JuntoBlog

What Junto Really Is and Why I Love What I Do

Posted by Catherine Jelinek on April 26, 2016

All of us on the JuntoTeam regularly talk about how this isn’t a “job”. No two days are ever the same. We are surrounded by wise, seasoned Mentors and enthusiastic, change-making founders. And we are constantly learning and growing, right alongside the companies we serve.

It Takes a Village...

To raise a child, and to grow a business. For too many founders of growing companies, all the changes and challenges are experienced in isolation, with too few mentors and fellow entrepreneurs around to share with and get guidance from. And even fewer with whom the founders can be totally vulnerable.

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At The Junto Institute, it’s the exact opposite of isolation. It’s an ecosystem.

Mentors are assigned to the company. These Mentors help the leadership team navigate barriers to growth and hold them accountable to their goals. Seasoned entrepreneurs and executives from Chicago lead our Classes and speak from real-life experiences. Tutors are brought in: subject matter experts from a variety of firms, to hold one-on-ones with the founders in the areas of finance, law and human resources.

All this learning happens in a cohort of peer companies and founders. Through the Forums, deep trust and bonds form between the leaders of very different businesses (we’re industry-agnostic), and incredible learning happens when founders are truly open and recognize the reality of “I’m not the only one facing this sh%t!”.

What I love about this:

  • The village itself.
  • The people.
  • The openness of each of them to share, learn and grow.
  • The dynamic learning that happens when vertical learning (from seasoned entrepreneurs) is combined with horizontal learning (alongside peers and with their leadership teams).

The openness and vulnerability alive in this ecosystem is what makes it run. This is a kick-ass village. And one that I am proud of and grateful to say that I get to live in everyday.

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It's an Experience, Not a Methodology

Junto is a process, a journey...and as mentioned above, an ecosystem. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a nine-month experience that each leadership team adapts and applies to their company, in any way they choose.

There is no “shoulding” allowed in Junto. That means Mentors and Instructors will intentionally not tell the founders what to do, and neither do we. It’s all about sharing experiences, which empowers a founder to make his/her own decisions.

We do not preach any specific methodology. We don’t require companies to adopt open book management, create company values, or use any specific system to run their operation. We provide them with the people, tools, resources, ideas, and outlets, and then let them decide how to apply it all. They actually learn how to think critically for themselves and make sound decisions for their companies.

Within Junto, leaders get to introduced to a wide variety of entrepreneurs and companies from the Chicago area. Many even “contradict” one another because they have different experiences. And that is perfect.

I love this because:

  • There is no one right way. There never was and there never will be.
  • There is only your way.
  • And a better, more informed leader will create a better company.

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The Business & The Self

At our 2015 Alumni retreat, a presenter in one of the sessions asked the room, “What is Junto?” What the Alumni settled on was that “Junto is the reconciliation of the business and the self”.

When you launch and grow a new venture, it all comes down to the integration of who you are and what you create. For founders, our businesses are an extension of us. Our culture, the people we hire, and the gaps in how we operate are all connected to who we are as people. Improving ourselves and improving our companies aren’t separate tasks, and when you intentionally do both at the same time…they meet in the middle faster.

Now that’s some deep stuff. And it’s true stuff. And it’s what Junto is.

Junto isn’t us, the team. It isn’t only the amazing community, our Tribe. And it isn’t just an experience that ends after month number nine. It’s much bigger than all of that.

In the end, “Junto” is not something we own. It’s an experience, owned by each founder, shared with a community, taking place within you and within your company at the same time.

And every day I go to “work” I get to support founders (who rapidly become friends) as they go through this experience. And the big bonus is that while they are going through this experience, so are we, so am I.

So why do I love what I do? Well, when you’re constantly experiencing the above, loving and doing are really just the same thing.

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