The New Circle of Life in Business

Written by Samer Saab.

About 25 years ago, I was having an at-work breakfast conversation with a colleague. I was complaining about some trust issues I experienced in a relationship at the time, and I’ll never forget how she abruptly interrupted me, stating: “Trust is not earned; it is given. You choose to trust!”

At Explorance, since its inception, we have gone through 3 major cultural phases, and we are currently experiencing the foundation of our 4th. Trust will continue to play an integral role in our evolution.

Phase 1: Self-discovery

As with artwork, it is often difficult to know exactly how a masterpiece will turn out early in the conception process. For an entrepreneur’s journey, this part of the business is the phase of self-discovery. During this period, people with similar ambitions come together to make change possible. Most typically, what unites them is a common sense of beliefs and aspirations. For Explorance, these binding principles were represented through our core values at the beginning of our journey: integrity, care, audacity, excellence and value creation. This phase of our culture lasted about 5 years.

Phase 2: Just another workplace

As we grew and further expanded our team, we felt it was necessary to instill clearer operating guidelines and rules about how we do things at Explorance. We needed to do so to set the grounds for scalability and growth. We chose then to travel the road most taken and followed a more traditional approach to organizational culture development, one that was proven and policy-based. This phase lasted another 4 years.

Phase 3: A great place to work for

Then sometime in 2013, as we were going through our most aggressive phase of growth yet, we introduced a trailblazing culture built around the notion of flexibility that we referred to then as the culture of reciprocity. It was built around the idea that one should not expect to receive from others if they are not willing to give something in return. Our approach was simple, natural and organic. It allowed us to grow, bootstrapped, about 10x over the span of 7 years.

This cultural concept was designed to minimize the administrative burden on managers and maximize the engagement of our employees while expecting them to demonstrate advanced levels of discipline and self-reliance. Furthermore, by democratizing the notion of leadership within the organization, we shifted the management competency paradigm. We forced managers to transition their style from a traditional top-down authority-powered model to one that was “bottom-up influence” based.

Phase 4: A great place to work for and with!

Two accretive acquisitions and a pandemic later, we felt ready to bring our journey of culture-building to the next level.

The pandemic induced by the global spread of COVID-19 has impacted the way we do business considerably. In reality, this pandemic seems to have accelerated by a few years an inevitable disruption in human resource management principles, employment patterns, and the rise of the employee experience. Almost every employer had to endorse remote work and all that comes with it overnight.

As a result, there has been a lot of talk about the Future of Work. Questions are raised on whether we will end up in a world where everyone will work from their homes, from the office, somewhere in between, maybe in a coffee shop, or from an island somewhere in the Caribbean. But people are uniquely different. Everyone has a different situation as well as different aspirations. So, it makes sense that the idea of work from anywhere is fast surfacing to the top of every Future of Work discussion.

To me, I see it a bit differently. The rise of the pandemic coerced employers to learn to trust their people more, finally. It has forced every manager to get out of their comfort zone and learn to trust as well. It has, more importantly, opened the door for employees to reassess what approach works best for them without having to face the stigma of judgment or reprimand.

At Explorance, on March 17, 2020, we seamlessly shifted within 36 hours from an all-at-the-office company to a fully remote workforce around the globe. We were able to achieve this because nothing had foundationally changed for us. This natural continuity in our operations and business performance can be credited to the fact that we had, long before COVID-19, chosen to trust and empower our employees.

Today, I am witnessing our culture continue its evolution to support our journey of growth further. I see us going through a natural transformation towards a culture of mutual trust that builds nicely on the notions of free will, flexibility and reciprocity. Moreover, it frames them within an elevated context of autonomy, dependability and responsibility.

When we choose to trust someone, we empower them with the responsibility of what we are actually trusting them with.

To implement a successful culture of mutual trust, we need to follow an intuitive approach where we look at the #1 driver for a business, and that is the customer. Without customers, there are no businesses, and without businesses, there is no employment. Simply said, there is no place for sellers in a world without buyers.

When a customer buys a product or a service from Explorance, they are inherently making the conscious choice to trust us with their success. They trust us in our ability to honor every promise made and more. They also trust us to operate as a partner that seeks to develop a long-term win-win relationship with them.

Furthermore, for Explorance to deliver on its promises, it indirectly chooses to trust its own employees (aka. Explorers) with its customers.

It is also trusting them with the well-being of their peers and direct reports, and the overall business performance and story of growth.

Trust is a 2-way street. For Explorance to be a trusted employer, we need to make the conscious decision to be unwaveringly trustworthy.

After all, in a world full of choices, when an employee joins or pursues their journey with Explorance, they choose to trust us with their career evolution. They choose to trust our ability to support them with their story of professional and personal growth and success. They also trust us to care about their well-being and that of their loved ones.

This is the foundation of how we see and experience the new world of work, one where we choose trust over doubt, responsibility over disregard, choices over control, and a personalized journey of growth and success over a traditional cookie-cutter employment storyline.

On average, a person spends about 90,000 hours working over a lifetime. That represents about 13 years or the equivalent of about 17% of our average lifespan. I therefore strongly believe that employers and employees must look beyond pure financial performance. They must strengthen their bond around the notion of mutual trust, so they can together create more impactful and meaningful experiences for everyone that crosses their path or supports them in that journey.

At the end of it all, when we believe in what we do, who we do it for, how and why we do it, and when we feel deeply trusted and supported, we are mighty.

Together, we can make a big difference in this world, one experience at a time!

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