10 years of Resilience and Knowledge for Impact
Every business is an attempt to reorder the world in some way. To do better. Every company, to a degree, is a society with its own rules and its own standards of right and wrong. In the beginning, it starts with the founders. The idea of Visionary Analytics and some of its main principles that are present to this day, such as full transparency, outstanding quality, and sustainable growth, were sketched on a napkin in a bar in Vilnius (that no longer exists) eleven years ago. When we launched in 2012, it was the worst possible timing – the global crisis was raging, the belts of public spending were tightened, start-ups went bankrupt one after another. At the same time, I was writing my dissertation and owed money to the bank. Another partner was doing his post-doc, with a baby on the way. How different those times were compared to the current start-up boom, wide array of financial instruments, mentors, and accelerators! We had none of that, even more – we had no idea how a company “works”, and started from scratch.
This did not stop us from going into a highly competitive, very mature European industry of knowledge-intensive services with high entry barriers, and within ten years building a winning company in that industry. A fully international company that is now leading EU’s Framework contracts and employs people from a variety of countries, from Poland to Kazakhstan and the UK.
I want to celebrate the resilience that has led us to this day. To me, resilience means two things. The first and most important is our culture.
The founders are like gods for about a minute in the beginning, as they create something from nothing. But it is the culture of camaraderie, trust and co-creation that really makes a difference long-term. Building a company is like sailing into a stormy sea. When people go to sea, they have a need for self-reliance, and at the same time, they are dependent on one another. Much of the satisfaction comes from the mutual trust that develops, particularly after coming through a bad storm. There are storms, there are calms, and most importantly, there are people pulling together to achieve a common goal. Together coming up with solutions.
The thing is – we constantly shape each other, and each of us moulds who we are and how we operate. When I look at our manuals – the Visionary constitution, I see Lina. When I think of social innovation, I immediately think of Raimonda. When I look at our website – I see Elžbieta and Justina. Ildar was our first international employee giving a push for the company to switch to English. Rūta, an intern from 2013 has made a profound impact on how we still greet our newbies. And the list goes on.
If you want a company that cares, you need people who care, and it really shows in the value that the clients get. Our partners would say – “They’re just terrific to work with”. Because we always deliver good quality and we deliver on time. And we are nice people. But it is not the people at the top of the organisation who convey these values to the outside. It is the people who do the work day in and day out.
Without our people, the company would have been nothing. Hence, I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.
I think of culture as an unwritten constitution. When it fell apart, the Roman Empire did too. We always say that people and culture are our greatest assets. But I also know these relationships are fragile. They depend on a level of trust and intimacy that is easily lost. Values do not break. They crumble. The day you feel that “It’s just a job” is the day we all lose. I want people to feel is as if they own Visionary. That is why we have to keep our “emotional banks” full – a term for the goodwill that we maintain over time with the people around us, keeping the relationships strong, healthy, productive, and FUN!
Before I conclude, I want to share that the road ahead will be challenging, as we will strengthen our position in the European markets, and uncertainty will continue to rule. And it is OK. Because the second factor to our resilience is embracing change and being fast learners.
There are two things people hate – it is change and the way things are. But when you think of it – life is change. We are constantly outgrowing our skin. We started as an institute specialised in education and innovation. In the meantime, we saw an exponential spread of digitalisation and its societal effects (future of work, just transition, public sector innovation). Now these new topics are among our key research areas. Being small and a quick learner is a big advantage. It allows to move fast, constantly innovate and pivot.
They say there are three stages of a start-up – a start-up, a throw-up, and a grow-up. I hope the first two stages are behind us and growing up means exciting things. It means that there will be new opportunities to develop, to contribute to the European society‘s most pressing issues, and the new generation of managers opening new paths. Maybe even launching spin-offs.
Whatever happens, I personally learned not to be afraid of challenges. Growing means you are going to have better challenges. Hence, I wish for our new chapter that we start enjoying change. Let‘s keep experimenting, keep growing, and keep our emotional banks full. Mission first, but sailors always!
– Agnė Paliokaitė