Reetta Rajala: Success never comes by one individual

My company CCEA had its 10th anniversary in December last year. The feedback I received made me think of success in business. A lot of the feedback pointed at me personally, how great job I had done in building CCEA and the success I had achieved. I am sorry to disappoint all of you lovely people, but I do not feel I earn these compliments. The success of CCEA is built on much more than one person.

I do not consider myself as a great business brain. I am lousy at taking and bearing risk. I am not much of a people manager. Not good for an entrepreneur. I am hard-working, analytical and solution-oriented – all good for a change consultancy. I tolerate tough situations pretty well and I am persistent. I acknowledge my weaknesses and am ok with needing other people to fill in the gaps. Why then, I feel that with these not-so-optimal ingredients CCEA has been successful?

The first key decision in CCEA’s history was to put a lot of emphasis on the board of directors. We have given a lot of thought on what kind of capabilities we should have in our board. I am super lucky to have a father who is an amazing business brain but who was also willing to take an active key role in the CCEA board of directors. The board has challenged and supported us enormously in strategic thinking and decisions. They have given us direction for consideration. This has led us to build a strategy that seems to work. Naturally I have made the decisions, but I could never had come to the conclusions without the board.

Secondly, as I am not much of a people manager, the company decided quite early on that only the leadership team reports to me. For everyone else, our great people manager took this role. I bet people are happier with this set-up.

The third key success factor for CCEA has been the focus on how we select our people. The best technical capabilities and the nicest personalities do not always make great change consultants. Nor would CCEA be the best place to work for all individuals – change is hard work and mostly it is far from glamorous. So, to find the best match is not easy.

We have streamlined our process and worked with same recruiting consultant for 8 years. Our process can be a bit painful for the applicants. Lately, we have also put a lot of effort on publicly sharing our culture and ensuring that the potential applicants can understand what it is like to work at CCEA. With the optimized recruiting process, the great HR partner and the work by our HR and Marketing heads, we have been able to find amazing individuals to the CCEA team and to the key roles. My role in this is tiny, the appreciation of putting the team together belongs fully to our leadership team.

The last key success factor for me personally has been the strong support from my family. I would never have left HP if my husband had not committed to support me financially in case of failure. I would never had become an entrepreneur if my husband had not believed I can do it. The true enabler for me to support the company to succeed is the daily help my husband has given me without one word of complaint, ever. He’s also been there for me on the tough days, which these 10 years naturally have included.

We cannot underestimate the luck factor. In fact, Helsingin Sanomat wrote yesterday about a virtual model by Alessandro Pluchino, which indicates that the luck factor is the key for success. 🙂

So, from the entrepreneurship perspective, the key success factors in my view are:

1) Know your strengths and weaknesses and act on filling the gaps

2) Have great people around you to guide you, to work with you and to support you

3) Hope for good luck

As said, I appreciate all the great compliments regarding CCEA’s success, but I want all of you to realize that success is never built by one person alone.