We are proud to have been recently named as finalists for Cincinnati’s 2018 Fast 55 Awards, which recognizes the 55 fastest-growing private companies headquartered in Greater Cincinnati that saw the highest percentage of revenue growth from 2015 and 2017, and cracking the 2017 Inc 500 list at #307 of the fastest-growing companies in America.
Thanks to our team who put the work in and our clients who believe in us. And congratulations to the other finalists.
As we sprint towards our Chicago office launch this summer, led by Erin Faulk, VP of Lean Growth, and reflect on this most recent achievement, it is hard not to get nostalgic about the almost 8 years of hustle and grit that it took to get here. We sat down with co-founders, Ann and Jason, to learn more about the early days at TGG, from Madison Road to Longworth Hall, and what it means to have experienced this incredible growth as we set our sights on Kinzie St, Chicago, IL.
It’s been almost 8 years since you started The Garage Group. What has changed since then and what have you learned?
Ann: Wow! A lot has changed in the past 8 years! The market has continued to change rapidly, but the concept of being entrepreneurial within a Bigco has become not only more relevant but more urgent in the past couple of years. We’ve learned many things, but among them:
Jason: What hasn’t changed is the transform Bigcos mission we’re on and the values we operate from. If anything, we have more conviction than ever on those things. What has changed, is literally everything else. We had early hypotheses for how we’d add value for enterprise clients, took our own medicine and quickly tested those, learned, strengthen what worked, and stopped doing stuff that didn’t add value. That same mentality continues with our amazing, entrepreneurial team today. And, each level of “success” creates new opportunities to learn and grow for us as leaders, and for our team. That’s why I love entrepreneurship because it’s the context for personal and market transformation. Persistently have a vision, hustle your ass off (backed with faith), and keep pushing forward, getting clearer on how you add value with each step.
Tell us a little bit about The Garage Group’s first project and what you learned from it that you still apply today.
Ann: Our first project taught us so much about partnering with our client to develop empathy for the organizational culture, the business challenges, and the people before attempting to suggest change. As we worked with the client, a multi-functional team working to innovate their business model to adapt to the changing needs of their customer, we developed many of the customer-centric approaches we still use today to define opportunities, benchmark external thinking to explore possible ways to solve challenges, and then iteratively build, test and optimize solutions.
Jason: Building on Ann’s context. The lesson we learned in landing and delivering our first project was one of the mindsets we teach through our Hustle Handbook today…squeeze the juice out of your resources…your strengths, network, and assets. When we were first starting eight years ago, The Garage Group was a logo and domain name…it didn’t stand for much else at the time. But, what we were able to leverage early on was Ann’s tremendous personal brand and corporate network (strong connection to P&G), and insights around successfully partnering with Bigcos. And, since we’ve bootstrapped TGG, that “squeeze the juice out of your resources” mentality cuts across how we operate to this day. From leaning on each other’s strengths and experiences to the mastery of Lean Growth approaches we leverage on client challenges, to the tremendous relationships and partnerships we’ve built. We’re always squeezing the juice out of our resources.
What do you think Bigcos need to be paying more attention to?
Jason: The impact of the “persistent, practical doing” of solving tough growth challenges as sustainable building blocks for transforming culture. Too often leaders want the easy answer of a quick training or ideation session that fits neatly into the day-to-day cadence of the business. Where, in reality, impact quickly dissipates. When you double down on “persistent, practical doing”, you create experiences for application of emerging concepts that push leaders out of their comfort zones. And, that’s where the transformation actually takes place. If you set the right foundation for operating like a startup, and drive to immediate activation of concepts, your team gets to amazing results faster than you could ever think possible, and you create a platform that ignites a fire and passion for a new way of working that will transform your organization if you let it.
Ann: Smart Bigco leaders are great listeners. They listen to their employees, customers, and partners and see opportunities to make things better holistically and to solve the real challenge rather than symptoms. I’d love to see Bigco leaders simply listen more, to better understand what their customers, employees, and partners want and need to accomplish, and then design solutions (products/services) around those needs. They’d see a need for increased speed, relevancy and adaptability across the board.
What is your favorite part about The Garage Group?
Jason: The entrepreneurial leadership capacity of our team is quite remarkable and gives me confidence we’ll not only continue to add value in the short-term for our clients, but we’ll continue to make amazing progress living out our mission for helping large enterprises to operate like startups. Our team sets the bold vision, and sprints to make it a reality…through humility, hustle, vulnerability in getting feedback on early MVPs, seeking guidance when we don’t have all the answers, leaning on the collective strengths of our emerging team to get to the best outcomes for our clients, and fearlessly building the next generation offerings we’re looking to have even bigger, enterprise-wide impact with.
Ann: I have to second Jason. I love our team! Their growth, individually, and our growth as a team gives me energy every day. Each person brings a different perspective and different experiences, but we all share a passion for the mission of making Bigcos operate more like startups.
What are you most excited about as you launch the Chicago office this summer?
Ann: I’m most excited about the opportunity to grow our talent network — new team members who will be able to join us because of our office in Chicago; and the opportunity to jump into the ecosystem of great companies — startups and Bigcos in Chicago and to join the conversations already happening about introducing entrepreneurial leadership and approaches into Bigcos.
Jason: As we’ve had some level of “success” to date, it’s critical we continue to live out our Courageous Minds Only attitude. Leaning into bold, new challenges like regional expansion will keep our team learning and growing, allows us to develop even stronger relationships with current and future clients, and hooks us into the amazing Chicago ecosystem.