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The Dawn of a New Era: Marilyn Zakhour on our 4th Anniversary

This article is an excerpt from Marilyn Zakhour’s letter to the team on the occasion of our 4th anniversary.

Every year, around the time of our anniversary, I look back on the journey we’ve been on and reflect on the path that lies ahead. On the day I started writing this, someone asked me when I had realized that the company had truly succeeded - and it felt like the perfect place to start this letter.


Many of you have heard me say that this is the year where I felt like we truly emerged as a company. We started the year strong, with 8 projects; a never-seen-before scale for us. Our team of centaurs has more than doubled in the last 6 months, making this chief centaur incredibly proud. We’re starting to see the labor of love of the last 4 years truly bear its fruits with projects knocking at our door without us doing much to invite them.


In his work, Jim Collins describes this phenomenon as the flywheel effect. He explains that the flywheel begins slowly, building momentum with consistent effort in the same direction. Every push, no matter how small, adds to the speed until the point where the compounded forces unleash a power of their own. 


That’s how our journey has unfolded. Each project completed, every happy client and team, and all your dedicated hours of hard work have been pushes on the flywheel of our success. We fueled it with the efforts we all put in, sticking to our values, and believing in what we do, believing that it brings value to the world, and it feels like we have arrived.


We've come a long way from where we started, and we truly found our place in the world. Just like heroes finding their purpose, we embraced who we are and what we stand for: Building organizations that thrive and a world where people are happier.


So what now?


Take time to celebrate

This week, I was speaking to a mentor of mine who said:

“Celebrate. Never forget to smell the roses on the way up. That moment of balance has an incredible effect on everyone’s energy. I was bad at this and I see my son is a master of it.”


Confession time: I am also bad at this, but I was reminded that one of our principles is to Stop and celebrate:


We take pride in what we've achieved and the community we've built. We're recognized for our work, and that's something to celebrate. We mustn’t forget to celebrate our wins and let ourselves be filled with pride. 


But a good centaur knows: no celebration is complete without a good retrospective. 


What did we do that worked?

I believe the world is abundant for people who create (and know how to capture) real value. Here is how I think we did that:


We built a brand

When I got my first client, in May of 2020, the first thing I did was ask Tala to join me full-time. When she asked what her mission was I said: “I don’t know what we sell, but I know that I want everyone to know our name, and I want them to know what we can help them with.” And this year, I can confidently say we succeeded.  


We built Intellectual Property

From our Omnichannel Organization™ methodology, to our research, to our many frameworks, we haven’t only relied on other people’s work. We’ve added our own contributions to the broad discourse around organizational development. While that climb is steep and slow, our tenacity and our creativity are helping us position ourselves as more than just another consulting firm - but experts in our own right. We not only reference other people’s work, we create our own. 


We built a reputation

People know that when they hire us we will get the job done. Our inbound leads are driven by our reputation. We over-deliver on those proposals and our Excellence and Compassion set us apart every time. 


We built a community

We knew from day one that building a community would be at the heart of our growth, and this year, at the Cosmic Conference this really came to life. Having a room full of people that we didn’t “know” unveiled the scale of our community. Members of our community cheerlead us, they like our posts, they tell their friends about us, recommend great talent to be future centaurs, they show up to our events wholeheartedly, and when the moment is right, they bring us our next project. We owe much of our present and future success to them. 


We built the foundations of a strong organization

We punch above our weight. No one believes me when I tell them how big the team is. They all think there are 50 of us. Culture. Principles. Values. Standards. Incredible output. Infallible documentation. Our discipline in making sure we build an organization for the ages, one that is sustainable, that understands the value of institutional knowledge, great processes, and learning from its mistakes, is key to our past and future growth. We practice what we preach, every single day. 


We built a team of superheroes

Every centaur is a superhero. We don’t exist without the talent, vision, speed, and commitment that every centaur, past, present, and future brings to this organization. A great organization also has great leaders. It feels right to take a minute to acknowledge the blood, sweat, and tears that Tala and Marie have put into making our company what it is over the last few years. For that, I thank them with all of my heart.


More than that, we are a team of Avengers, powerful and united, always up for the next mission. We are always there for each other, compassionate with one another and our clients, and we never forget that what really matters is making the workplace, and the world a better place. 


I think you get it. At our core we are builders. So what’s next?


“Manage growth, don’t let it manage you”

My mentor who I mentioned earlier, said this to me in our first year. That sentence stayed with me. Like a kid who was told about Wonderland, I kept asking myself: “Are we there yet?” 


We are there. Now what?


Keep calm. It’s just the beginning. 


We have big dreams for Cosmic Centaurs. We want to support leaders with more than consulting and training. We hope to bring them inspiration, measurement, and who knows what else. 


Building our next era

The most dangerous thing we can do when we think we've succeeded is to take things for granted. The companies that survive and thrive are those that understand that they are part of a bigger system. They see the world holistically and are constantly looking ahead, sensing the market, understanding how the needs of their customers are changing, and adapting at breakneck speed. In our strategy exercise we identified many new opportunities. If we don’t exploit them, we will inevitably become obsolete. 


I say this to every member of our team when they join: “This company will be what you make it. You have the opportunity to build something great.”


Centaurs, assemble. 

Marilyn

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