You’ll See Greater Success In Scaling Your Business If You Prioritize This One Thing

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A competitive edge — every company itching to scale wants to find it. But few realize it’s as close as diversification: not of finances or products and services, but of high-level and midrange staff.

McKinsey & Company recently revealed just how great an impact diversity can have on an organization’s bottom line, especially in the long term. In “Delivering through diversity,” a study of more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries, the firm found that businesses whose C-suite executives represented a variety of minority members were 21 percent more likely to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts in the short term. In the long run, that figure rose to 27 percent.

What makes a diverse population of leaders and other employees such a boon to business? Not only do diverse team members bring a broad range of knowledge to the table, but they open doors for collaboration with new audiences — which you can leverage to break into new markets as you grow your business. In addition, businesses with diverse teams are better able to attract top employees and improve employee satisfaction. The more diversified the people running a company, the greater the company’s reach, depth, and scope.

While the data shows a diverse team is imperative, the McKinsey research also revealed that women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles that directly advance a company’s core work. In a report published in March, software company Atlassian found that “diversity fatigue” has set in. Progress in the diversity and inclusion realm has stalled during the past year, with the number of companies working on diversity initiatives having reached a plateau.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs seem to recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion but appear to be hitting a wall when it comes to turning good intentions into actions that make a difference. I asked five entrepreneurs and business leaders what tactics they’ve found successful in building a diverse team and at what point in the scaling process they made diversity a focus:

1. Zeynep Ilgaz, President and Founder, Confirm Biosciences

At Confirm Biosciences, an immigrant-, woman-owned business, diversity begins at the point of recruitment. As Zeynep Ilgaz sees it, diverse candidate pools become stepping stones to diverse business cores, although attracting applicants from broad backgrounds may take patience and work. “At the beginning stages of our recruiting process, it was a challenge. We were getting a lot of applications for our job openings, but also wanted to make sure it was a diverse group of applicants. That wasn’t happening, so we started looking at our internal processes to make sure we are recruiting in places that would give us a bigger pool of diverse applicants.”

Looking for diverse résumés? Have conversations about your resolve to hire diverse work teams from the beginning. Ilgaz noted that such discussions can feel awkward at first but become streamlined and more organic over time. “It was time well spent,” she explained when talking about how her organization built a recruitment process that prioritizes diversity. Ilgaz further observed that Confirm Biosciences, which sells diagnostic products for human wellness, gains another valuable benefit from its diverse team: employees act as a built-in focus group when the company launches or brainstorms new products.

2. Raj Jana, Founder and Chief Brewing Officer, JavaPresse Coffee Company

To build his company, Raj Jana amassed a group of non-like-minded thinkers and over time used that value to better connect with the audiences that JavaPresse Coffee wanted to reach. “I think scaling and diversity should go hand in hand if you want to make a lasting impact that weathers the test of time,” he noted. “The world is becoming more and more connected — and being able to translate your core offerings through different lenses and connect with audiences beyond pure transactional value is key to winning in today’s market.”

Having a diverse team has opened doors to exciting thought processes and quashed the idea of a one-size-fits-all corporate perspective. Both are powerful reasons to make diversity a central part of your scaling strategy, too. Over time, your culture will reflect this inclusive philosophy, and you’ll earn the loyalty of customers who value your message of authenticity and acceptance of differing points of view.

3. Carrie Santos, CEO, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

With members around the planet, Carrie Santos’ company must speak the language of a variety of cultures, both literally and figuratively. Consequently, she has peppered her organization with personnel who bring deep understandings of various backgrounds, educations, and experiences. “We have to be flexible and adapt to the local market,” Santos said. “The only way to scale to new markets is to diversify your thinking, and a diverse workforce is critical to achieving diversity of thought.”

If expanding outside of your current geographic location is part of your scaling efforts, a diverse workforce and a global team are must-haves. As Santos discovered, without local buy-in and ownership, your startup cannot scale successfully. She attributes EO’s success in scaling to the team’s diversity.

4. Justin Gignac, Co-Founder, Working Not Working

Much like a professional athletic coach, Justin Gignac considers diversity a means of increasing everyone’s performance. “Hiring a team who pushes you to raise your game and think about things differently should always be a goal,” he explained. “The more panoramic the perspective, the more likely we are to creatively consider all the important decisions that keep our company on track.” Rather than hiring look-alikes, he gives his company an advantage by bringing in new players with novel skill sets.

Look around your own business. Do all your employees look more or less the same and have similar educational paths? For your upcoming hires, consider breaking that mold. Instead of hiring Gignac clones, Working Not Working looks for candidates who can add flavor and a little shake-up to the status quo.

5. LaShana Lewis, Founder and CEO, L. M. Lewis Consulting

For L. M. Lewis Consulting leader LaShana Lewis, the secret to diversity is prioritization: “Make diversity as integral a part of your everyday business tactics as your highest-selling products.” Lewis emphasized the need to think from a human viewpoint at all levels to equalize the playing field internally before moving to external processes.

She recommends that businesses keep a diversity leader at every regional office. Problems may come up, but they’re easier to fix quickly if diversity is handled at the local level. Plus, it allows the diversity leader to ensure that the team understands not only that diversity is important for the business itself, but for the customers as well. “How can you sell to a demographic that you have no idea about? At least having a diverse team upfront will allow your product to sell better, faster, and latch on to its desired audience quicker than stumbling around, cleaning up PR messes, and then spending millions trying to recoup.”

While it may seem like a daunting task, diversifying your team can give your business the foundation it needs for long-term success and growth. Take advice from those who have witnessed firsthand the benefits of a diverse team when scaling their businesses and focus on diversity and inclusion from your venture’s beginning.


Raj Jana

Raj Jana is the founder of JavaPresse, a lifestyle brand that transforms ordinary coffee rituals into extraordinary daily experiences. He’s been mentored by some of the world’s most inspiring leaders and hosts the weekly show, Stay Grounded, to help listeners achieve more happiness in daily life.

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