What I Get to Do Every Day and Why I Love It

Based on footage from JuntoNight 2015, the graduation event for our third cohort, our latest video captures the essence of Junto: economic growth and personal transformation.

At the event, with three years of data from 14 companies (all of which are still in business), I announced that the average Junto company's revenue was growing by 108% annually. Since that time, early December 2015, we've heard from about half the companies that they will have their best year yet, doubling if not tripling revenues, in 2016. (Note: none of this data includes our current cohort of eight companies, which are only one-third through the program).

My report of the 108% growth was supported by what most of the JuntoIII CEOs say in the video about their respective companies: revenue growth without headcount growth, tripling revenues, their business being saved, etc.

That's the economic growth part of Junto's essence.

It's what entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers care about. It's what startup mentors and advisors care about. It's what employees - current and future - care about. And, of course, it's what we care about. 

When we designed the business model for The Junto Institute, the acceleration of company growth was a clear objective and desired outcome. We didn't know when or how fast that growth would occur but it was the main focus. After all, the companies we believed that would find Junto appealing would be investing a lot into the program, and we knew they would want a tangible return on investment.

I've spent over 20 years of my career with early- and growth-stage companies in Chicago because I get energy working with entrepreneurs. They are the change-makers in our world. Their passion, aspirations, tenacity, focus, and drive are the things I feed on. They're not happy with the status quo and they believe they can make the world a better place, but they also know they can't do it alone.

True entrepreneurs have a vision that requires many other people to bring to reality. They have an idea, or see an opportunity, that is far bigger than themselves and they need to figure out how to move all those people in the same direction. And that is where leadership comes in.

A hypothesis that Junto was conceived with was that leadership might be a missing link in the pathway to entrepreneurial success and company growth. Maybe success requires more than just product, market, and funding. Maybe it requires more than pure grit and "selling your way out" of problems. It's a very small data set but based on what I shared above, that hypothesis is starting to get validated and that helps me look forward to going to work every day just a little bit more.

But it's been the other part of Junto's essence that has taken this journey we're on to an entirely different and unexpected level - the personal transformation part.

Because of the hard conversations they have, the introspection and self-reflection they engage in, the realization they're no longer lonely at the top, the difficult decisions they make, and the new habits they build, the JuntoApprentices experience something far greater than we ever conceived or imagined.

It can't be summarized with data or metrics, it can only be measured by what they say...statements like the following:

"I knew change was needed, but I didn't know I was the person that needed to be changed."

"I have evolved as a more self-aware, confident, and proactive CEO."

"What I’ve learned has made me calmer, smarter, and actually made me hungry."

"We are now becoming a real company. I am learning to be the type of CEO that's needed at this stage of our journey. Everything seems possible, simple, doable and most importantly, exciting."

From day one, I believed that if they showed up and put in the effort, our "customers" would get a lot out of the program and that their companies would grow. But truth be told, I never imagined that they would say these kinds of things about their Junto experience. And, fortunately, it's not only at the conclusion of their program when we see and hear these things, as shown in the video.

On a daily basis, I get to be around these people who are changing communiities, industries, and markets. I also get to see them change personally right before my eyes. I get to witness their tenacity as they navigate the ups and downs and twists and turns that mark the roller-coaster ride of entrepreneurship. I get to hear of their passion leading them astray to pursue a "shiny, new object" and then watch their peers or mentors refocus that passion back to their core business. 

I get to see them apply what they're learning into actual strategies and tactics, some of which fail and many of which produce results. I get to be asked by them how their employees can go through similar training and experiences that they're going through. I get to learn of their personal aspirations, then get to receive emails from them proudly announcing the milestones and accomplishments. And I get to do all this while also hearing that their companies are growing.

How can anyone not love this?