Building a global organization from the ground up is a dream of many entrepreneurs. Furthermore, doing it while working with some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 brands is what inspires many founders to launch their own company in pursuit of building a legacy. That is exactly what Mauricio Vianna did when he founded MJV Innovation, a consulting firm that advises brands like Coca-Cola, Delta, BNP Paribas, Cartier and more on strategies for business transformation, design thinking and digital innovation.
After founding the company in the 1990’s as a recent college graduate, Mauricio has now grown the firm into an authority in design thinking which boasts a team of more than 1,000 people in offices around the world. MJV has also become a platform for Mauricio to give back, launching tech education programs such as their Data Science School and RPA School, which are tuition free online training programs to help new professionals gain the skill sets to work in technology.
We connected with Mauricio to learn more about the early days of the firm, the lessons he learned scaling a 1,000+ person company and his advice for other entrepreneurs.
GritDaily: Can you tell us about founding MJV and what the early days were like?
Mauricio Vianna: I founded MJV Innovation in 1997. As a recent university graduate, and after leaving the Chicago Board of Trade Clearing Corp to accompany my family back to Rio de Janeiro, I was invited to work in banking as an individual consultant. My role was in helping the bank to develop an integrated and innovative Teller and ATM system. This project showed me a lot of challenges facing the entire financial industry with providing cutting edge customer experiences through IT. It was at that point that other financial companies began reaching out to hire me in a consulting capacity. That was when the idea of MJV was born.
As I began taking on additional consulting clients, I eventually realized that it was time to secure my own office space and begin building our team. I then reduced my work in banking to build MJV full time. I was also blessed to have my father and mentor, Ysmar Vianna, join the company very early on as my most important advisor. To this day, he serves as the chairman of MJV.
The early days of the company involved many long days. Building a successful company brought many challenges so those were difficult times. But as our momentum grew, I knew that we were serving a critical need in the marketplace that global companies across many sectors needed.
What important lessons did you learn that helped you grow the company to more than 1,000 employees today?
MV: The first lesson is that there is nothing more important in a company’s culture than how its employees are treated. From the beginning we made it a priority to build a team around kindness, respect and mentorship. We would not have been able to grow to more than 1,000 people around the world today if it were not for our guiding values around how we treat our people. Much of our success today is due to the fantastic people who work in our organization and the investment we strive to make in them everyday.
What were some of the hardest challenges of entrepreneurship?
MV: Growing a business is always difficult. In the early days you are struggling as an entrepreneur to do so much of the work by yourself, and then as your team grows, you have enormous responsibilities of leadership. Our greatest focus lies on taking care of our employees and our clients. Staying on the cutting edge of culture, technology and leadership is the most challenging and most rewarding part of building a large organization.
How can leaders cultivate a team and culture that fosters innovation and creativity?
MV: As a company who helps some of the largest brands in the world become more innovative through strategies involving design thinking, data analytics, and business transformation, it has been very important since day one that we practice what we preach within our own organization.
We have been blessed to build a highly agile, resilient culture using the very framework that we implement for clients like Coca-Cola, Delta, BNP Paribas and more. At the forefront is having a culture that is open and curious, asking questions and building an environment where teams can work together to creatively solve problems.
Tools like design thinking and business transformation have never been more critical in the toolbox of c-suite teams. As the world we are in becomes more volatile and unpredictable, organizations cannot plan for every unexpected scenario. Instead they need resilient, agile cultures that can adapt and innovate in any environment.
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