Take The Punches. | The Garage Group

Take The Punches.

Our Operations Manager, Max Koehler, is a battle-tested member of our TGG team. He came to us with 3+ years of fast-paced agency experience and 4+ years amongst rapidly-growing startups. Through all of that experience, he’s adept at pivoting quickly to big changes in high-growth environments. Check out his tips for maintaining an ownership mindset despite what gets thrown his way…

In order to pivot and pivot well, you must first own your reality (both the good and not so good). From learning how to navigate my childhood as the youngest of five children to my career in fast-paced startups, I have been pivoting since I can remember.

When I began at TGG, I initially compiled a few key elements that drive successful pivots; notes that summarize how I have been able to acknowledge the things out of my control and move forward without fear. Almost 3 years later, I truly believe these insights are more relevant than ever as we embrace the realities of today’s remote world. 


After a few years working at different agencies, my curiosity for startups grew so strong that I jumped into one in the only way you can…with both feet. The big-idea concept that fueled the startup had never been tried before. Our service was a massive pivot in itself, touching a few global industries and promising a bright road ahead. Our markets grew from a handful to over 5x that amount within a couple years. Fortunately, we saw a beautiful fire start to emerge from the hot coals we had worked so hard to keep warm.


Along with the typical expectations of an employee, flexibility and agility are required when working for a startup, especially when the startup is in high-growth mode. Through the rapid changes, I needed to quickly enable my team to maintain some order. Communication is key, and it was more critical than ever at that time to keep my team on task, but also change through the chaos.


There was no playbook for how our team was going to help the company get to the endzone, so we sunk our heels in and moved forward with the fearlessness to prepare for future sustainability. If you’re in the startup industry, drastic ups and downs are a given, and both situations are equally difficult to face when operating as an owner. To weather the startup storm, truly own and drive your “why” as an individual amongst a group. As you spearhead new changes and improve already “perfect” processes, you will inspire those around you to remain calm and positive.


You can certainly prepare for various scenarios until you’re blue in the face, but there are always going to be things outside of your control that directly affect your ability to operate as an owner. Difficult pivots, like downsizes, restructurings, and entirely new plans, are inevitable and necessary. When these happen, though, the overall vision that you’ve been following can become blurred, yet you’re still expected to operate with an ownership mindset in your role. 


Angela Duckworth, CEO of nonprofit company Character Lab, has said that no one wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming, that they’d rather show you the highlight of what they’ve become. I believe this to be more true than ever in today’s “look at me now” society which is why I’ve had her quote on my laptop as a reminder each morning to believe. There is nothing wrong with showing everyone the result of hard work, but it doesn’t take away the fact that you have to make tough pivots head on in order to continue growth. Without conviction, you’re not giving yourself a fair chance to show the world what you can become. Do the simple things savagely well, don’t get in your own way, and truly believe in the best possible outcome of your decisions.

How are you as a leader “taking the punches” to learn and strengthen yourself and your team amidst uncertainty?

At The Garage Group, we’re all about equipping corporates with an entrepreneurial mindset to navigate uncertain challenges with agility, help solve for consumer-focused Jobs to Be Done, and grow robust innovation pipelines. Get in touch with Jason Hauer, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer here at The Garage Group >>>

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