Kit joined Coraggio Group in January, and has been settling in to our Portland office. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his past, his influences, and what he hopes to accomplish as a principal with our firm. Here’s an excerpt of that exchange:
What were you doing prior to Coraggio?
I’ve switched between being a consultant and being an entrepreneur for most of my professional life. I was battle-hardened on the front lines of the dotcom boom – founding startups, launching products, struggling to stay relevant in a rapidly changing competitive landscape – and I’ve since used those experiences to help clients scale businesses and address transformational challenges. I’ve been an independent consultant for the past three years, primarily focused on working with purpose-driven companies (B corporations). Prior to that I worked with venture-backed startups, Fortune 500 companies, big organizations like AARP, and I co-founded an interactive agency in New York.
The recent client work I’ve done is pretty wide-ranging: I’ve collaborated on growth strategies, built financial models, led marketing initiatives, developed strategic partnerships – I’ve even helped clients pitch investors. My experience, when running startups, is that while you may have a clear title and job description, the reality is that you need to pitch in on whatever’s most important on any given day. I think that’s an ethic I’ve brought to consulting. Engagements often start narrow in scope, but as I get involved in a business, and collaborate with leadership teams, the scope often expands to include broader initiatives where I can add value.
How did you find your way to Coraggio Group?
I moved to the Pacific Northwest about two years ago, and was looking for a boutique consulting firm to join, with shared values, and a team as excited about helping clients as I am. I love Portland, but had honestly begun to lose faith that I’d ever find a professional home here. Then came Coraggio.
When I met the team, reviewed their work, and got a sense of the culture, I was hooked. Smart people, passionate about making a positive impact. I was particularly impressed with the company values: ‘coraggio’ is Italian for courage, and it was clear to me (starting with my interview process) that everyone set a high bar and wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that they had a cool office.
Why do you do what you do?
I thrive on change, and management consulting allows me to take on fresh challenges, engage with new ‘partners,’ and solve unique problems on an ongoing basis. I started my career in startups, and love the energy and unpredictability of startups. But startups grow old, and I realized, eventually, that I get bored when the dynamic uncertainty of startups evolves into predictable constraints of medium-sized companies. The opportunity to take on new engagements, with an ever-changing cast of interesting business leaders, is where I ultimately found my passion point.
The other reason I do this, I suppose, is that I’m good at it. To me, strategy consulting is a bit like military reconnaissance: you parachute into unfamiliar territory, acclimate with locals, assimilate information, and collaboratively develop an impactful plan. It turns out I have a knack for processing information and discerning patterns relatively quickly. I suppose I could have found fulfillment as a spy, but the truth is, I’m terrified of jumping out of airplanes.
What are some of the biggest influences on your thinking?
My worldview was fundamentally changed in the early 2000s, with the rise of agile software development and iterative product management. Having been weaned on complex, high risk, ‘waterfall model’ software projects in the late 90s, agile was a revelation: build fast, test assumptions, iterate and improve. It’s an ongoing process, and, working with talented teams, I witnessed first-hand the power of agile to build transformative products.
Over time, the agile approach has been applied to other disciplines, and, eventually, to companies as a whole. The broader application of agile concepts begat the ‘lean startup’ movement in the late 2000s, and, more recently, the ResponsiveOrg movement. I’ve been an agile practitioner for over a decade, and active participant in these movements. I’m convinced that in order for organizations to succeed in the 21st century, they need to be more agile, more open, and more data-driven, and more purposeful.
What’s the biggest challenge confronting organizations today?
Obsolescence. The systems and approaches most organizations use to run operations, manage employees and market products have been around for over 100 years. Rigid controls, complex hierarchies and long product development cycles worked for Henry Ford. Not so much for Tesla. Modern companies need to empower workers, iterate products, and clearly define their purpose, or they will struggle to survive. To wit: over 70% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list just ten years ago are no longer there today.
Creative disruption is everywhere, and the brands, business executives, and government agencies that ignore nimble competitors or well-informed consumers do so at their own peril. It’s a daunting time to be leading an organization, but also exciting! There are proven approaches to empowering workers and creating vibrant cultures in the information age. There are agile models for devising strategy and managing risk across marketing, operations, and product development. Leaders willing to embrace experimentation and employ data in their decision making will flourish. It’s not an easy transition, for many seasoned executives, but I’ve seen, time and again, how making these changes can radically transform businesses.
And that, for me, is what makes getting up in the morning so easy. The opportunity to work with team Coraggio, finding creative solutions to the complex challenges confronting organizations in the 21st Century, is a dream come true.