Here’s something you may not know about me. Back in 2010 with the founding of CivilGEO, I had my hand in managing just about every aspect of the company. Here’s another thing you may not know: Nearly seven years later, in the wake of solid company growth, staff additions and other corporate changes, I am still in the thick of everything. My unflinching belief is that a small but growing company needs to work like one integrated, well-oiled machine. Ignore relationships between marketing, sales and product development at your peril. Gears move together, circuits interconnect and a faulty switch over here will cause a breakdown over there. Those who manage emerging companies are accustomed to wearing many “hats.” This aspect of running a company is demanding, time-consuming and physically and mentally draining, but the organization is better off because of it in more ways than one. Let me explain why.
The Perks of an Interdisciplinary Perspective
The Discovery Building was built in 2010 on the UW Madison campus with the express purpose of encouraging collaboration and trans-disciplinary communications among scientists, artists and other scholars. The merging of two research institutes, the private Morgridge Institute for Research and UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, into one great center for learning and innovation, unleashes according to the website, the potential to “foster new ideas and unlikely collaborations.” From “cells to societies” the center aims to explore connections between video games and neuroscience, art and math and a number of other areas.
The Discovery Building’s glass and metal exterior is a study in clean lines and crisp modernity. Combined with vast and inviting indoor spaces that serve as auditoriums for community programming (Note the building’s celebrated “town center”) as well as gathering places for scientists, businessmen and artists, the structure is part research facility, part meeting area and part performance hall. Upper floors house laboratories for a variety of disciplines. The Living Environments Laboratory is adjacent to Epigenetics and Systems Biology. Developers work on video game applications down nearby corridors. Translucent walls and staircases underline the Discovery Building’s mission to look deep, encourage discussion and probe traditional “boundaries.”
Collaboration, Discussion and the Emerging Company
What, you are probably asking, does an inter-disciplinary center for community discussion and academic exploration have to do with the trials of a small but growing company? A company, like other institutions, can benefit from encouraging a certain level of transparency and interaction between corporate divisions. Insights from accounting can and do shape the direction of product development and marketing. My work teams are encouraged to intermingle and share ideas. In a sense, we all wear multiple “hats.” All are responsible for understanding how their role within the company affects individual parts as well as the whole. What can we learn when we put a tech support guy in the same room with a product development guy or a marketer? It turns out quite a bit.
Companies can get mired in the idea that marketing is independent of product development, tech support or some other area. As a company grows, these gaps can get exaggerated and trip up an operation. I am plugged into technical support, product development and marketing and I’ve resolved a good share of employee matters as well. Our company is young and I need to poke around to make sure all runs well. But even if CivilGEO had years of experience behind it, I suspect I would still be doing the same thing. And I will continue to encourage an environment where our team explores the connections between seemingly disconnected departments. I think our growing company will be stronger because of it.