Very frequently, when I’m discussing some aspect of our awesome GrantTree open culture with someone, I get to a point in the conversation where the person I’m speaking to falls back on one argument. Always the same argument. Symbolised by a question like:
“So how many of you are there?”
The funny thing about that question is that it’s always followed by the same conclusion: “Ah, there’s only N of you. When you get bigger, your culture will have to change.”
Yes, it’s true, when we get bigger, our culture will have to change. In fact, even if we keep numbers the same, our culture will have to change. One defining feature of our culture is, after all, constant change, constant adaptation and learning. But what is usually implied by the other person is that we can only afford to have values like total transparency because of how small we are. When we get bigger, we’ll have to get rid of that annoying stuff. Just you wait and see.
Here’s the trick though: this is a bottomless question. It doesn’t matter how big GrantTree gets, there will always be a larger or more successful company to compare it to and someone who will say “oh, but you can only do that now that you’re just N people. When you get to X*N, you’ll have to get rid of that”.
Back when there were just a handful of us, some people said we’d have to get rid of salary transparency once we grew a bit.
When there were 10 of us, some people said we’d have to get rid of transparency once we got past 20 or so.
Now there’s 23 of us, some people say we’ll have to get rid of transparency once we get around 50, or 100.
I’m beginning to think that even if there were 5,000 of us, there’d be someone to point out that when we get to 10’000, we’ll have to stop with all the silly stuff and start doing business in a more traditional way.
It’s interesting to note that when I point out that there are other businesses that operate in a similarly open way but which are much larger, that doesn’t convince anybody. Strange, isn’t it?
Here’s the reality: we’re a profitable company, today; our clients are happy with the work we do for them, today; there’s 23 of us, today; these people are happy, engaged, motivated, today; my cofounder and I are happy with the way the business is going, today.
Tomorrow, who knows what that will bring? Maybe something will happen tomorrow that will change everything. Anything’s possible, after all. The only way to find out what happens tomorrow is… to wait for it. Check back in five or ten years and you can find out whether GrantTree is still a transparent, open-culture company. My bet is that it will be.
How about we stop worrying about what might happen tomorrow in some hypothetical case, and focus on what’s working so well today? When tomorrow comes, if change is required, we will change of course. Open cultures are particularly receptive to change, after all.
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
- Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, On Giving