We first met Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, through our friends at 8VC, and have had the pleasure of working closely with him over the past year.
Fast forward a few visits to Toronto and several meetings between our two teams, and Mr. Harper has become a great resource for us at Blend as we look to expand into international markets and continue to grow and scale our team. During our time together, it’s been interesting to identify parallels between his political career and the growth stages we have been seeing at Blend.
We were recently excited to welcome the Mr. Harper to our office in San Francisco for a discussion on leadership and growth. Here were some of the most interesting takeaways from Mr. Harper that are applicable for almost any organization undergoing rapid growth.
You must have priorities
Priorities are key for companies, teams, and individuals. These priorities can be flexible and change over time, but you need them in order to focus intensely on the things that are really important at any given moment. Having too many “top” priorities is a common issue for hyper-growth companies and teams, and can end up hampering focus and success.
Guard your bandwidth at all costs
Unexpected developments and activities take up a huge amount of time. PM Harper’s example during his time at Canada’s helm was the 2008 financial crisis, which forced him to completely rethink the economic agenda he had mapped out when he took office. So, the more you can preserve your time, and the more things you can say “no” to if they’re not truly critical, the better. This goes hand in hand with #1, and shouldn’t be too tough a task if you have your priorities locked in.
Preserve culture and relationships with expansion
There comes a point in every growing company where you must bring in executive-level talent from the outside. But that doesn’t mean you need to compromise your company’s culture in the process. In the hiring process, cultural fit, background, and diversity should be weighed just as heavily a person’s capabilities for the job. Find people who will build and maintain strong relationships both within and outside the company, and who will help foster an environment of respect, collaboration, sharing, and openness.
We’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear this advice from a great leader like Mr. Harper, and look forward to applying it as Blend continues to expand. One specific point Mr. Harper made that really resonated with me was “to serve others is to have purpose.” This aligns so well with our approach to improving consumer lending. At the end of the day, it’s about people, and how we can work with our partners to serve them better.