Most people look back on the road they took to reach career fulﬁllment – or at least the one they took to get to where they are now – and they see a path breaking off into plenty of forks. Maybe you got tired of your workplace and saw advancement opportunities elsewhere. Possibly a family or personal circumstance forced a career change. Perhaps your industry or sector evolved and took you in a new direction.
If you currently ﬁnd yourself working in the very ﬁeld you hoped you would when you were a youngster – congratulations! You are one of a select few who have persevered long enough to ensure an outcome that is often far from certain.
Change is constant and it’s often tough, or impossible, to see it coming. Usually the best we can do is react quickly while we are getting thrown off course once again. Either way, the ideal way to handle change is to be proactive and take control of your own destiny.
Personally, I joined the family business when I was in my mid-20s. I loved parts of it and learned a lot, but the business plateaued and I ﬁgured my opportunities were limited.
I decided to start my own company – InTransit Personnel, a stafﬁng and placement company providing talent sourcing in transportation, distribution, logistics and manufacturing. Over 23 years the business flourished, and after my husband joined the company we just kept growing. I was working in a career I loved, and creating something from nothing, with the help of tremendous staff and great customers.
But by 2016 I began to feel myself coasting onto a plateau again. My husband and I also began viewing InTransit through the added lens of our personal career trajectories. The business was successful but some complacency had crept in, and we didn’t want anything to interfere with our company’s long-term sustainability.
We decided to do our research. First we needed to ﬁnd out how people perceived the company and how we worked. I contacted Aron Pervin, a family business advisor who hadd previously provided consulting services to our family business through the CAFÉ (now known as Family Enterprise Xchange). He introduced us to Optimizer720, a tool we used to capture internal and external stakeholder feedback.
We were pleased with the external feedback, which showed we had a great industry reputation and were known for
our professionalism and knowledge. Customers told us we were not taking advantage of certain revenue opportunities and wanted to see what more we could offer, but we could work with that.
Feedback from internal stakeholders was not as complimentary. Employees wanted us to focus internally and communicate and engage with them a lot more. These results surprised me – not in a good way.
I arranged a team meeting and went through the results. Being in that room was extremely tough at times, as some people felt they were unfairly being put on the hot seat.
But the process fostered transparency, helped us improve communication and forced mutual recognition of the problems. And it demonstrated management really wanted to solve them.
We sprang into action and spent six months implementing new metrics and systems to foster accountability. Employees began pulling together as we coaxed a new level of performance out of them – and ourselves. Employees were able to use their experiences to slingshot forward in their career trajectories, reaping beneﬁts from their hard work. We used the ﬁndings from external stakeholders to enhance and diversify our services. We climbed from a plateau to a peak.
Originally we hoped we would discover a few efﬁciencies and improve our focus. We got far more than that. Corporately it was a success. But what about that new lens we wanted to look through? What about our career trajectories?
While we were acting on our results, we were approached by industry investors who asked whether we would sell the company. By spring, 2017 we had received ﬁve unsolicited offers.
While we hadn’t begun our self-improvement journey with this goal in mind, the offers were compelling. There was a fork in the road, and being acquired was the right thing for us.
Our new owner, a large enterprise that wanted to expand its Canadian coverage through its purchase of InTransit, was attracted to our team’s talent and our ability to appeal to a larger client group.
This outcome may not be right for everyone. Certainly we could have remained independent, using our newfound feedback to keep growing.
Ultimately, doing our research sharpened our focus. We embraced processes that worked and discarded those that didn’t. We engaged staff and informed ourselves. We learned a lot. And we can take that knowledge with us anywhere, down any road.