In this edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I got the opportunity to talk with Jennifer Moss, CCO and Co-Founder of Plasticity Labs, the First Survey & Engagement Platform to Measure & Improve Workplace Culture, Employee Well-being, and Performance. It provides companies with the tools to – Assess the health of their organization, Improve the health, happiness, and well-being of employees, and build a thriving corporate culture and community.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
As “mature” start-up founders, we had so much more to risk financially. We had three children, a house, cars, and a variety of other responsibilities ascribed to parents in their mid-thirties. It required a massive amount of risk-tolerance to take the plunge and start up a workplace tech/happiness consulting company. It taught us to be scrappy with our resources and do the most with the limited money we had.
We realized early on that it would be a challenge to get venture capital so we looked to grant opportunities for the funding we needed instead. Although it would take us time and resources, we were able to secure a considerable amount of non-dilutive government grants.
The most challenging part of securing grants to run your business is how often you don’t secure the funds. You have to apply for 10X the number of grants you will receive and it can be pretty disheartening when you’ve spent months on a grant, only to be denied in the final hour.
Also, venture capital investment isn’t easy to come by in Canada. It is improving, but, when we started out six years ago, it was tough for a first-in-category company like Plasticity Labs to get access to it. I guess you could say, the hardest part about bootstrapping your start-up is how volatile your revenue stream can be.
On the flipside, the best part of this journey has been to succeed by delivering a great product. So many start-ups get funded and never sell anything. I’m proud to say we have done the opposite, and more of the company belongs to us – something that allows us so much more flexibility and autonomy over our future.
Paolina:What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
I wish we were counseled AGAINST following the typical venture capital investment model that pushes start-ups to grow their business within seven years and get it ready for an acquisition. This model produces a certain type of business, and it prefers that business to already have proven market traction. It isn’t so easy for dreamers who have exciting, innovative and novel ideas that require a longer journey. That thinking wasn’t in alignment with our values, the mission of our founders and the goals of the organization. It is easy to get mentor whiplash and forget WHY you want to start, grow, and make your company successful. It is easy to lose sight of that when investors want something different. You have to stick with your gut and ask yourself early on – what do I want to achieve by following this idea? Do I want to just make money and get out quick? Or, do I want to build something meaningful, something special? Do I want to make a difference and still make my investors happy (perhaps even happier) in the long run? It may just mean it takes 10 years instead of seven.
We realized you don’t need to make a choice between shareholder value and building an awesome company while enjoying the ride. You can definitely have both and we’re proof. That is what guides us now. The decision to refocus our attention on building THAT company has translated into exponential sales growth, happier teams, better alignment with our customers, and ROI for our investors. Overall – it was the best decision we ever made.
Paolina:What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
Jennifer: I am always interested in understanding how organizational well-being and happiness ties to the bottom line.
I spend a significant time researching these concepts in my role as co-founder and CCO of Plasticity Labs and it is also why I’ve taken on the role as a thematic member of the UN Global Happiness Council. I care deeply about making changes to global economic policies by prioritizing well-being and psychological health as a means to increase wealth – versus creating wealth as a means to improve our well-being.
Jennifer has a new book out, Unlocking Happiness at Work, she has also been a speaker for TedX, and had articles published in the Harvard Business Review and Forbes.