Growing up is hard.
One day you’re riding your bike to the field where your friends play pick-up football every day after school, the next you’re at a school dance face-to-face with that girl or guy you like from social studies, shuffling back and forth like some sort of acne-prone pendulum in an oversized necktie, trying to figure out whether you should go in for the peck or just continue staring a few degrees to either side.
Pretty much from there, life’s questions only grow in number and complexity. Decisions are compounded by decisions preceding. They begin to carry real weight asyou begin to take responsibility for your existence −your part in this play with no visible director. For the infinite amount of questions before you, there are only a finite amount of moves to make, and that’s daunting. The natural processing required can’t always keep pace with your changing perspective. It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed, saturated, paralyzed.
Growing up as a company isn’t all that different. It might even be harder. At least a person can just move to an island and eat coconuts on the beach when it all becomes too much. A company has to completely reorganize, shuffling people and their complex roles. Companies are founded by answering two questions: (1) What is needed in our chosen space and (2) How might we fill that need? Those are really tough. And once answered, they drive new ripples of questions, and waves after that. As a company becomes established, the entropy associated with its broadening reach inevitably clouds its central focus and can threaten its continued success. At this point, it finds itself as the adolescent.
ZL has experienced remarkable growth, especially in the last few years. So how has it transitioned through this challenging period of adolescence while maintaining its central focus? For one, it has the benefit of foundation; while nimble, the company also has firm footing on 16 years of experience. It has also never needed VC funding, thus sparing it from boom-or-bust volatility that defines the startup world. So in many ways, it wasn’t a typical adolescence at all.
There were some adjustments made for growth, though. ZL has recently worked to establish stronger internal processes. Departments have been formalized, and existing departments have adapted to collaborate. Talent, which has never been scarce here, has been equipped with clearer roles within those departments. The company has helped create structure for fluid individuals. And for this, it has seen an increased ability to prioritize, set goals, and use the resources available to deliver on those goals.
The market will continue to mature; our product has always been positioned well for that. Having joined under project management, I’ve seen our team’s primary focus continue to ensure that our process scales seamlessly with our growth, as we pick up momentum towards leadership in information governance. I feel confident in that mission, as ZL leaves adolescence far behind in the dust. I look around the office and see people that are very excited about the future of this company. It’s a good place to be.