After more than 2,000 business plans prepared in the 2016 calendar year, we sat down with Oggy, the leader of our business planning team, and we discussed building team trust, empowering personnel, business planning itself, as well as what it takes to continuously achieve great results at work.
How is the business planning team at Joorney set up?
In order to ensure superior quality, our 25-person business planning team has multiple layers. We have four teams working on deliverables, and each team consists of four to five consultants and a project manager who leads the team. On top of this structure, we have two project supervisors, who are in charge of syncing the teams and maintaining consistency.
We also have very important supporting roles to our business planning team, such as an editorial team that ensures our deliverables are error-free and a small design team that ensures our deliverables are aesthetically appealing.
Are there things you have changed along the way to help your team collaborate better?
Yes, absolutely. Since it is very important for us that each of our clients know what they can expect, we put significant effort into inter-team communication. Our business planning consists of talented and skilled individuals, but it was only after we started sharing ideas across teams in real time that we saw the real power of prompt feedback and large group brainstorming. As a result, we are always improving ourselves and our service, and the improvements are always welcomed by all colleagues in the team.
We also always look for ways to improve competency and opportunities for advancement. What we have found thus far is that pairing a senior and a junior consultant within one team on a particular project works really well. While the senior ensures the highest quality level, the junior gets to work on a new type of deliverable and learn about a new industry. Very often, our junior colleagues provide amazing insight and a fresh way of thinking and reasoning. With pairing, we feel we are always thinking outside the box when working on our projects.
How have you built trust with your team?
Teams need to trust each other before any meaningful collaboration and synergy is achieved. We are really close to each other, which is not always easy to do when the team is continuously growing. We participate in many teambuilding and out-of-the-office activities, and we always enjoy it. We recently competed at paintball and tried out escape rooms.
This allows us to operate as a tight team in the office as well. Whenever one of our consultants has a high workload, you will immediately see five of us jumping in to help out. And I think that is really a statement to the trust we have created within our group.
What is the culture like in the team?
Joorney was founded by people who enjoy business writing and creating financial models. I, for one, can sit in front of an Excel document for hours and play around with data. I do it a lot outside of work as well.
Profiles of most of our consultants are similar: they enjoy writing and quantitative analysis. For this reason, it is not hard at all for us to maintain friendly yet collegial relationships, where we enjoy working together and have much to learn from each other. It is a culture of mutual respect and transparency. This helps foster an environment where our team embraces the opportunity to spend time together both as friends and as professionals.
This is also why everyone in the team is so easily empowered to drive their areas of ownership and their ideas with autonomy and purpose.
Are there certain spaces within your office that seem to encourage collaboration more than others?
We definitely enjoy our conference room the most. This is where we provide each other with both ad-hoc and scheduled feedback and reviews. It is a place for us to have meaningful conversations and provide collaborative input.
We also have a world map on one of our conference room walls that highly motivates us. It always reminds us of our global client base, of the impact we are making worldwide, and that there is a whole world left to serve.
You have mentioned making a worldwide impact. How do you know you made it?
We see the impact we make on a daily basis during the communication with our clients. I will give you one of many examples. A couple of months ago, we were preparing an E2 visa business plan for an Argentinian national who was seeking the visa in order to open a mobile application company in Florida. Once his visa got approved, he came back to us. One of his sentences really stayed with us: “A big thank you from my entire family.”
And then it occurred to the team: by helping our client, we have not merely helped just one person. We have helped change the lives of his family members, who will be living on a different continent. We have helped change the lives of his future employees, who will have a type of job they otherwise might not have had. We have helped change the lives of our client’s clients, who will soon be able to use one more useful mobile application. We have helped improve the quality of life in Florida, a state that will have one more taxpaying company and thus more resources to boost its residents’ living standard.
That is Joorney. That is our impact.
How does your team communicate with each other?
Aside from emails, we use customized project management and collaboration software to stay in sync on a company level.
What we have found is that emails often drain too much of our time — we are often more likely to tap someone on the shoulder or make a phone call in order to discuss a project than to send an email to the team. Emails can easily turn into hours of work and create a clog. Frequently it is better for us to just discuss with colleagues in person or on the phone.
What does your team focus on most when preparing business plans?
That truly depends on the type of business plan we are working on. Each business plan has a specific purpose. And, more importantly, each business plan has a specific reader. We go beyond the basics in understanding whether the reader of our business plan is a bank loan officer at a particular bank, a risk-averse investor, or an immigration officer looking into a visa application. It is not only important to understand what the reader is looking for in a document, but to also understand that reader’s background and experience. Is he most likely a financial analyst? Is he a legal professional? All this matters when preparing a top-notch business plan.
Taking a customized approach to each project, understanding who the reader is, and tailoring each deliverable to the project’s specific needs are all very important parts of our work.
What are the words that define your team?
Our clients are very bold and brave. If they came to us for help, and they need a business plan for a specific purpose, that means that they are making a business decision and a step forward in their lives, as well as that they are taking a risk. We respect their courage.
Thus, the words that define us are: security, support, growth.
If we can provide our clients with security and support, and thus help them grow, then we feel like we have served our purpose.
Why are your business plans different?
There are so many things to say about that; I will try to stay concise with three key points.
First: each step of our business planning process is done in-house. The writing, the financial analysis, the communication, the proofreading, making corrections, the designing – all these steps made in order to prepare the final product are, due to our strict quality control policies, always done in-house. You would not believe how often this is not the case in the business planning industry.
Second: we provide a perfect blend of analytical and creative work. If you get too analytical while business planning, you might miss out on the opportunity to effectively communicate to the reader all the growth and development opportunities that a particular business caries with it. On the other end of the spectrum, if you steer into creativity too much, you might not present the reader with all the analytics and quantitative analysis he needs in order to understand the financial viability of the business being presented to him. Analytics and creativity synergize with each other at Joorney.
Third: we are, and will always be, a boutique firm. We are very strict about this one as well. No matter how much we grew in the past few years, we have never allowed our customer service to suffer; in fact, feedback indicates it always got better with our growth. We carefully track and measure our client communication metrics, and thus we always make sure that each of our project managers is always managing only up to a certain maximum number of clients. This way, we ensure we are always available and ready to help each of our clients.
What is your best advice for young business plan consultants?
Try to pause and re-think a couple times a day. Sometimes, when you are in the middle of an interesting project, you might get caught up in trying to put as much information on paper as you can find.
It is often better to spend more time researching and thinking about what you found and what you will write about, than actually putting every single thought onto a piece of paper. An impeccable 20 page business plan that is well structured, meaningful throughout, and gets across clear and powerful points is always better than a 40 page one that has all the details you could get your hands on.