Culture, Social Injustice, and Everactivism
While I have worked with start-up companies for over thirty years, I have never started one. Throughout my career, I have joined start-ups and their founders at various stages along the journey. Whether it was just two engineers with an idea or a fleshed-out team, my job has been to help turn their idea, technological breakthrough, or general product concepts into a business. The path to success is always different, but one thing that has been consistent across all of my start-up experiences is the need to develop and change a company’s culture. Not that the cultures were necessarily broken or “wrong” when I joined but in all of my experiences I have found material aspects that needed improvement – such as striking the right work-life balance, treating each other with respect, trusting each other, or installing a strong customer orientation. One thing I have learned over the years is that changing culture is a slow, methodical process. You can’t merely tell people what to do. It’s not even enough to lead by example. To get people to change their behavior requires listening to a diverse set of voices, the development of an action plan, lots of repetition, and a willingness to keep at it for years to achieve your desired result.
At Everactive, we take our shared values and company culture seriously. Besides “writing it down,” we frequently have discussions with all employees about living up to our values and whether we should adopt changes as we continue to grow. I’m proud of how the Everactive culture has continued to develop since I joined the team three years ago. We’re not perfect by a long shot, but we have a solid foundation that serves us well in times of adversity. Which brings me to where we find ourselves today. I’m even more proud of how the Everactive community has come together given the recent unrest in our society. This comes from our willingness to have open conversations about the systemic social injustices in our country caused by 400+ years of racism and the eagerness I see in our team members to learn and grow as individuals. Most importantly, I am proud of the common desire to take action and find ways to help drive change. This is what we call Everactivism.
Everactive’s push to be a positive influence in our communities predates 2020. For years we have shared the responsibility of picking non-profit organizations to support financially, as well as coming together for volunteer workdays to help organizations in each of the communities where we have offices.
But recently, our attention has turned to racism and what we can do to help address the underlying social injustices in our country. We know it is not simply one fix, like restructuring policing. While that’s important, we can’t stop there. Under the umbrella of Everactivism, we are directing our energy towards developing and executing a plan to address the social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others. In addition to policing, we have identified voting rights and equal access to quality education as issues where we want to make a difference. Equally important, we plan to continue to listen, learn, and address our own unconscious biases and underlying fears of change. Together we are committed to creating a shared culture that provides equal opportunity to anyone regardless of what they look like, where they are from, or who they love.
Why should a corporation like Everactive care about racism and social injustice at a national level? The best answer I have for that is to quote from our “One Team” core value:
“We are strongest when we respect and embrace our differences. This requires that we share our thoughts, ask questions, and candidly provide feedback and encouragement to others. We are passionately committed to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion, identity, and life experiences that make us unique. Our diversity drives our greatest achievements.”
And we don’t just stop at supporting racial justice externally. We are proud to be inclusive with a staff that includes racial and gender diversity, although we too still have work to do.
There is a growing base of research showing that diverse organizations outperform their non-diverse counterparts. Diversity leads to better decision making, high levels of customer satisfaction, and higher profitability. Similarly, communities around the world, both locally and nationally, draw strength from their diversity. In the US, we have not leveraged this strength to its fullest extent yet, but we will if we work together to drive systemic changes, aka cultural change. And as my start-up experience shows, it takes time to change a culture. It will take a sustained effort from all of us. That’s OK. It will be worth it.