The Power of "Unmentionables" in Creating a Strong Culture
One of the first things a leader will look for when hiring someone is their abilities. What are their skills? What level of education did they reach? Have they worked in a particular field before? These are all excellent questions to ask — after all, realizing your vision requires having the best talents on your team.
But what are we really asking for when we interview a potential hire? When you look at an applicant’s resume, there’s a specific thing that defines whether you decide that one person is better than the rest: their experiences.
Eden Laurin of Nyssa understood that a person's experiences are critical to their performance and capacity to align with a company's vision. As she built Nyssa, she held true to that idea to ensure that her team would be the best at their jobs while also being cared for by the company.
The Value of Experiences
It's critical to separate the concept of experience from someone's experiences. Typically when we ask for someone's experience, we're looking for their expertise: years worked, educational background, fields they've been in, and so on. But when we ask for someone's experiences, we're looking for something more personal.
A person’s experiences shape who they are and how they view the world. More importantly, it also defines what they believe in and where their passion lies, which is essential to social impact businesses. Someone who believes in you and your mission will be more likely to do their best to ensure your company succeeds versus someone who doesn’t.
As Eden puts it, “If you're looking at two resumes, for instance, and you have someone who has gone through these experiences and really identifies with the mission of Nyssa, in a passionate way, it generally will outshine someone who, like you said, does not necessarily get it.”
Creating Company Culture Through Shared Experiences
A strong, positive company culture is one that a team derives from shared experiences. Employees who have shared experiences feel like they are part of something larger than themselves and are more likely to be productive and loyal to their company. More importantly, people who can share an experience in their lives tend to be more empathetic with each other.
Having empathy for your coworkers is vital to being able to work together as a team. One of the examples that Eden shares is how no one questions it if someone on their team needs time off to attend to their children — they trust each other to do what they need to do.
As Eden puts it: “There is never a pause; it is 100% understood that you could walk and go deal with what you have to do. Professionality has never skipped a beat.”
Their personal experiences are a part of the conversation they have at work, and having shared experiences between team members helps streamline their culture. How many times have you had to explain a challenge you faced or suffering you endured, only for the other person to misunderstand? It's exhausting to constantly justify your experience to someone who hasn't been where you have.
The idea of having shared experiences is vital to Nyssa as a company. The founding members made a bold decision to let go of the male members of their legal and accounting team — not because of their experience, but because of their different experiences.
The Strength of Empathy
“A majority of our investors are women, but we do have male investors. That has been really interesting to me, thinking about that shared empathy. There are investors or groups that are male-led. Most of them have had partners or family members in their life that have either suffered through or are working through areas in which Nyssa is touching.”
Eden spotted a critical factor that solidifies team cohesion. By ensuring a measure of shared experience on their team, the team becomes better at pivoting and communicating concerns. It also helps create opportunities for people who have, historically, had less.
Eden shares that, at the start of her journey, she found that many spaces were male-dominated. Some even prohibited her from entering because of her gender. Her story started when she entered a cocktail program in Chicago and found that all the significant people in that space were men. All the books on the topic were also written by men.
Why Have an All-Female Team
That experience pushed her to partner with female-led companies and retain primarily female or female-identifying employees. It might seem unusual — why would a company need specifically female legal representation, for example — but it goes back to the concept of shared experience.
“When we're talking about defense of IP, when we're talking about goals and expansion of the brand, it's a lot easier to understand what we're trying to do when you've had a similar experience.”
Nyssa aims to solve what they call "unmentionables" — things people wouldn't dare to bring up in regular conversation. But what some people might think of as unmentionable becomes something that needs no further understanding — if you have had a similar experience.
Nyssa, Experiences, and Creating Products
Another critical factor in keeping their team primarily female is being able to isolate and identify problems unique to women. Many products on the market today don't necessarily solve problems women face. If they do, they're not as effective as they could be.
Eden experienced this personally in a hospital. The products she received for comfort and to help resolve difficulties she had in her postpartum experience weren't very helpful.
“We did a lot of focus groups with women, friends, family, and then outside of that brought women together, sometimes just sending them questions, and then also talking to medical professionals. And that was fascinating, because it was almost the same questions like ‘Why isn't this better?’”
Coming from a Personal Place
Companies create products to solve specific problems. In Nyssa's case, it's unmentionables. Most of the drive to design their products comes from something someone on the team has experienced. Before they send that idea to a team, they run it by people with a similar problem to gather what knowledge they can. Only then does it get sent to professionals. Their strategy isn't cold logic. It comes from warmth, empathy, and the understanding that the challenges people face can be intimately personal.
Taking Your Business to the Next Level
It’s through understanding and alignment that Nyssa succeeded. At Profit Reimagined™, we understand your mission and empathize with the impact you want to create. That's why we make every effort to get to know you and your vision. You want to create a business that increases the good in the world, and we want to help you do that. Our focus is on mission-driven finance, and we provide virtual CFO services to help you make the best financial decisions for your company.
If you want to take your business to the next level, a virtual CFO could help you figure out your next best move. Understand how to price fairly yet competitively and maximize your profits with the help of a finance team. Schedule a discovery call with Profit Reimagined™ to help you cover your foundations and deepen your understanding of these concepts.