Culture

Boldr & the Infinite Game

David Sudolsky

I planned a one-month-long trip to Costa Rica, my first multi-week vacation since Boldr’s inception. Why now? Two major reasons.

First, Boldr’s leadership team. Our leadership formation is something that came together slowly and intentionally since inception. Mari, Suneet, and Erlend (Boldr’s COO, President, and PH Country Director) are responsible for cementing our sound organizational structure, high output, and a safe, authentic culture in which our company can thrive. 

Second, the aforementioned stability created by leadership allowed me to take a step back, slow down, and give myself the space to reflect on Boldr’s growth. This trip was going to provide distance from the day-to-day, creating room for a fresh perspective on leading Boldr into the future. 

During my time away, I began reading a book entitled, The Infinite Game, written by Simon Sinek, and a gift from my coach Brian. He explained that the book’s ethos mapped onto Boldr’s mission, and would be a thought-provoking resource for contemplating the Company’s future while my leadership was on pause.

This pause was shorter than expected. 

With COVID-19 rattling the globe, I needed to return after only one week away. While boarding my flight back to the U.S., I felt weighed down by fear and sadness, worried about my team in the Philippines, the state of the world, and Boldr’s future. En route, I began reading The Infinite Game, and unexpectedly, a wave of calm washed over me. To see both my global perspective and Boldr’s mission validated in print, tethered me to the trust in my team to weather this storm.

Upon returning, my instinct was to kick into crisis mode. However, once I took inventory of my team’s progress in only one week’s time, I was blown away by their vision, their selflessness, and their dedication to Boldr’s survival during such financial uncertainty. While off the grid, my team’s instincts covered all the bases:

  • They communicated with every Client, ensuring that adjustments were made to each partner’s evolving needs. 
  • They transitioned to complete remote operation within 48 hours, with no disruption. This adaptability in such record time was reportedly only accomplished by one other Outsourcing company in Metro Manila.
  • Leadership and other team members stepped forward, volunteering to sacrifice a percentage of their salaries to compensate for initial revenue loss.

My team had propelled Boldr forward in an unprecedented way. Initially, my hope in taking this trip was to take time and space to reflect on Boldr’s past and how to propel us into the future. Returning early to manage COVID-19 uncertainty made me feel as if I may fall backwards.

However, the Boldr team provided the security to lean forward.

Further, this collaboration altered my own perspective on my role as CEO. Rather than micro-managing the crisis efforts that my team so seamlessly handled on their own, I started thinking about how Boldr could play the long game

During this shift, I finished reading The Infinite Game, which continued to mirror Boldr’s structure for success, and particularly, captured how these foundations carried us through this crisis, and set us up for a promising future. Within the book, Simon Sinek delineates 5 core principles that are crucial for a Company’s long-term relevance and success in our global economy. 

By talking through my interpretation of these principles and discussing the parallels with Boldr’s mission, I hope that other purpose-driven companies can adopt this global, forward-thinking mentality to help navigate a post-COVID-19 economy.

Related Read: How Mission-Driven Organizations Responded to COVID-19

1. Advance a Just Cause

First and foremost, Boldr exists to help people grow and connect. We strive to remain Curious, Authentic, and Dynamic. Outsourcing needs to do better for its stakeholders, which for Boldr, includes our Company (team members), Clients, and Community. To stay close to this mission, we continue asking questions like, “how can we make outsourcing better?” and “What investments would you like to see in your local community?” Most recently, these conversations have highlighted the significance of giving back and reinvesting in our community. By staying close to our values, we are advancing our mission, and goals remain iterative. 

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The parallel between Boldr’s purpose and Simon Sinek’s notion that all Companies must be advancing a just cause is music to my ears. Since starting Boldr, we have witnessed our community-based and impact-driven approach advance our Company’s just cause: to help people grow and connect.

We hope that this focus on expanding mission-driven work will resonate with other Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) companies. We want our industry to advance just causes and expand focus beyond revenue. Slowly but surely, the world is catching up to our mission-driven approach, and we’re grateful to have the Company.

2. Build Trusting Teams

Boldr strives to create a culture of authenticity and acceptance. Each member of our team is celebrated for their diverse identities, skills, and minds. They are encouraged to ask questions, take risks, and wear multiple hats. Team members value our ongoing request for feedback and our integration of their input into our evolving operations. This openness has allowed team members to believe in Boldr and what we stand for, and to be invested in our long game. When COVID-19 erupted and our foundations were challenged, team members at all levels knew what needed to be done and were accustomed to listening and collaborating across titles. Most importantly, they took risks because it was safe to do so.

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Additionally, our Team Captains’ leadership is pivotal to the success of our Company, and they maintain the longest standing tenure within our organization. Our Team Captains, on average, have been with Boldr for over two years. Considering Boldr is only three-years-old, and that we have grown ten-fold, this statistic is something I feel proud of! It highlights the significance of leaders growing into themselves, and this confidence continues to fuel Boldr’s mission and success.

3. Study your Worthy Rivals

When Boldr was first finding its footing, as CEO, I viewed our competitors as just that, our competition, Companies to beat. And I was in a hurry to do it. With a sole objective of winning, I set an unreasonable pace and pushed my team toward burnout. Within the first 2.5 years of Boldr’s founding, this break-neck pace was unsustainable, and we ended up losing several key team members that were influential in the formation of our values and ethos. 

We have switched from a fear and comparison-based mindset to one of admiration; we see our rivals as worth studying. This mentality has allowed me to build relationships with companies I admire, like PartnerHero and CloudFactory. Shervin Talieh, CEO and Founder of PartnerHero and Mark Sears, CEO and Founder of CloudFactory, have taught me about the convergence of entrepreneurship and leadership, and I am grateful for our conversations and mutual support. 

By studying these worthy rivals and examining their infrastructure, mission, successes, and organization, we are then forced to look at our own weaknesses with fresh eyes. This vulnerability has made Boldr stronger and widened my own perspective as CEO.

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4. Prepare for Existential Flexibility

During this global pandemic, it is like our lives are enclosed in a box and completely shaken up. As we wait for the box to open, we are terrified of what waits for us on the other side. While these circumstances certainly feel unprecedented, moving forward, the flexibility they require will become a benchmark of what constitutes long game players. 

For example, from the beginning, I firmly believed in the power of a centralized office to cultivate shared community within our company’s culture. When the pandemic struck, and we went 100% remote, I was shocked by the ever-present, tangible community presence maintained by the Boldr team members. 

We then distributed a survey, and 50% of team members endorsed wanting to shift to working from home permanently. This is not only forcing me to reimagine the significance of physical presence, but also what it means to expand. Prioritizing reach and impact and valuing these variables in the spread of Boldr’s mission. This illustrates the power of flexibility, not only knowing we can make a 180 degree shift if needed, but also allowing us to continue reshaping our idea of the future.

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5. Demonstrate the Courage to Lead

I used to think about courage as self-sacrifice, maximizing resources, and producing results in an expedited fashion. I was operating at the intersection of a pressure cooker and a ticking time bomb. I was wrong. Now, as a leader, courage means slowing down, prioritizing growth over profits, and focusing on leading responsibly. By investing in our community and team members, Boldr has meaning, and an ever-growing stake in the game. 

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I have deeply struggled with appreciating the journey instead of just trying to get there already.  What’s helped me, is adopting an infinite mindset. I reflect on the fact that I’m only 29-years-old, and that I want to play the long game, building Boldr into the Company we believe it can be. 

I made a lot of mistakes in Boldr’s early days, and The Infinite Game forced me to reflect in a thoughtful, intentional way. By making decisions that correlate to our just cause, like giving healthcare to all employees on day one (instead of day 180, a common Philippine labor practice), we are moving in the direction of courage. 

Related Read: Building a Global, Purpose-Driven Outsourcing Organization

Final Thoughts

Since reading The Infinite Game and mapping these principles onto Boldr’s values, I am in the process of integration, and considering what this means for our future. 

As CEO, I am focusing on my strengths and how we can expand our reach; our mission needs to translate to impact. Currently, our focus is on expanding into new landscapes, and we are planting roots in Tacloban, Philippines, our first provincial office. 

Expansion also includes growing business in the U.S. and Mexico, which would provide a supportive foundation for our pre-existing Client base. Courage remains a growth point for me, but I am consciously making myself uncomfortable and reformulating my conception of risk. I am sharing this vulnerability and learning how to lead. I am searching for ways Boldr can consciously serve the collective, and spreading this core belief. We are here to play the long game.

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