How do you find trusted helpers in an age of transactional extraction?
I’m going to write this one with some trepidation because, in the words of Marcus Aurelius (the character in the movie Gladiator, not the actual historical figure):
“There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile.”
My family and I recently took a vacation that included a few days in London (It’s this city in England, but I digress). As a complete matter of happenstance, we walked past what I believe to be the only fire station in London that sports a massive banner that reads “love is the running towards.”
A picture of it is featured at the top of this post.
In our practice we talk openly and ernestly about “running to fire.” We ask ourselves whether we are actually working on the stuff that matters. Stuff that is urgent. At times, stuff that looks little but is actually the big. All of this is stuff that we, perhaps, weren’t engaged to work on first. It’s fire. And, we run towards it.
Love is the running towards.
And, so what is it that I’m writing on? It’s a particular professional services model that is built not on transactions, hours, days, weeks or “bodies deployed,” but on help. True, genuine, trusted help.
Wilson Growth Partners LLC has executed well over 100 engagements over the years. Those engagements have ranged from preparing and executing single-day workshops to multi-year transformational execution engagements.
Like snowflakes, no single engagement is like the others.
But one thing is for certain: Engagements where we work in concert with our client leaders dynamically to improve performance, execution, and ultimately results are the ones where we run toward fire.
Sure, it’s sexy and neat to work on strategy-setting topics. Yes, it’s easy to recruit, retain, excite, and promote our own people with stories of top management strategy and “working for the CEO.”
But, you know what?
We are at our best when we do that and we identify and execute on the things that truly allow progress to happen.
This might mean running that tactical meeting several times a week to ensure there is no ambiguity of purpose. It might mean helping interview and hire that person who can and should take over a mission area our team is covering currently. It could mean pausing the high falutin market strategy to priortize a sales funnel with the sales team.
And, it can mean grinding away on change management even as we shelve our impeccable strategic planning capabilities.
Above all it means having the humility to step away from the scope of an engagement (or…dare I say not even having an engagement at all) and helping.
That’s the running towards.
That’s the model we have worked to cultivate with clients, and the one we deploy where I would say our work is the most trusted.
Sure, sure, we at WGP are a for-profit enterprise and have to ensure that we are sustaining ourselves. That cannot be forgotten and on some level will always create tension between the value we provide and the value we receive.
But the business can never be bigger than the mission. Love is the running towards.
That tension can and is constantly secondary to the tension between the actions we take alongside our partners and clients and the real-world litmus test of “are we helping?”
Love is the running towards. I would like to thank the professionals in and around the London Fire Brigade for crystalizing that thought for me as I reflect on our own practice after all these years.
We live in an age where data, analysis, and culture allow every bit of value to be sliced, diced, allocated and captured. Do a little bit of study on how Disney has taken the capture of consumer surplus to a maddening level in its theme parks and you’ll see a great example of this. Observe your average consulting or law firm constructing proposals or jealously allocating time only to things that are “paid” and you’ll see it.
But maybe there’s still room for a model built on help…a model built on finding the things that matter and addressing them with aplomb. A model built on…Love.
I wish I could end this post with a massive call to action for readers to “reach out if you need help.” But I can’t, because we have so much love and so many fires that capacity doesn’t allow it. This blog and its hundreds of posts over the years haven’t really been about marketing WGP. They have been about a better way. So, what I can say is this: If you aren’t experiencing such a model in your professional services experience, a better way exists. Go look for it.
I hope that in writing on this topic I haven’t cheapened the very real and daily focus on it in all that we do at WGP. A model built on loving help is fragile…Just like the dream of Rome was.
What do you think? Is it possible to express love through a model of service? We think so.