that into our hiring and training practices from the very beginning. We focus on hiring bright, thoughtful, servant leaders, and commit to support their continued growth—both personally and professionally. We invest significantly in providing learning and organization development, benefits support, and culture and employee engagement across the firm. This intentional investment gives our consultants the capacity to focus on their professional development and, in return, deliver the absolute best service to our clients. To support that approach, we maintain a larger internal team than most companies our size, which is an indication of our commitment to the individual growth of our employees and the strategic growth of the firm.
Like all consulting firms (I hope!), our goal is to help our clients improve, either by fixing a problem, positioning them to build on their strengths, or both. It is not this goal, however, that sets us apart from other firms; in fact, if you ask most consulting firms what their goal is, they will give you a similar answer. It is our approach, that is anchored by our Why, that differentiates our consulting process. Our commitment to hiring servant leaders, training them to be thoughtful and critical thinkers, and measuring them as much on how they work as what they achieve, allows us to collaborate with clients–consulting with them, not to them. As we focus on the Why—to unleash potential in our clients—it removes ego, opens up communication to help us truly understand the needs of a client’s business, and provides opportunities to deliver comprehensive and sustainable solutions.
The last component—and equally as important as the previous two—of our Why, the one that keeps us grounded and grateful, is our community. Improving where we live and work is a cornerstone of our vision, and Sendero’s approach is unique. For us, corporate social responsibility is less “corporate” and more “social responsibility.” The latter is where we put our energy, and we refer to it simply as caring. Our focus on caring for the community, combined with our core value of passion, guides our philosophy of supporting non-profit organizations that our employees care about—regardless of marketing opportunity. Our commitment to this philosophy is reflected in many of our initiatives, including various employee-driven philanthropic efforts, matching gifts, and Community Rocks, our pro-bono projects that support community organizations in our consulting service offerings of Strategic Planning, Organizational Effectiveness, and Digital Transformation. All of these efforts are coordinated by our voluntary employee committee, Sendero Cares.
Whether you are starting a company or leading one that’s been around for a while, I recommend defining your Why. It will be your North Star, and will help guide you even if it’s not perfect. We got lucky that we didn’t have to undo anything or change direction, but it would be easy for that to happen if you don’t at least think about your ultimate reason for existence as a company. The descriptions and explanations above are intended to help you understand how it’s important and what a tangible example looks like, not as “the answer.” Every company is unique and will have its own journey. Defining your Why is just the beginning of what I have found to be a fascinating and enriching ride.