No Unicorns Allowed:
3 Calls to Action from the Inc 5000 Conference


Three days. Three short, mind-altering days.

We just spent three days in a room with the 5000 fastest growing companies in the country. In that room, every age group, every industry, and every geographic area was represented. There were high school dropouts, MBAs, and millionaires. But there was one thing that room did not have.

That room did not contain a single unicorn.

The companies that achieved the 2015 list of the Inc 5000 were not comprised of magical business fairytales with secret formulas to overnight success. They did not have the rockstar startup personas that we see in social media or wannabe entrepreneurs. These companies grew exponentially faster than the economy, contributed 10% of all the new US jobs created, and they got there through relentless hard work.

At Modus Create we bring the best people, the best technology, and the best process together to help companies build world class mobile and web applications. We achieved number 639 on the list as a services business with zero outside funding and zero acquisitions. We grew one employee and one client at a time. We have busted our asses, and just spent three days with similar companies reflecting on how we got to this milestone. However, even more important than how we got here, was the invaluable opportunity to step away from the insanity of work for three days to think about what’s next.

There’s no room for comfort. Many of the things from the past 4 years that brought us to Inc 5000 in 2015 won’t bring us back in the future. As conference speaker Carey Lohrenz, the first woman Navy F-14 fighter pilot, eloquently said, “Being comfortable is one breath away from being irrelevant.”

Let’s get uncomfortable. These are the three calls to action we took from the conference to get results for our future growth as a company:

1. Vulnerability is the price of connection for leadership.

This means sometimes exposing the imperfections of ourselves along with our own fears so that we can build the trust of our team and rely on them. If we don’t set that example first to ask for help then we can’t ask the same of our team. People only go so far when they are pushed and shoved. However, people can go any distance when they follow in confidence. There’s no way to battle adversity and stress together without building connection.

Employees trust their lives and well being to company leadership. If we don’t feel the weight of that every single day then we are not close enough to our people.

The reason all of this is critical is because people are more important than process or product. The best process and product will inevitably fail without the strength of people. As a software services company, our people are our biggest contributor to success and growth. Their failure is our failure, and it’s on me and the rest of our leadership team to relentlessly invest in them as individuals to make them successful. The power of vulnerability is the first step to building a connected team.

2. Culture isn’t about Us. Culture is about our Customers.

There’s a lot of talk about building great company cultures, but most of that talk sounds like creating a trendy cool office space complete with yoga classes, doggy daycare, open floor plans, and ping pong tables. Building a great culture isn’t at all about making our team feel good. Building a great culture is about serving customers and our business.

A team that has a unified culture emulates a cohesive set of values to everyone around them. At Modus Create, this means a team that values continued learning and being the best in the world at their craft. Our work environment, the way we dress, and the way we act are byproducts of these values. The real reason we build this into our culture is because we want our customers to experience it. A unified team impacts every aspect of a business from products and services to client relationships. This means that our culture has a direct impact on our revenue.

It is our responsibility as leaders to instill cultural values and the clear vision and purpose of our company. Anything less than this is sabotaging our growth and revenue. Everyone in an organization is supporting sales and marketing when they clearly understand and buy into the vision and purpose.

3. Embrace Failure.

There is a direct correlation to earnings and net worth with embracing failure as the number one source of knowledge. A company that wants to grow is going to fail a lot. And that’s ok. But it’s what we do with that failure that defines us. Building a great culture should reward continuous learning and that means not shying away from failure at all levels of the company, from top to bottom.

Since starting in 2011 with a team of 5, to a team that has grown to 75 people in 14 countries, Modus Create has failed at a lot of things. We will fail at a lot more things and so will the rest of our team. A big part of what brought us to today was our ability to learn from many hard mistakes. It is absolutely imperative for that willingness to embrace failure to continue as a means to our future.

We want to give a huge shout out to our entire team at Modus Create. There’s been a lot of stress, long work days, and quite a few battle scars along the way towards our growth. It’s been hard. It’s also been amazing. And now let’s get back to it.

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