71 & Change Takes Flight

The seven founding members of 71 & Change. Photo: Maran Sheils

Ever marveled at a flock of migrating birds moving across the sky in perfect sync? Ever wondered how their numbers travel together so intuitively?

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It’s a natural feat of aerodynamics, and something similar can be observed in optimally functioning organizations, say the founders of Portland- and Seattle-based change management startup 71 & Change.

Flying in V-formation enables flocks to go up to 71 percent further than an individual bird could fly alone. That 71-percent range increase inspired the firm’s name when it was founded one year ago, and the metaphor has come in handy for its founders as they set out to revolutionize the professional services business model in an era defined by a dizzying rate of change.

“We partner with a lot of clients around building change capability,” says Founder and Owner Erin Daly. “It’s broader than a single change; it means being ready for a constant ebb and flow. We partner with our clients to meet the challenge that comes with the questions around what’s the best way to build that change muscle and get your employees ready for the ‘next.’”

You get further, faster when you take an agile and aerodynamic approach to bridging change. Since its inception one year ago, 71 & Change has doubled in size, serving nearly two dozen clients across sectors from consumer goods and financial services to healthcare and government, focused exclusively on change management.

During year one, the firm generated over $2 million in revenue; developed and deployed proprietary, change-specific software; rolled out ownership-incentive and 401k plans; and became officially certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council).

Going further together also means sharing the rewards, and in this first year, founding equity partners Beth Montag-Schmaltz and Kim Bailey granted equity stakes totaling nearly 10 percent of the company to the five founding employees who took the leap with them starting from day one: Erin Daly, Jenna Train, Sultan Baig, John Fike and Nicole Holland.

IMG 7159Living the values. Members of the team volunteering at the Children’s Book Bank on a recent 71 & Change Give Back day.

The firm’s evolving equity-stakes model recognizes that an organization (and particularly a professional services company) is only as good as its people, says Bailey. When a company shares out not only its monetary success but also its ownership, it’s directly recognizing the deep value of those individual contributions.

“That shared ownership model is helping us to get further faster by acknowledging that the seasoned consultants on our roster are contributing to the firm at an exceptionally high level from day one,” says Bailey: “We aren’t just about grooming promising junior talent, but rather harnessing exceptional change practitioners who have been at this for a long time. It’s helping us to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, both from a recruiting basis and a services-delivery basis. Not to mention, it’s the right thing to do.”

“The goal is to revolutionize how organizational change is managed”, says Montag-Schmaltz.

In addition to delivering change management services, the firm has invested in Change- Analytics™, a cloud-based tool that significantly increases the visibility and management of
change, providing a consistent tool to track, manage and report on organizational change. It’s software built by change professionals, for change professionals, and it enables organizations to more easily gather, manage, measure and visualize change. Tailored features such as ‘heat maps’ make it simpler to identify organizational points of risk or failure related to change and to course correct before a small problem becomes a big one.

“We’re driving the conversation to make change management more effective and efficient in organizations, and that’s a thrilling place to be” says Montag-Schmaltz.

The broader goal for 71 & Change is to better help organizations ready themselves for the unavoidable ‘next,’ says Founder and Owner Jenna Train: “We’re ensuring they have foresight into the journey that’s ahead, that they are fully on board and understand what’s coming. It’s a balance of science, art and heart.”

selfieAnother 71 & Change value in action, “Enjoy the Ride” shown through a few team members posing for a light hearted selfie.

As the firm matures, staying lean and aerodynamic will remain key. This means continuing to fine-tune its equity stakes model while staying smart about building capacity, investing, bringing on partners and nurturing long-term client relationships, says Bailey: “It’s being really thoughtful in how we build infrastructure so we can go further … finding great partners, finding great people who share your values and are just as driven to help build the business … It’s being the lead bird when needed and bringing up the back when the situation calls for it.”

Daly takes the metaphor a step further, likening the approach to patterns of murmuration visible in nature — think massive flocks of starlings wheeling across the sky in perfect, intricate formations, as if by magic.

In truth, it’s not magic at all; each bird has synced its movements to its seven closest neighbors, and in this way, a near-flawless symmetry arises for the whole.

“There have been lots of head-down long hours this year,” Daly admits, “but that image of what we can do together — how we can be special and different — inspires and motivates us.”

As year two begins, moving in sync while keeping a close eye to the horizon remain key goals for the founders of 71 & Change, adds Montag-Schmaltz: “A popular phrase in the
industry is, ‘Teach people to fish.’ We teach people to fly. Fly higher, fly further. For more inforation please visit 71andchange.com

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