How Notion worked with Interactio to establish its purpose, in order to align the business on delivering its mission.
About Interactio: Interactio is a fast-growing Lithuania-based business providing ‘the ultimate platform for meetings that require simultaneous interpretation’, with major customers like the EU and the UN. Notion Capital invested into Interactio in early 2021.
Shortly after Notion’s investment in Interactio, Adam Hale, Venture Partner, started working with Henrikas Urbonas, Interactio’s CEO, as well as Marius Bedreckis, Interactio’s COO to agree on a set of milestones on their path to global market leadership. Henrikas and the team are incredibly ambitious, driven by their mission to allow everyone, in every meeting, to converse in their preferred language. They identified a need to turn that mission into a simple and compelling purpose, in order to drive their strategy and achieve alignment across the business.
Why clarifying purpose matters
Customers typically ask the same three questions, in the same order, when they are considering adopting a new solution within their business:
Everything starts from the purpose of the organisation, which, when correctly structured, articulates ‘what is the business for?’
Henrikas and the team agreed that their current purpose could be both clearer and more consistent across the business and that a short project was needed. Henrikas described the current sense of purpose as ‘6/7 out of 10 – we are in the process of defining it more clearly’. The objective of this project was to ratify their overall purpose and to clarify what Interactio does and why it does it, in order to spell out the transformations the business would need to make to deliver on their mission.
Here’s one we made earlier
There are very few genuinely new ideas and approaches in the world, so success can often be achieved by reusing and changing existing ones. I have developed a one-page approach which I've been using to refine the purpose of software companies for the last 6 years. I was first using it when I was CEO at Fairsail (HR Tech SaaS)when my 17-year-old daughter said “Dad, what’s Fairsail for?” It was a deceptively simple question which couldn’t be answered by metrics like 100%+ CAGR & NRR of 120%. So, I decided to answer this question by using approaches I had seen work well at Accenture decades before, and more recently with Salesforce and others. The purpose, once completed, sets out ’The Why’ on the left hand side and ‘The What’ on the right. Below is an example from another company (non-Notion portfolio) I work with, Clue Software www.clue.co.uk.
Think like a Doctor
Medicine has been around a lot longer than software. In a consultation, the Doctor is looking for what ails the patient. When examining they sometimes ‘press until it hurts’. They are looking for the source of the pain. Software companies must do this with their customers too, they are looking for a pain which is significant enough for the organisation to change something, otherwise known as the ‘burning platform’. Diagnosing the most common sources of pain for your customers helps define why (‘The Why’) a customer will choose to do something different to the status quo. Companies are always busy and have more things to do than time available, so ‘The Why’ needs to be clear and strong enough to get priority over other competing initiatives.
“I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”
The author of this genius quote is hotly contested; I’m going with Blaise Pascal as he had a programming language named after him. Part of the success of a purpose statement is brevity and simplicity. If there are too many points it becomes a laundry list, which has no impact or meaning. Most purpose statements have between 5-8 points.
Moose or Elk?
One of the joys of working with different businesses around the world is learning something new. This Interactio project was performed completely remotely during the COVID pandemic using the Interactio platform. Stephen and I were in the UK, while Henrikas and Marius were typically in Lithuania and, on one memorable occasion, Marius was in Estonia. We were quickly educated about the differences between Lithuanians and Estonians and, in a surreal interlude, the differences between moose and elk, which are mainly in the antlers. But we will leave that for another time.
We had the first session in mid-October 2021 and we took them through the purpose framework and some examples, which we had put together as a starting point from reviewing various materials: Notion’s DD documents, sales pitches, the investment deck and the website primarily. That first draft is set out below. The next step was for Henrikas & Marius to revise and complete a draft version to be reviewed by the four of us in the next session.
Cross-Fit and Purpose – the perfect combination
We had the second session at the end of October 2021. Henrikas and Marius had done a lot of work and thinking, and had created a spreadsheet to map out the different elements to ensure all were included. We asked them how they had done it and the answer Henrikas gave was innovative and inspiring:
“One Saturday morning 0800 Marius and I met in our office and combined purpose with Cross-Fit. Between push-ups & press ups we had to define a ‘Why’ and a ‘What’ on our whiteboard. We gave ourselves 2 hours so we could get home and stay married. When we started to write - it just connected. One of our clients is Tony Robbins and this exercise really helped us connect with his thinking.”
The work was very good, our feedback was that it concentrated on costs and manual inefficiency, and less on the quality & output from the meetings. We debated this and agreed to meet again in two weeks to go through V0.2.
V0.2 – the almost finished article
We had another session in early November to go through V0.2. This had been substantially changed to include costs and complexity, as well as also the quality and output of meetings. It was now forming an excellent and clear customer narrative for the business.
V0.2 is below:
Purpose = clarity for the business
From the outset, this exercise has been a pleasure to work on with Henrikas and Marius. Both are smart, knowledgeable, driven and fun to work with.
When we asked Henrikas and Marius how they’d found the experience, they told us the following: :
“This whole exercise has triggered other work and produced ideas for our strategy brief. We now have a clearer view of our Purpose and now we need to align it across the business. We found the true meaning behind what we do from this exercise.
It also opened up our creative side. However, we still need to work through the wording to clarify the precise meaning. We need a native English speaker to do that and then we will add some images. We will take it to both our executive team and key customers, and talk it through with them to get their feedback.”
This last quote from Henrikas was especially gratifying:
“In the past few years there have been a small number of touch points which have opened my mind to think in a different way. This exercise was one of those. It allowed me to open different doors and therefore get more clarity. The ask from the team has been 'give us more clarity' our purpose is what was missing."
The final version of the Purpose, as released across Interactio is below. It followed a session with the executive team that Henrikas and Marius ran. Before the summary there is a table of the different elements of the purpose and the thinking behind them. It’s an impressive document which demonstrates huge depth and clarity of thought.
How much time did it take?
The whole project took around three months from the beginning to reaching an agreement of purpose across the executive team. We had four sessions of an hour each together, one to explain the framework and the next ones to work through versions.
Once defined, the next phase is to ensure that this final Purpose is used across the business, like the writing that goes through a stick of rock (it’s a British thing).
If you’d like to learn more about undertaking a review of your company’s purpose with Adam, or speak to Henrikas or Marius about their experience, please do not hesitate to ask.