Matt Dryfhout, CEO and Founder of Scout: “Are we there yet?”

“Are we there yet?”

If this question came, not from a child in the back seat, but an employee across the conference room table. How would you answer it?

Since starting Scout, I’ve tirelessly pondered what our end game should be.  We just crossed 15 years this month and I believe we have recently gained some clarity that I wanted to share.  It has shown up in the form of a new vision statement and succession strategy. These concepts have been percolating for years, but there has been something about the 15-year mark that, for me, has brought the words to describe it.

A wise man once said, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself in to that.”  So while the journey thus far has been an exploration of what the company should be, I recognized that I needed to personally figure out who I am first. This is where the roots of our new vision statement started to take hold.  Our management consultant Barry Bowater recently commented to me that the vision is always there, it’s what drives the start. That really resonated with me, but also challenged me to dive deeper and question, “what is our vision and what role do I play in it?”

I’ve seen in my generation (early millennial) and even more so with the later generations, a push back on the construct of a leader because said person was given authority or power.  We challenge it head on, “respect is not given, it’s earned” and “show me why I should follow you”. I’ve certainly thought or said these sentiments over the years. Because of this, I have gone through my journey of becoming a leader with this critical finger pointed right back at myself.  Compounded by the fact that we are in the information/technology age, there is always more for me to learn and sadly, I will never know it all. If I’m honest, in the past, this brought feelings of inadequacy and challenges to my self-confidence; the feeling that I needed to prove my worth or qualification as a leader, even in my own company!  If I wasn’t so blessed to be coached and taught by wise mentors that I was basing my role on the wrong things, I could easily be falling on poisonous leadership vices.

My experience has led me to believe that every one of us has the potential to be an influencer to the people around us; friends, family, co-workers, etc. and that we have innate passions inside us that naturally inspire others!  I’ve concluded that these are the key components of what it means to be a leader. This understanding is what compelled me to create our new driving vision statement which explains our perspective on this: We want to live in a world where there is no place for self-serving leaders. We believe that there are enough great self-less leaders among us that just need the opportunity to be mentored, coached and empowered. Leaders who understand their limitations, but through humility and authenticity, empower others to lead alongside them.” Our vision is purely around creating more great leaders, helping everyone that we get the chance to touch to be the leader that’s naturally inside them.  This is something that inspires me every day to push on!

“So, Matt, are we there yet?”. For most business owners, the “there” is actually when they sell and exit the business.  There is nothing wrong with that, but for us, there is no “there”, but a realization of how far we’ve come. If there is an end to Scout one day, I want it to be long after I’m gone.  Ours is a journey made up of the continual pursuit of improvement, more questions than answers, and hopefully a company that outlives all of us. I believe our vision will carry us through the future of inevitable drastic changes, whatever our world looks like for generations to come.  For example, when we started 15 years ago, Amazon, Google and Microsoft had no cloud, now we have entirely new businesses starting up, “born in the cloud”, using only public cloud services to operate. More than ever before, our world needs great leaders to anticipate the change and drive innovation ahead of the path.

I hope by reading this, you’re inspired to also continue to push deeper in to your why, vision and end game. Whether you’re 1, 10 or 50 years into it, I want to encourage you to continue your march, reflect on your progress and enjoy the adventure!