Making Equity a Reality: A Brief Primer

Curious about offering employee equity, but not sure where to start? This primer offers a bird’s-eye view.

Michelle Bakula

VP of Finance

No matter how young or old your company is, creating an employee option pool is a major undertaking. Employee equity will look different at every company, and the structure of your equity plan may change over time.

Looking to grant equity options to your team? Most people mentally file equity under “Finance,” but it’s largely a legal process involving copious paperwork and precise documentation. You’ll need to partner with a corporate attorney when you’re ready to take the leap.

Until then, this primer offers a basic overview and reflects our experiences creating employee equity long after our founding. For further reading, there are plenty of in-depth references online, such as this guide from Gusto.

Skip to:

1. Designing an Equity Pool
2. Corporation Type
3. Equity Management
4. Valuation
5. Grant Details
6. Internal Launch
7. Equity Maintenance

1. Designing an Equity Pool

Depending on the structure of your business, the owner(s)—who are often founder(s)—will need to decide how many shares they are willing to allocate to an employee equity pool. Market data can help guide this determination. Looking forward, the pool should be large enough to accommodate anticipated headcount growth.

2. Corporation Type

To offer options, companies must have a certain corporate structure (usually C corporations). Your legal counsel can advise whether changes need to be made to your corporate structure and how these changes may impact the rest of your business.

3. Equity Management

While it is technically possible to manage your equity documentation with something as basic as spreadsheets, licensing an equity management platform will simplify the end-to-end process for both you and your employees. Your legal advisors can help guide you through selecting a platform, setting it up, and making adjustments during major events (such as fundraising).

4. Valuation

Any business offering equity, whether to employees or investors, needs a 409A valuation to establish the value of the business. This valuation is valid for 12 months and sets the strike price, or exercise price, for options or shares granted during that period.

To obtain a 409A, you must provide financial statements, forecasts, company background (management structure, ownership structure, history), industry information, and more to a valuation partner. The goal of providing this info is to help the valuation partner find comparable companies to benchmark against. You may also have the opportunity to supply a list of publicly traded companies that you consider appropriate comps.

Your valuation should match your expectations for your business. When your valuation partner returns the 409A, you have the right to discuss adjustments before approving the final version.

5. Grant Details

It’s time to outline the specifics of the grants you will offer to employees: number of options, vesting schedules, cliffs, exercise periods, and so on. While some parameters are more common than others—such as a 4-year vesting schedule with a 1-year cliff—these decisions should be governed by your internal discussions and the specifics of your company and your culture. Because employee stock options are part of compensation, compensation benchmarking data can be useful in your decision-making process.

6. Internal Launch

At this stage, your employee equity plan should be ready to roll out. Equity is an exciting concept. It’s also complex and often misunderstood. Your internal launch should include educational resources, both live and asynchronous, to help your team understand what their grants mean, what they need to do, and why it matters.

Because exercising options can have significant tax implications, we always encourage our team members to consult with a financial advisor when making individual equity decisions.

7. Equity Maintenance

As time goes on, your equity plan may be affected as you scale or from events like fundraising or acquisition. From an accounting perspective, option grants must be recognized on an ongoing basis as internal expenses (stock-based compensation expenses) based on the grants’ value, plus associated tax implications.

Finally, you will need to obtain a new 409A annually or after a material event, such as a fundraise. Each valuation will establish a new fair market value for existing options and the strike price for newly issued options.

This primer merely scratches the surface; it is simplistic by design. The road to establishing employee equity can seem daunting, but like any big project, it’s a matter of breaking it down into manageable pieces.

The goal of this primer is to provide a bird’s-eye view of where to start and where to go from there. With the support of your advisors and team members, you’ll dive deep into the details at each stage.

When you reach the end, you’ll have accomplished something that could potentially change the lives of your employees. And no matter what happens, that’s an achievement in and of itself.

Ed. note: Organizational equity plans and policies should be designed in consultation with legal counsel. Equity choices on an individual level should be made with input from a qualified financial advisor.

This is part IV in a series of short essays on employee equity at Pliancy: why we choose to offer it, how equity reflects our efforts, what it means to employees, and how to make equity a reality.

Part I

From Sole Ownership to Shared Ownership

Part II

In Pursuit of Shared Ownership

Part III

The Promise & Potential of Employee Equity

Keep Reading

The Promise & Potential of Employee Equity

While offering equity is an org-wide pursuit, its potential impact is hugely personal. Dive into an employee perspective on equity and how equity reflects the Pliancy ethos.

Peter Radonich

Regional Associate Director, East Coast

Pliancy partners with ambitious companies tackling important problems, particularly those at the start of their journeys. It’s the caliber of these clients that drew me to Pliancy in the first place.

We’re proud to support clients who have gone public or been acquired for millions (or even billions) of dollars, and I’ve seen firsthand how benefitting from equity can change employees’ lives.

But it’s not only our clients who are aiming high. Pliancy is, too. From the day I joined Pliancy, there’s one message that has stayed constant:

We’re trying to create something that we feel is important; something that will be of value not only to us, but to the world.

Working in IT can be a hard lifestyle, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s like being a 21st-century carpenter. It’s a trade. If we can improve even one facet of the IT services industry, it will help the future generations of folks who pursue this work.

Offering equity stock options to employees isn’t common in this field, and it’s just one way we are trying to change the landscape of this industry.

Pliancy is showing its peers and competitors that there is a different way to do this work and still be successful.

You can create a positive place to work, you can treat people well, you can give them room to grow, you can show them in creative ways that they are valued, you can invite them on the journey—and still be a stable, profitable business.

There’s no rule saying that Marcus had to give up shares to create an employee option pool. He had sole ownership of Pliancy and, frankly, he could have kept it that way. Instead, his decision is a reflection of Pliancy’s ethos to put people first, even when it’s not easy.

Stock options don’t guarantee anything, especially for a company at our stage. But that’s a beautiful thing to me.

It’s a powerful gesture that says, “We’re building something. We’re aiming to be part of something. We intend to grow to a point where this symbolic offering becomes worth so much more, and we’re going to do it together.”

This is part II in a series of short essays on employee equity at Pliancy: why we choose to offer it, how equity reflects our efforts, what it means to employees, and how to make equity a reality.

Part I

From Sole Ownership to Shared Ownership

Part II

In Pursuit of Shared Success

Part IV

Making Equity a Reality: A Brief Primer

Keep Reading

In Pursuit of Shared Success

When we build together, we build better. Employee equity reflects the work it takes to get there.

Jasmine Francis

VP of People

Equity is a long-term incentive that recognizes the material impacts of employees at a growing company. It rewards the determination required to turn a pile of parts into a well-oiled machine. Instead of rehashing how equity improves retention and motivates employees, let’s do something different. Lace up your running shoes—we’re going for a jog.

Treadmills vs. Trails

At a traditional company, working can be like a treadmill. (And no, I’m not about to condemn all work as a rat race.) Treadmills are consistent. You know what you’re getting; you can set your speed, distance, incline, and intervals.

Because you’re indoors, you’re protected from the elements, so you can run in any weather or at any time of day. But even if you run a full marathon on that treadmill, the view that greets you will be the same one you’ve stared at the whole time.

At a growing company, working is more like a trail run. You’re learning the route in real time. You don’t choose when the trail goes uphill and when it goes downhill. If it’s raining, you get wet. If the trail is washed out, you have to find your own way.

Through all this, trails give you the excitement of discovery. There’s always the potential for something unexpected around the next bend. The view at the end, you hope, will be spectacular.

Neither of these options is inherently better than the other. You might like both; you might like neither. The difference is in the experience.

Building Pliancy Together

Though Pliancy has been in business for over a decade, we still operate with a startup mindset as we scale and mature our operations. We’re in the nitty gritty. If there’s a tree blocking us, we roll up our sleeves, push it out of the way, or find a better way around. Most importantly, we make sure the path is clear for the runners who come after us.

At Pliancy, individuals at every level have incredible autonomy and high impact potential. Our team members shape the services we provide, the way we offer those services, the products we select, and the internal processes that keep us… well, running.

Equity As a Tangible Reward

Equity options are a pledge we make to our employees that despite the growing pains, and despite the fact that things sometimes feel hard, everyone will have the opportunity to share in our success in a tangible, financial way.

That will take patience. It will take grit. But if we work together long enough, and if we push ourselves far enough, we can go the distance. When we take in that stunning vista at the end of the trail, we’ll enjoy it as a team.

This is part II in a series of short essays on employee equity at Pliancy: why we choose to offer it, how equity reflects our efforts, what it means to employees, and how to make equity a reality.

Part I

From Sole Ownership to Shared Ownership

Part III

The Promise & Potential of Employee Equity

Part IV

Making Equity a Reality: A Brief Primer

Keep Reading

From Sole Ownership to Shared Ownership

Discover why our founder wanted to give every Pliancy employee the opportunity for shared ownership.

Marcus Olson

Founder & CEO

In 2022, Pliancy rolled out equity option grants for all full-time employees. Offering equity stock options for an established, bootstrapped company required months of coordination across our leadership, finance, people, and business operations teams.

Why did we commit hundreds of hours to this endeavor? Because we believe we’re building something remarkable, and we want to give everyone the chance to feel a sense ownership in what we’re creating together.

Offering employees equity in Pliancy has been a goal of mine for years. Once we hit six or seven employees, we weren’t just another boutique firm of IT consultants. Our trajectory shifted toward something much bigger and more capable.

I knew one day I wanted every team member to be able to share in that success—the way I hadn’t at previous companies.

Before founding Pliancy, I was an early hire at a startup. I was the only employee in tech ops and administration, building and managing critical systems, but equity was never on the table. It wasn’t just that I was not offered equity; I was never educated on what equity was, why it mattered, and what it could mean for me.

When the company was acquired, the founders were happy (of course), yet there was no material impact on my life. It wasn’t until many years later that I truly understood equity and its potential.

After leaving that startup, I moved out to California. I happened to be sitting in my buddy’s bar on an unremarkable afternoon when, suddenly, a crowd of people flooded in, whooping, hollering, obviously excited about something big. It turned out that YouTube’s office was across the street. The year was 2006, and they’d just been acquired by Google.

All these people were celebrating because they’d taken a chance on building something revolutionary; thanks to their equity, it had paid off.

The energy in that room was unlike anything I’d seen before. At the surface, there was pure excitement. But beneath that was triumph, relief, satisfaction, unity… the feeling of a long exhale after years of commitment. I decided if I was ever in the position to offer employees that opportunity, I would do it.

Now that we’ve (finally) made equity a reality, my goals, the company’s goals, and our employees’ goals feel more aligned than ever.

We all have skin in the game, and we’re going after bold, ambitious things. I’m grateful to have everyone along for the ride.

This is part I in a series of short essays on employee equity at Pliancy: why we choose to offer it, how equity reflects our efforts, what it means to employees, and how to make equity a reality.

Part II

In Pursuit of Shared Success

Part III

The Promise & Potential of Employee Equity

Part IV

Making Equity a Reality: A Brief Primer

Keep Reading

How to Center Employees in Your Onboarding Process

Onboarding can be a nightmare for employees. It doesn’t have to be—if you remember who you’re building for.

Tiffany Kress

Senior People Partner

I have a recurring nightmare. I’ve arrived on campus for the first day of school, equipped with a new backpack and a pristine collection of color-coordinated folders. Yet instead of enjoying the crisp fall breeze and the electric aura of possibility, I have a feeling of dread.

I know I’m meant to be here, but I don’t know where to go, or even what classes I’m taking—which means I probably haven’t done my summer reading, either. I soldier on with neither map nor schedule, and more worries appear. That hallway doesn’t look familiar. That stairwell isn’t where it should be. Where’s my locker? What’s my combination? Does this school even have lockers?

Perhaps you’ve had a similar nightmare: finding yourself on stage with no idea what your lines are, or showing up to class after skipping the crucial step of getting dressed. Even worse, perhaps you’ve lived through a scenario like this.

This is exactly how we don’t want employee onboarding to feel. 

In this essay, I will… discuss why onboarding matters, how we approach onboarding at Pliancy, and how you can assess your own process.

What Your Onboarding Says About You

It’s been well-documented that a high-quality onboarding process has concrete benefits, like improved productivity, shorter ramp-up times, better retention rates, and higher employee satisfaction. And, of course, there are plenty of intangible advantages, such as a sense of belonging, a strong connection to organizational values, and a better understanding of company culture. (If you don’t believe us, take it from the SHRM Foundation, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Bamboo HR, and Zenefits.)

Regardless of whether you subscribe to the intrinsic or extrinsic value of onboarding, one fact remains true: first impressions are everything, and onboarding is one big first impression.

Consider your onboarding experience and what it says about you. How often do new hires experience system access issues? How many new hires don’t have their computer set up on day 1 or delivered on time? When 9 a.m. on start day rolls around, is it clear what they’ll be doing for the first hour, the first day, and the first week?

Whether your new hires realize it or not, the employee onboarding experience gives them critical information about your company:

– Does this company care about its employees?
– Do they value employees’ time?
– Is the company thoughtfully prepared for projects and events?
– Do teams have organized workflows and processes?
– How does the company record and share information?
– How well do teams communicate and collaborate?
– What kinds of infrastructure exist for employees?

New employees should never feel like lost students wandering the halls. Instead, onboarding should be built around their experience. The process should anticipate needs, feel seamless to the employee, and strike a balance between automation and human support.

Onboarding at Pliancy

When I started working at Pliancy in 2021, it was the most organized onboarding process that I’d ever experienced. The company had built a strong foundation of knowledge sharing, live meetings, and thoughtful details. I was impressed—but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. It’s only in retrospect that I can see we had, and still have, so much room for improvement.

My experience was the result of years of iteration. It’s changed in big ways and small ways since my first day, and it will continue to change in the future. That’s the Pliancy way.

Embracing Iteration in Onboarding

Case in point: a few years ago, we licensed a platform that, among other things, helped guide new hires through their onboarding tasks. Over time, other teams moved away from using this tool. During a periodic review of resources, we realized that we were paying thousands of dollars a year for something that new hires would utilize for a few weeks, and then never log in again. It didn’t enhance the employee experience enough to move the needle.

So we pivoted. We adapted our onboarding checklist and workflow for a platform that was already standard for every employee, meaning the licensing costs were already accounted for. Plus, every employee would continue to interact with that platform regularly during the course of their work, rather than learning a system they’d only use for a month.

Yes, we blew up a process we’d worked hard on. Some may have seen it as a step backward. But in the same way you sometimes need to drop a class that isn’t serving you, we needed to drop that initial solution to realign with the bigger picture: optimizing the employee experience.

Building an Employee-Centered Onboarding Experience

There is no Platonic ideal of an onboarding experience. It’s impossible to prescribe a perfect and universal set of systems or steps, and I’d be wary of anyone claiming they can. Instead, I’ll share the basic components that guide our approach to employee-centered onboarding.

Each section also includes questions to help you evaluate your own onboarding process. You can revisit this assessment as you work toward your ideal onboarding state—just like we continue to do.

Balancing Knowledge & Connection

I think of onboarding as having two sides: knowledge and connection.

Knowledge refers to what new hires need to know: company policies, SOPs, expectations, and so on. It also includes what we, as employers and onboarders, need to know in order to build the best process possible.

Connection refers to the social and emotional aspects of a job: how new hires interact with others and how they feel about the company, their team, and their work.

Our onboarding elements fall into these categories:


– Pre-Boarding
– Self-Service Resources
– The Roadmap
– Feedback


– Stewardship
– Cultural Immersion
– The Human Touch

📓 Pre-Boarding: Summer Prep

Imagine the chaos that would ensue if teachers and administrators started prepping for the school year on the first day of school. Working closely with managers, onboarding planning should start long before the employee’s arrival. There must be definitive answers on what hardware, software, and permissions the employee requires, plus the logistics of getting them what they need (physically or virtually) before their start date, and instructions for getting started.

Ask yourself:

– Do you have a final checklist to ensure the necessary components are in place?
– What systems does the employee need access to, and what is the process for granting access?
– Who is responsible for pre-start logistics, such as laptop setup, delivery, and office access?

🍫 Self-Service Resources: The Campus Vending Machine

Everyone processes information at their own pace. Some people absorb and digest everything fully the first time. Some may want to skim a collection and return to specific resources when they’re needed. Others may only search for information if and when they encounter a roadblock. Regardless of learning preference, a comprehensive collection of self-service resources can cut down on unresolved issues and delayed answers. This can take the form of a knowledge base, a shared drive, or an intranet. Wherever you keep your information, make sure it’s easily accessible and logically organized.

Ask yourself:

– Is your information stored and organized in a public place?
– How do new employees know where and how to access this information?
– Who monitors the accuracy and currency of this archive?

📍 The Roadmap: The Syllabus

A syllabus tells you more than what to expect from a class; it lays out what the teacher expects of you. Supplying an onboarding roadmap makes it easier to track progress, eliminates ambiguity, and gives new hires the chance to ask questions about the road ahead. Our road map outlines weekly expectations for what they should be learning, doing, or billing.

Ask yourself:

– Do your new hires know what is expected of them during the onboarding period?
– Do new hires know what meetings and events they can expect to attend during onboarding?
– Have you clearly outlined the transition from onboarding to everyday job responsibilities?

📋 Feedback: Course Evaluations

Nothing is ever perfect the first time, and every time we onboard, we find ways to improve. For a truly employee-focused process, you need to build active opportunities to solicit feedback from recent hires. Data from formal surveys has many uses, but it may tell only part of the story. Anecdotal feedback, the kind you get while making small talk before a “real” meeting begins, is just as valuable—and sometimes even more telling. And remember: if you’re not going to act on feedback, why ask for it at all?

Ask yourself:

– What formal and informal opportunities are there for new hires to provide feedback about their experiences?
– How are you storing and analyzing quantitative and qualitative feedback?
– How can you expand the conversation by seeking onboarding feedback from managers and team members?

🚸 Stewardship: Parking Lot Duty

During drop-off and dismissal, a school parking lot is a frenetic place. It would be anarchy without someone acting as a traffic cop/cross-guard/rule enforcer/supervisor. Someone needs to be in charge, just as onboarding needs a clear owner. This doesn’t mean that one person should handle everything; but one person needs to maintain a big-picture view of the onboarding process, delegate tasks, make sure things are running smoothly, and design feedback loops. In the absence of a designated steward, things are bound to fall through the cracks.

Ask yourself:

– Does your onboarding have a clear owner?
– Have you created an intentional communication plan to share essential information with the employee prior to the start date and throughout onboarding?
– How can you partner across functions to improve the onboarding process or get greater buy-in from stakeholders?

🎉 Cultural Immersion: The Pep Rally

Who doesn’t love a good pep rally? Like lunchtime and school dances, pep rallies gave us a chance to catch up with our friends, make new ones, and relax from the tests, required reading, and high-stakes group projects. Incorporating breaks into the onboarding process leaves room for new hires to get to know their new colleagues as people, not just co-workers. We’ve experimented with a few different ways to encourage cultural immersion, from company-wide meet & greets to small-group cohort programs.

Ask yourself:

– What opportunities are you creating for new hires to get to know their colleagues and build relationships?
– Is leadership modeling connection-building?
– What aspect(s) of your company culture do you want your new hires to experience from day one? What are you doing to encourage that feeling?

👋 The Human Touch: Your Guidance Counselor

AI can do amazing things, but it can’t replace the warmth of human connection (yet). Centering the employee experience means preserving the human element. Especially when you’re processing a deluge of information, it can be a relief to know there is a living, breathing person who can parse your questions and find you the answers. It’s also important to have a contact besides the employee’s manager, which encourages new hires to be open and vulnerable about their questions without worrying about the power dynamic of a brand-new reporting relationship.

Ask yourself:

– Who is the ongoing “first-line” contact for new hires?
– How are you directing new employees to this primary contact?
– Are there both formal and informal opportunities to ask questions during onboarding?

The Final Bell

Designing a functional onboarding process is difficult. Designing an employee-centered process, doubly so. Evaluating your responses to the questions above can point you toward where your process might need work. Then, consider the assets you already have: stretch systems you already use and find team members who are passionate about welcoming new employees into the fold.

As students at the School of Onboarding, we’re sophomores: we’ve learned the ropes, and we know where all the classrooms are, but there’s still a while to go before graduation. In fact, graduation might not even be the goal.

Pliancy’s onboarding process isn’t perfect and probably never will be. That’s a feature, not a bug. Onboarding needs to change as companies change; companies need to change as the world changes. 

Every day is a first day. Are you up for the challenge?

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Building the Innovation Engine

Great ideas can come from anywhere. We’re building a process to harness that power and propel Pliancy forward.

Patricio Pace

VP of Business Operations

Imagine this: The year is 2028. Los Angeles has just hosted the Olympics. There are 14 Fast & Furious movies. All Sweetgreens are staffed entirely by robots. And Pliancy is seen as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in the United States.

It’s an ambitious goal, and it might feel a little outlandish to suggest, but we’d be foolish not to pursue it.

Taking the Leap

I’m no stranger to taking chances—though not entirely on purpose. I started my career at a credit union. With no prior experience in retail banking, I prepared thoroughly, did my research, aced the panel interview, and was thrilled to get an offer for an entry-level position. On my first day on the job as I’m going through orientation, the executive vice president pulled me aside and said to me, “You know, Patricio, this is the first time in our 30-year history we’ve skipped over the teller role and hired someone directly as a member service rep without previous experience. We have very high expectations, so don’t let us down.”

It turns out the position wasn’t entry-level after all. I played it cool and just focused on getting up to speed quickly. No pressure!

I’m proud (and a little relieved) to say that I was able to live up to their expectations, eventually working my way up to branch manager before moving on. Now, what does this have to do with making Pliancy a leader in innovation?

Diving headfirst into this challenge taught me the value of ambition—even if it was blind ambition at the time. From the credit union to starting my own consulting business to leading Pliancy’s operations from a single-digit headcount to over 100, the challenges have often seemed insurmountable… until they weren’t.

Why Innovation Matters (for Pliancy)

When I say I want the Pliancy name to be synonymous with trailblazing innovation, it’s not merely for the sake of it. Instead, I’m focused on three primary benefits of an embedded culture of innovation:

– Improved unit economics and efficiency
– Game-changing breakthroughs in product, service delivery, process, and more
– Increased talent density

Unit Economics

Innovation means innovation at every level and at varying scales. Small tweaks to our processes can help us increase the value each item, or “unit,” generates for the business. We can do this by reducing costs, increasing production or delivery speed, or by improving the quality of our products. Regardless of how we improve our efficiency, becoming more efficient means we can devote more of our resources and energy to developing novel solutions.


Companies are more likely to achieve breakthroughs across their organizations by innovating rapidly and regularly. This can involve changing who they target (audience, business model), what they do (product, service delivery) or how they do it (process, tooling). Many companies have the potential to innovate; it’s only by doing so quickly and consistently that the results can snowball into changes that are greater than the sum of their parts. At this magnitude, breakthroughs can help companies beat out the competition to dominate, or even redefine, their industries.

Talent Density

Think about the companies that eventually transformed into the tech behemoths we know today. Before they ousted industry incumbents or created brand-new market categories, they were scrappy start-ups with far-fetched ideas, powered by ambitious, imaginative teams. These trail-blazing companies developed reputations for creating environments that embraced inventiveness and experimentation. Like attracts like: innovative companies attract high-performing, creative minds that topple boundaries and push one another to dream even bigger.

What We Talk About When We Talk About “Innovation”

What do you picture when you hear the word “innovation”? Most people think of huge product launches, revolutionary business models, or groundbreaking discoveries made in secretive R&D labs. Innovation on a grand scale is important, and those kinds of moonshot ideas propel us forward.

Iterative innovation, though some may consider it unglamorous, is equally vital. Small tweaks to a feature, a workflow, or a client communication can make tremendous cumulative impacts. What some see as “minor” updates help us move faster; improve quality (and therefore perceived value); automate workflows; and turn experiences from impersonal to inspiring for both our team members and our clients.

Innovation in Practice: Our Recruiting Process

I want to share an example from when I first joined Pliancy. Things were starting to take off and we were growing fast. Client referrals were coming in hot and it was starting to get challenging to find more talented folks to join our team because our networks were tapped. It was time to make the leap!

I created a quick and dirty recruiting process MVP (minimum viable product) so we could hit the ground running and learn along the way. I threw up a Craigslist ad, set up a mailbox for incoming applications, and created a spreadsheet to track the pipeline.

It was not glamorous but it allowed us to swiftly test ideas and iterate. Who needed to be informed about the process? What pain points did candidates experience? How long was everything taking? As we considered questions like these, we began evolving our recruiting stack to include an applicant tracking system, self-scheduling links, Slack alerts, interview templates, and workflow automations.

Incremental Innovation

Our secret to rapid iteration was a powerful feedback loop that we instituted early on. From the start, we did a post-onboarding interview with every new member of Pliancy to learn what worked and what didn’t, tapping into their wisdom and creativity to improve our system. We were crowdsourcing ideas from the very people experiencing the process.

Each time we made a small tweak, it improved the experience by an incremental amount. We made the experience 5% better. Over time, those 5% improvements compounded upon one another. Our Associate Director of Talent, Jenny Kerdphoca, now leads this process and she continues to source ways to make the experience even better for our candidates and for our hiring managers.

I started us off with something very modest, but thanks to our belief in small-scale innovations (and a lot of hard work from our team members), today we have a world-class recruiting program that is strategic and data-driven. Even in just the past two years, under the People team’s leadership we have reduced time to fill (a key efficiency metric) by 6 business days, a 14% improvement. Iterative innovations like these set the bar ever higher, driving employee satisfaction and retention.

Why Ideas Fail

Great ideas are everywhere, but there’s a reason they say ideas are cheap and execution is everything: most fresh ideas die on the vine because people aren’t sure what to do next. This execution gap may be caused by a lack of information, motivation, resourcing, buy-in, or any of a thousand other constraints.

Think back to a time when you had an idea you wished would be implemented. You don’t have to think that far back, do you? Lightbulb moments, large or small, happen all the time.

Here’s one idea I had: about 20 years ago, I was trying to be healthier by cooking more frequently, but keeping the fridge well-stocked was a hassle. Vegetables and dairy went bad before I could use them; I would run out of eggs and not realize it until I was in the middle of a recipe. These frustrating situations made cooking and meal planning exponentially more difficult for me.

Then I was struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration. What if there was a smart fridge that would track its contents for you? When you brought groceries in, you could scan a barcode or RFID tag on the product and your fridge would then automatically know what items it held and how long they would be fresh for. No more running out of butter without an alert. Better make a salad with that tomato before it goes bad on Friday, you’d be reminded. Automagically, my cooking journey would be so much easier.

The Execution Gap

There were a few not-so-small problems with my idea. To start, I don’t have a background in industrial design, consumer appliance manufacturing, or setting up global supply chains. I also didn’t know how to develop a prototype nor did I have access to millions in capital to spend on R&D. Unfortunately my idea turned into an all-too-common “I wish someone would build that” scenario.

Today, smart refrigerators come with large touch displays and voice-controlled assistants. They’re Wi-Fi connected, and you can even view the contents inside remotely from your phone via embedded cameras. They may not be in every home yet, but both adoption and features are trending up and include things I couldn’t have even imagined when I first conceived the idea.

Sometimes I wonder what could have been. Twenty years ago, if I’d been able to connect my vision with the right skill sets and the right resources, would I be helming a smart fridge empire today?

Okay, maybe a smart fridge empire is a bit lofty, but the point stands. What if we closed the execution gap for folks who had exceptional ideas but didn’t know where to start? Didn’t know how to get traction? And what if we did that at scale?

From Idea to Reality

As Pliancy’s VP of Business Operations, I don’t expect my team to innovate in isolation. We’re inviting the whole company to participate in the innovation process and to contribute their ideas, their perspectives, and their expertise. My goal is to build a frictionless path that will help our colleagues move from ideation to implementation, unlocking the power of their creativity. By anticipating execution gaps and finding ways to bridge them, we will build a pathway to innovation that gets faster and smoother with time.

We’ve already identified some key ways to close the execution gap for our team members:

– Idea evaluation
– Implementation support
– Continuous feedback

Idea Evaluation

Evaluating an idea includes determining what success would look like, projecting the costs and benefits, aligning the idea to Pliancy’s strategic roadmap, and generating a proposal. But because most people don’t have training in these areas, they aren’t set up for success when seeking buy-in—no matter how good the idea is. We can help by creating proposal templates, conducting feasibility studies and analysis, building reporting metrics, or even modeling the performance and impact of an idea before it gets built.

Implementation Support

Making an idea into reality requires the right support at the right time, the same way a mechanic needs the right tools for any given job. Instead of sockets and wrenches, our tools are SMEs in project management, analysis, change management, communications, documentation, and more.

With a project management approach that values people over process, our team can develop project plans, define scope, identify contributors, manage timelines, and hold contributors accountable. Plus, no project exists in a vacuum. We must consider change management and clear documentation strategies, even if the shifts seem minor, to make sure the updates are adopted widely and operationalized for the long term.

Continuous Feedback

Improvement is a never-ending process. Whether you’re launching a new product or a new workflow, considering any innovation “one-and-done” is a dangerous trap.

From the evolution of our recruitment pipeline, we know big things happen when we harness the power of feedback loops. Crowdsourcing suggestions allows us to consider a broad spectrum of experiences and opinions in order to improve processes one step at a time.

But feedback loops don’t happen on accident. Organic responses are great, though few may take the initiative to reach out unprompted. It’s critical to embed the feedback process into every project, providing structured opportunities to solicit users’ thoughts. Combined with objective quantitative data, comprehensive feedback loops ensure that we get the full picture of what’s working, what isn’t, and what could be.

What Comes Next

“Okay,” you might be thinking, “so what now?”

The honest answer is: we’re working on it. We know evaluation guidance, robust implementation support, and consistent, iterative improvement are key to closing the execution gap. With this knowledge in hand, we will find a way to make our idea (a self-propelling innovation engine) a reality and then use it to help others bring their concepts to life.

It won’t be an easy process or an overnight transformation, but we don’t expect it to be. More important than ease, and more important than speed, is the power of potential. Just like an internal combustion engine, we intend to harness the raw power of explosive ideas, converting that energy into motion and propelling Pliancy toward the future we dream of.

Keep Reading

Why Moving Past Fear is Essential for Asking Questions in the Workplace

There’s no telling where a simple question could take you. Here’s why and how you should take the leap.

Mark Wagner

Escalations Manager

This is the second installment of a 2-part series. Read Part I, “Ask Me Anything.”

What are you afraid of? In my last post, I described Pliancy’s open-access culture, the dangers of gatekeeping and information hoarding, and how openness can lead to skill-sharing and growth. That’s all well and good, but no matter how welcoming the environment, we can still be hamstrung by our own fears and uncertainties.

Fear (of asking questions, of embarrassment, of failure, or whatever else) can prevent us from asking important questions that need to be asked, which in turn prevents us from learning the information and skills we need to grow. If I can share one radical thought, it’s that we don’t need to conquer fear. We don’t need to beat it up and take its lunch money; we just need to move past it. Fear isn’t a brick wall. It’s a curtain.

So how do we push aside the Fear-Curtain™? I wish I could give you a definite, never-fail, money-back-guarantee answer… but we have different fears and different brains. What I can do is share what has helped me push my Fear-Curtain aside: letting myself be bad at things, reframing fear as opportunity, and accepting that embarrassment is only temporary.

Let Yourself Be Bad

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from a yellow stretch dog in a cartoon. “Dude,” he said, “sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” I promise I don’t get all my sage wisdom from animated characters (just most of it), but this simple sentence has stuck with me. We’re going to try a lot of things in our short lives. We’ll probably be terrible at 80% of them, and there’s no shame in that.

We’re conditioned to believe that we fail more than others. In reality, that’s only because we witness every time we stumble. Behind closed doors, in other spaces, at all hours of the day, everyone experiences failure. Literally everyone. Even Beyonce. Let that really sink in.

The key is to let yourself be bad at the beginning. Keep at it, and you’ll get a little better. Ask questions to learn what you don’t know, and you’ll get better still. Before you know it, effort and knowledge quickly transform into skill.

Don’t forget about the 20% of new things you aren’t terrible at, either. Everyone has innate talents, including you, and natural ability and continued effort are a powerful match.

I’ve had a knack for technology my entire life, and I’m one of the lucky people who gets to make a living doing something I’m good at and something I like. But it doesn’t mean I took my aptitude and coasted on it. I’ve built upon it with each job, each certification, and each technological head-scratcher I encounter.

Trying (and trying again) is an important mindset whether you’re pursuing a professional passion or experimenting with a new hobby. No matter your baseline, the potential for growth is always there.

Reframing Fear as Opportunity

The next shift was changing my perspective to see opportunity where I once saw peril.

First, we should acknowledge that society has assigned a negative value to being unskilled at something. It can sometimes feel like failing at a new skill is a moral failure, e.g. “I am bad at juggling, therefore I myself am bad.”

I’ll let you in on a secret: that’s not true. Having a skill is not positive or negative. Trying and failing to juggle doesn’t make you a bad person. Unfortunately, knowing how to juggle does not make you a good person, either. (I think you’re rad either way.)

What is a “Good” Question?
We shouldn’t assign value to specific types of questions, either. A simple question is no better or worse than an open-ended question. The right question, asked in the right context, could be more impactful than another—but change the environment, the audience, even the intonation, and it’s a whole new ball game.

Once I let go of the idea that failure is “bad,” I could focus on what I have to gain. Every time I start something new, I’m full of questions. “How do I…” “What’s the best way to…” “Is this right?” Every piece of knowledge I add to my collection helps me grow, and as a lifelong learner, it’s easy for my fear to become eclipsed by excitement.

I’ve Got No Strings to Hold Me Down
This mindset helped me get to Pliancy because the excitement of this role outweighed any anxiety I had that I might not be talented enough to be here. But here I am, a lean, mean, problem-solving machine, and I’m thriving. That same excitement-over-fear approach makes me perfectly suited for a job where I get to learn how to untangle new knots every day.

Trading the fear of embarrassment for the excitement of opportunity has enriched my personal life in unexpected ways, too. I’m a 36-year-old who plays on a kickball team and loves it, and if that doesn’t scream “I’m not embarrassed by what you think,” then I don’t know what does.

Failure at Pliancy

I don’t want to speak for my colleagues, but it seems like many of them have undergone a similar transformation. We’re an amalgamation of dreamers, creators, and problem-solvers. We swing big, and we’re too busy being excited by opportunity to be ruled by fear.

Failure is something to be celebrated. Sure, it would be nice if we were immediately successful at everything we did (that’s the dream, right?). But barring that, failure means we’ve pushed ourselves to try something new—and have likely learned a lot in the process.

Navigating the Obstacle Course

There’s no shortage of reasons you might hesitate to let yourself be vulnerable. Maybe your company culture doesn’t offer you a safety net for failure. Maybe you’ve seen others judged for asking what others considered to be the “wrong” question, or perhaps you yourself have been burned before. Mental health issues, including social anxiety, can ratchet the hurdles even higher, and as someone with anxiety and bipolar disorder, I relate.

When we stop ourselves from taking the leap, it’s commonly because we catastrophize. What if my coworkers think I’m asking a laughably simple question? What if there are follow-up questions and I don’t know how to respond? What if my team members judge me?

And to that, I say: Okay. What if?

This Too Shall Pass

More often than not, the worst-case scenario is feeling embarrassed. And once I realized—really, truly understood—that embarrassment was fleeting, my entire attitude transformed.

We all cringe at memories of things we’ve done in the past. Our brains like to show us our blooper reel while we’re trying to fall asleep. But the immediacy of embarrassment, that cover-your-eyes feeling, the hot flash of shame, dims eventually. The conversation will move on. Other questions will be asked. The conversation or meeting or day will end. Soon enough, I’ll forget too.

That’s a feature, not a bug. The purpose of embarrassment, in my worldview, is to course-correct behavior. It fades by design so you can dust yourself off and try again. Knowing that embarrassment is impermanent, who’s to say I can’t skip ahead to the chapter where I’m already over it?

Ways to Challenge Yourself

I’m not claiming I can make you immune to fear and embarrassment. I won’t be the star of a “Therapists hate him!” clickbait ad anytime soon.

Changing your relationship to fear is a personal journey, and it’s one that will be unique for each of us. I hope what you’re able to take away from my candor and experience is that it’s possible to build this kind of habit like you would any other.

If you’re interested in moving past a fear of asking questions, here are three suggestions for getting started:

Start with Yourself
Instead of focusing on what scares you, reflect on what you have to gain. Having questions can be scary, but it means you’re in a position to grow. Your question could lead you to a fun fact about armadillos (did you know they sleep for 16 hours a day?)—or it could lead you to the next great passion that changes your life’s trajectory. The possibilities are endless.

Walk Before You Run
Ask questions in safe spaces, then level up. Stack the deck in your favor by asking vulnerable questions in one-on-one conversations with trusted team members. (Is that already easy for you? Amazing. Keep going!) You can up the challenge depending on what intimidates you: group conversations, distant or senior coworkers, in-person meetings, or public venues, for example.

Consider the Positive Impacts
When we fixate on asking questions, it’s easy to forget how fulfilling answering questions can be. Try seeing things from the other side: walk a teammate you trust through one of your work processes and encourage them to ask any question they can think of. You might be surprised at how fun it is to teach them about what you do. When you ask questions, you’re giving people that joy, too.

A Prediction for the Future

We’re human beings, not automatons. We don’t come equipped with all the knowledge we could ever need, we can’t be perfect immediately, and we certainly can’t be perfect every time. We will make mistakes; that just means we’re trying. We will have questions; that means we have something to learn.

No one needs permission to move past fear. But if you disagree, let me write the permission slip for you now: start today. Even if you move slowly, keep flexing that muscle and know that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Someday soon—sooner than you expect—you’ll find yourself on the other side of fear, and you’ll wonder why it seemed so scary to get started. So I’ll repeat my opening question: what are you afraid of?

Keep Reading

Ask Me Anything: The Benefits of Asking Questions in the Workplace

There’s no telling where a simple question could take you. Here’s why and how you should take the leap.

Mark Wagner

Escalations Manager

This is the first installment of a 2-part series. Read Part II, “Moving Past Fear.”

Have you ever had a moment where you really took initiative, went for the brass ring, and felt on top of the world when you finally grabbed it? A few weeks ago, I did just that—only to look down at my hands afterward and realize they were covered in spray paint. That brass ring wasn’t brass after all.

After a flash of embarrassment, I shook it off. I was able to move on quickly because of two things: Pliancy’s remarkable openness and a learned ability to move past fear.

*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* Yep, that’s Me

First, I have to set the stage for my accidental transgression. As a remote-first company, Pliancy uses Slack to communicate. We have a ton of Slack channels to organize our discussions, including the AMA channel.

If you aren’t aware, “AMA” stands for “Ask Me Anything,” originating from the Reddit community of the same name. The original AMA subreddit offers anyone the chance to pepper people of note (celebrities, experts, individuals with unusual professions or life experiences) with questions about anything and everything.

Based on that description, Pliancy’s AMA channel seemed like a great place for me, a technical operations engineer who helps consultants tackle more complex problems, to kick off a “dumb questions only” thread. My intention was to offer a safe and friendly cocoon where people could open up about things they didn’t know but were too afraid to ask. Great concept, right? I thought so too… until, after I posted, I realized that the description of the channel specified that the “Me” in “Ask Me Anything” was meant for leadership team members only.


Open Source Information: Every Question is the Right Question

Luckily, I’m in a unique environment where I’m not made to feel less-than because of an honest mistake. My coworkers understood and embraced my intention, and I was able to answer a number of questions that they had never had an opportunity to ask.

Questions are always welcome at Pliancy because openness is an important element of our culture. (And I do mean all types of questions; dumb questions, good questions, important questions, and everything in between—though I don’t always agree with those labels.) This is a far cry from other IT companies and teams I’ve been part of in my 18-year career. To put it plainly, it’s an extremely punk rock way of doing things when you treat each question as the right question.

I have had the freedom to talk to anyone from day one: every consultant, developer, and manager, all the way up. I was never told, “Don’t ask X person about Y topic.” Instead, it was impressed upon me that if I had a question, I could and should go directly to the person I felt would answer it best.

The Advantage of Asking “But Why?”

A serial question-asker like me thrives in this environment. I revel in being the person with the most questions in the room. In my view, it means I have the most to learn from others and therefore the most to gain. It also means I have the power to create change. By asking “Why?” I can challenge the way things have always been done in a single syllable.

Asking questions—no matter how stupid we may feel they are—is the best thing you can do in almost every situation. They say that curiosity killed the cat; most people forget that satisfaction brought it back.

Look, I get it: this is easy for me to say. Asking questions is hard and potentially embarrassing. When I’m new, I bet some people assume I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed because I’m a constant loop of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Exposing the gaps in your knowledge is an inherently vulnerable act, yes, but that’s only half of the story. We also have to concede that, in many work environments, asking questions can be a gamble.

Obstacles to Openness

In my experience, there are two separate but related workplace behaviors that discourage openness: gatekeeping and information hoarding.

Gatekeeping: I’m the Captain Now

Gatekeeping has become incredibly normalized, especially in larger and more traditional workplaces where it can be spun as due diligence and adherence to process. Gatekeepers often have bureaucratic mindsets. They leave you hanging for hours on end over a task that takes five minutes because they believe they know what’s best. To them, “what’s best” means wielding power through arbitrary waiting periods and hoops to jump through.

Working with a gatekeeper means being beholden to their schedule, their mood, and their attitude. You have to stay on their “good side” by whatever means necessary, lest the gatekeeper cut you off from the resources you need or the opportunities you want.

Information Hoarding: No Follow-Up Questions Allowed

Information hoarders limit access in a different way. Instead of obstructing access to a process or conversation, information hoarders protect their own knowledge. They’re dragons sitting atop knowledge for no reason other than to have it, and no, you cannot take a quick peek.

“Make yourself indispensable” is common career advice. Many (misguidedly) interpret it to mean that a monopoly on specific knowledge will make a person’s job more secure. If you’re the only one who understands how a process works or the only one with a certain skill, how could the company function without you? I hate to break it to you lifers out there, but graveyards are full of supposedly indispensable people—and still the world keeps turning.

Both gatekeeping and hoarding information reek with the stench of “the way we’ve always done things.” They are a means of preserving the status quo and discourage equity in the workplace. How can we fight against behaviors like this? I’m glad you asked.

“Automating” Solutions By Sharing Skills

Like many technologically inclined people, I love automation. There’s something remarkable about being able to program a machine to detect an issue and solve it on its own.

When we openly share skills with others, a similar magic takes place. I spend most of my day fixing problems, and they can fall into two categories: common or weird. As you might guess, the weird ones take a lot longer to fix. So what’s the easiest way to free up time to tackle the weird stuff? Teaching others how to quickly identify and resolve common issues.

When a consultant files a ticket, often I will make sure to connect directly with them over a Zoom call and explain what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This creates a situation where a consultant can likely resolve the issue themselves the next time or at least know exactly what to ask for. I may not be programming my colleagues like I’d program a machine, but I am giving them the instructions they need to fix a problem themselves. You could say that teaching is the human version of automation.

Because I don’t need to use access or information as currency at Pliancy, there’s no benefit to preserving the mystery of my solution. I offer it up freely, and the result is a win-win-win. The consultant can move on to other issues, the client gets billed for less time, and I bounce right back to solving those weird problems. The more power I can pass on to others provides me more time to deal with new (often more interesting) problem sets.

Paying It Forward

I’m lucky to have had managers who have shared knowledge liberally, taught generously, and given me space to ask anything I needed. It wouldn’t be fair for me to not do the same for others. Some days I marvel at how lucky I am to have landed at an organization filled with people who feel the same way.

I’m aware that my experience is the exception, not the rule. Even if you’re swimming against the tide at your place of work, there are still ways to encourage openness in yourself and the colleagues around you. Challenge yourself to reflect on these questions:

Who can you be open with at your workplace, and why? How can you add more people to this circle?
How transparent are you about your work and projects? Can you open up your process to your team or other team members?
– If you are a supervisor, how can you foster an environment of transparency with your direct reports? Do you provide opportunities for them to ask questions? Do you model openness and vulnerability, publicly and privately
How can you challenge your leaders to be open and honest?

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

If you don’t agree with me, try it. Try being open, genuine, and transparent with your coworkers, supervisors, and leaders, and press them to do the same. Open your locked doors, take down the walls of privileged access to others, and let people ask questions: simple questions, open-ended questions, challenging questions, you name it. Prove me wrong. Show me that efficiency, happiness, and retention don’t increase.

What I’ve found is that I exist and mesh here at Pliancy in ways I’ve never been able to do at other companies. I’ve flourished because I can be open with my co-workers. There are no hidden rooms, no one is out of reach, and you won’t get your hand slapped for asking questions. If that’s not the most punk rock thing you can do, I don’t know what is.

Keep Reading

How Strategic Support Systems Supercharge Our Work

How much more could you achieve by focusing on the work that fuels you? We’re reimagining support systems as a necessity for progress.

David Aronica

VP, Strategy & Growth

Support systems are often overlooked as passive resources, there to assist and nothing else. But what if we reimagined support systems as tools of enablement; as a necessity for progress?

We all have tasks that we put off before we dive into our “real” work: writing that LinkedIn post, watching a webinar recording, or finally opening this spreadsheet containing who-knows-what. We always get there eventually, but there has to be another way.

At Pliancy, we believe the right support systems (with the right experts) can lighten burdens like these. And when you let your experts focus on the work that fuels them, you can help your teammates unlock their true potential.

The Big Impact of “Small” Things

Pliancy was built on the idea that partnering with clients to make strategic technological choices could fundamentally improve their business. That’s reflected in our company purpose: empowering tomorrow’s technology leaders to revolutionize how organizations value technology.

IT has historically been viewed as little more than a cost center: a necessary evil, a budget line item that unavoidably keeps rising as a company scales. Rarely do decision-makers truly consider the value that technology brings to their employees.

In modern office environments, where email, video conferencing, and digital collaboration are non-negotiable, any decision related to IT has a ripple effect on day-to-day employee performance and behavior.

To take one “small” example: if an external business partner emails an attachment, it could be flagged (and quarantined) as potentially malicious. If each message needs to be manually released by an IT admin, that wait could delay your employees’ work by hours or days.

What more could your team accomplish if they had that time back? And if a troublesome quarantine policy is known to cause issues, how many of them are committing the security sin of using something other than their corporate email address to speed things up, data risks be damned?

Investing in Next-Level Support Resources

Changing minds starts with changing the conversation. Instead of focusing on cost, the question should be, “What productivity is technology driving for my business?” And to put even more of a people-first spin on it: “How can technology make life easier for my employees?”

We think about our operational resources in the same way, and this question was core to our strategic planning process. As Pliancy’s VP of Strategy & Growth, I am acutely aware of how implementing the right tools and processes can make our team members’ lives easier. This means freeing them up to flex their core competencies, solve the problems that matter, and supercharge what’s possible for Pliancy.

To that end, we thoughtfully invest in next-level support resources that set our consultants, engineers, and other technologists up for success:

-A PMO with strategic management skills to plan and manage projects efficiently, so technical SMEs spend less time chasing updates and more time doing the work that fulfills them

-A data team to integrate data science and analytics into our strategic planning and decision-making processes

-An in-house creative agency to deliver best-in-class visual branding and communications on organizational and individual levels

-A learning and development program designed for the whole person, emphasizing technical upskilling and complementary soft skills in equal measure

-A business operations function to execute strategic management tactics, allowing us to analyze and resolve high-level organizational challenges

Professional Development: A Tale of Two Pliancies

For much of Pliancy’s early history, we were a small shop. Consultants (and for a long time, every employee was a consultant) wore many hats. Projects were managed through Slack messages and spreadsheets. Branding was established by an outside agency, but day-to-day client communications and internal communications were most often written by whoever needed them. Learning opportunities were tech-focused and peer-led. Some data was available, but there was little time to dig deeper or leverage it to its full potential.

And here’s the remarkable thing: it worked. Thanks to the grit of our team members, the power of automation, and the clarity of our technical vision, Pliancy flourished. We built our own tooling to optimize our resources, and our backyard acted as a testing ground for developing, iterating, and perfecting the tech-enabled services we offer to clients. Our efficiencies facilitated exponential growth, and we bootstrapped our way to seven offices across the US.

If Pliancy could achieve this degree of growth through a scrappy, “all hands on deck” mentality, imagine what more we will accomplish with expert support resources in place.

Today, technologists can partner with a project manager for collaborative initiatives large and small. With a PM working to lock project scope, establish timelines, and track deliverables, consultants are freer to do deep work instead of herding cats. Technologists can also lean on Pliancy’s creative team to produce on-brand presentations and decks, client messaging, case studies, employee engagement, and even personal LinkedIn branding.

Personal and professional development opportunities are carefully designed and consistently scheduled by an L&D specialist. Our growing data team provides metrics that enable us to track how we’re serving clients and monitor our own performance as we iterate and improve.

With these strategic investments, we’re not depending on momentum alone to keep us going. We’re deploying resources to accelerate everything we do.

Bringing Best Practices Home

As I hope is abundantly clear, we aren’t interested in being just another MSP. We don’t want to be an MSP within the narrow confines of that definition at all. We want Pliancy to be something else greater altogether.

That’s why we don’t limit ourselves to industry best practices. We’re on the lookout for best practices, period. That means integrating proven tools and methodologies from agile startups, socially conscious nonprofits, ambitious entrepreneurs, respected Fortune 500s, and everything in between. A good idea is a good idea; it’s up to us to figure out if and how we can make it work for Pliancy.

Letting Experts Be Experts

Implementing new concepts and ideas is not an easy process, and we go through growing pains like everyone else. Though we don’t always succeed on the first try, we match those learning experiences with a willingness to evolve and an openness to new perspectives.

Especially at the leadership level, it’s critical that we don’t let ourselves be guided by ego. We don’t need to be the heroes that save the day. If I struggle to execute on an idea, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad one. I don’t throw my hands up, forget it, and move on; I bring in an expert who knows how to do it right—and then I get out of their way.

Just as we look across industries for best practices, we look across industries when hiring SMEs to power our support systems. While we emphasize shared values in our staffing process, that doesn’t mean we aim to surround ourselves with carbon copies. Diverse perspectives are the driving force behind forward-thinking innovation, and it is mission critical that we enrich our organization with individuals from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds, life experiences, and identities.

Long-Term Investments Over Short-Term Gains

As a business, we’ve proven that our concept—a tech-enabled, professional services approach to IT—works. Our next task is to establish methodologies and systems that will not just support us, but propel us forward as we continue to grow.

Committing strategic planning efforts and the staffing resources to the construction of these support systems is a big swing. It’s expensive, it’s hard to do right, and their impacts are often difficult to quantify. But we’ve never been afraid to do the hard thing. We’re lucky to have the stability to make investments in our systems and our people even though they don’t boost our bottom line immediately.

Persisting with patience is in Pliancy’s DNA, because we acknowledge that deep, pervasive change is made gradually and intentionally. We’re in it for the long haul. Are you?

Keep Reading

The Power of You: Amplifying Voices Through Storytelling

We all have a story to tell. It’s time to discover yours.

Kristine Fuangtharnthip

Brand Communications Manager

When you read our blog posts, you may notice something different. Instead of gimmicky listicles, bone-dry company updates, and content for the sake of content, we make a concerted effort to spotlight the thing that sets us apart from other managed services providers or IT companies: our people.

What better way for us to celebrate our team members than by letting them speak for themselves? As Pliancy’s brand writer, I am an interviewer/editor/doula/sherpa, here to help my colleagues find and polish the one-of-a-kind stories that only they can tell.

Today, I’m stepping out from behind the curtain to share why amplifying individual voices is central to our ethos—and why you should look for the stories hidden around you.

What’s the Big Idea?

Each of our blog posts is focused on a Big Idea™, like valuing people over process, the utility of failure, or how to stretch your tools to their limits. Big ideas can seem untouchable, and many people claim they don’t have any. (Spoiler alert: we all do!)

Big ideas are intimidating because we typically only see them after they’re fully formed. And even when we know, intellectually, how much effort must have gone into refining them, it doesn’t quite click. We only see the seamless TED Talk with the perfect, clever title and think, ‘I could never do that.’ The scrapped concepts, the hours of rehearsal, the flubbed lines, the crises of confidence—all of it lurks just barely out of frame.

I’ll let you in on an important secret: despite their name, big ideas come in all shapes and sizes. They aren’t always immediately obvious, either. With the right help, seemingly unassuming statements can eventually reveal themselves to be bigger, brighter stars.

An Outside Perspective

“No, I really don’t think I have a big idea,” you might insist. I get where you’re coming from, and yet I must respectfully disagree.

The things you do every day—the knowledge you have, the tasks you accomplish, the instincts you’ve cultivated—may seem like old hat to you, but to an outsider? That’s magic. It’s easy for us to write ourselves off because we see how the sausage is made. We become desensitized to our own expertise, but it only feels commonplace to us because we wield it 24/7/365.

This is where I come in. My primary advantage in helping you find your big idea is painfully simple: my strength is that I’m not you.

That throwaway comment you made? It’s quietly revolutionary. Your extended metaphor for a technical solution? It’s the perfect encapsulation of your values. This anecdote about a client experience? It clearly parallels Pliancy’s mission.

With a healthy dose of objectivity, I can zero in on the methods and experiences and philosophical musings that are so imbued with your DNA, they could only ever bear your fingerprints. (We all know our fingerprints are unique, but how often do we actually think about that? We’re more concerned with how they smudge our glasses or blur our camera lenses than with the miracle of their uniqueness.)

Why Individual Voices Matter

When Marcus Olson founded Pliancy, his vision was to provide IT consulting services rooted in relationships, not revenue generation. Seven years and 130-odd employees later, we haven’t lost sight of that priority. The relationships we build—whether with clients or with one another—are all founded on compassion and empathy.

Deep relationships couldn’t exist at this scale without the folks who put the work in every day. Our blog honors the individuals who make Pliancy great, and our posts go deeper than any “Meet the Team” Q&A ever could. Those tend to give you fun facts and nothing else, and we each contain so much more than that. We have so many grander passions to share.

This blog lets you discover what drives us as people and professionals, and it is, by design, an egalitarian space. It’s not just for leadership, it’s not just for certain seniority levels, and it’s not just for technical staff. No matter the role, there is room for us all.

To me, this is the Pliancy way: letting people be exactly who they are and loudly celebrating what they bring to the table.

Inspiration In Situ

So here’s my big idea: in a world where authenticity is often performative or over-engineered, just let go.

There is so much around us just waiting to be uncovered. Why waste time constructing something that seems authentic when you could discover what already exists? True observation can mean the difference between sounding contrived and being a conduit for the voices of your company, organization, group, or community. Let them reveal their stories to you—even if they don’t know they’re doing it, and especially if they’ve convinced themselves they don’t have stories to share.

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