Reflections from Local Consulting Firm's Founding Partner

Brand Story - Founded in 2011, The Gunter Group LLC is a privately owned management consulting firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

I founded The Gunter Group in 2011. Like many people that start companies, one of my primary motivators was to create an organization that could reflect my own values and interests. Integrity, trust, service to clients, authenticity, transparency, leadership…all of those were (and are) important to me.

Many people that joined TGG early on are still with the company almost nine years later, and have been joined by many more talented, energetic, and awesome people. On my team, not only do I know the TGGers, I know their spouses, partners and significant others, kids (many since they were born), and a bunch of pets. That’s the way I always wanted it, and I have always felt a strong sense of responsibility for my team.

We have built an incredible group, we have the privilege of serving a wonderful group of client organizations, and we are deeply committed to supporting the communities in which we work.  We have built TGG into a sustainable company with a solid foundation and we had a great start to 2020.

And then, COVID-19 happened. The universe saw things differently.

As I write this, we are completing our seventh full week of stay-at-home orders and 100% remote working. Now that some of the initial adjustment shock has worn off, I have spent some time reflecting on our purpose as an organization, the actions we have taken, and some of what may lie ahead.

First, what brings us TGGers together is a shared purpose: we exist to help our team, clients, and communities thrive. The mechanism that gives us the means to achieve our purpose is our company, and we need to survive current circumstances and come out the other side intact for us to continue to be of service. We have taken several steps to ensure the continuity of our business. We applied for the SBA Paycheck Protection Plan loan, and ensured our line of credit was up to date. We signed up for regular communications and updates with government officials in our markets. We formed a COVID-19 focused subgroup within our leadership team, are constantly sharing and discussing information we see, and forming our action plan for going forward. 20% of TGG team members are veterans, and we are leaning on their experience leading in times of crisis.

Second, we have focused on the health and well-being of our team. Transparency is important to us and we have been radically transparent with our team about what we are doing. We have increased communication significantly, and have weekly all-company video calls in addition to written updates. Our leaders have stepped up the frequency of 1:1 meetings with the people on their teams. We have virtual happy hours to keep everyone across the company connected.  

Third, we have doubled down on client service. It goes without saying that our clients are our lifeblood and serving them well is what we do best. Some of our client companies are struggling, and it has been painful to experience that with them—they are our colleagues and friends. We have gotten creative wherever we could to ensure continuity of work, working alongside our client teams. We have shared our own experiences in dealing with things like working remotely and in being adaptable wherever helpful. One of our senior consultants recently joined a client team to manage workstreams in their centralized task force setup to manage COVID-19 response efforts.

Fourth, we are considering what comes next. We are thinking deeply about our services, how they are delivered, and what will be most impactful in the future. We are sharing best practices for working in a more digitized world with our clients and networks. We are deepening several of our partnerships with other firms. We are continuing to recruit and look for exceptional talent to join our company when the time is right. In short, we are trying to straddle the line between being realistic about the uncertainty of our current circumstances, but yet remaining optimistic and hopeful about working our way through it.

There is tremendous uncertainty regarding what happens in the next few months, and beyond. I do not believe we will quickly get back to what used to be normal as soon as we start to reopen.  I think there will be a slow transition back to something that seems more normal than the circumstances in which we currently find ourselves, but there will be lasting impacts on how we get work done. I think there will be a lot more remote working, video calls, and less travel.  There will be more distributed teams. Leaders need to be ready to help people make the transition and be compassionate in their support. For those of us with kids, there will continue to be disruption in childcare and education, and that will reverberate into the workplace. Flexible arrangements will not only be a benefit, they will be necessary.

But there are silver linings in what we have learned. As contrary to inclination as it sounds, our team is communicating with each other better than ever, and in a deeper, more productive way. We are strengthening our most important relationships in our networks outside the company with our clients, partners, and communities because we are working together more closely than ever. And we are not the only ones: we recently conducted a survey and facilitated a webinar on change management in uncertain times in which 70% of respondents said many of their relationships have been strengthened in the last six weeks. I have found it has been helpful just having people in your network to talk to and understand shared experiences.

As we navigate our way through the circumstances caused by COVID-19, we remain focused on our shared purpose as an organization: to work so that our team, our clients, and our communities thrive. Our core values at TGG—honesty, integrity, radical transparency, ability to thrive in ambiguity, taking care of each other—are the pillars on which we lean to navigate through uncertainty. The pillars are more important now than ever. No one has all the answers right now, but whether you are facing a critical moment today or not, we would love to talk to you about our experiences and how our team might help. We remain ready to serve.

For more information about The Gunter Group, visit guntergroupconsulting.com.

About the Author: Mike Gunter is passionate about client service and leading people. He enjoys watching people grow, develop, and discover their true path. Mike is a visionary and forward thinker with extensive multinational experience and a proven track record of serving clients. With more than 25 years of business leadership and consulting in a wide variety of challenging and ambiguous environments, Mike got his start in the industry at Deloitte Consulting and has since held executive leadership positions in consulting, supply chain services, and public education organizations.

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