“I spent a lot of years helping bring other people’s big ideas to fruition. It’s exciting to be doing it for myself!”
Meet Kate Earle, the founder of Cultivate.how, a company focused on leadership development — unlocking team performance to accelerate business results. She believes the source of company’s problems isn’t that leaders don’t have the ability to be great, but in today’s workplace they can’t do it on their own. Business success depends on the strength of the team.
Kate has a passion for helping people be their best selves at work. Her doctorate from Penn is in adult learning. At first, she thought would focus on working with adults in academia, but then fell in love with the challenges of workplace learning and development. Dr. Earle’s specialty is designing and implementing performance strategies that move people, teams, and organizations toward their goals.
Along the journey to founding her own firm, Kate led strategic learning and development initiatives across diverse industries, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. She was the Chief Learning Officer for Quiet Revolution, committed to unlocking the power of introverts. Kate helped create more inclusive workplaces and consulted with NASA, GoDaddy, P&G, Walmart and LinkedIn, among others. She is certified in the ROI Institute’s measurement methodology and her areas of expertise include leadership development, sales effectiveness, change management, performance consulting, and measurement.
Tell us a bit about your company
At Cultivate.How, we unlock team performance to accelerate business results.
What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
It’s estimated that $366B is spent annually on leadership development globally. And 75% of companies believe that spend isn’t producing desired results. We believe the source of the problem isn’t that leaders don’t have the ability to be great, but that in today’s demanding workplace they can’t do it alone. Business success depends on the strength of the team. Being a great team doesn’t happen by chance. We show teams how to optimize their greatness.
What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?
My passion for helping people be their best selves at work has deep roots. My doctorate from Penn is in adult learning. Originally I thought I would work with adults as learners in academia, but then discovered the world of workplace learning and development and fell in love. I’m endlessly curious about how adults learn, adopt new skills, and sustain behavior change in dynamic workplace ecosystems. As a lifelong learner, I totally geek out on the evolving science of how our brains work, how humans come together to get work done, and how we can help each other thrive on the job.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
We have had the very good fortune of working with our clients year over year. We pride ourselves on deep, trusting, long term relationships that grow as our clients grow. For example, we started working with one client five years ago when they were just on the cusp of global expansion. During our time with them they not only went global but added four new products to their portfolio and nearly doubled their workforce. They’re now in the process of being acquired. We like to think our work with their sales teams has contributed to that success story.
What has been one or two of your biggest learnings so far?
One of my biggest learnings has been to become comfortable with the natural ebbs and flows of running your own business. Inevitably, the sleepless nights stressing over the latest small business challenge lead to some completely unexpected, delightful good news the next day. I’ve learned to have faith in this cyclical process and just keep breathing.
What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
Currently, our biggest challenge is how to grow our business beyond our organic network of clients. To date, our growth has been based on personal connections and referrals. To take things to the next level we want to be in conversation with new organizations who might benefit from our team performance approach.
What surprises have you encountered as an entrepreneur? Something out of left field?
As an entrepreneur, there’s hardly a day that goes by without a surprise! But one that really stands out for being particularly unexpected is running this business with my husband. He too is an entrepreneur who advises early stage ventures. When I first started Cultivate he was happy to lend a hand but what surprised us both is how well we compliment one another professionally and he’s not actively involved in the day-to-day. Being life and business partners is certainly not for the faint of heart yet it brings me a surprising amount of satisfaction.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
Starting my own business has been rewarding on so many levels. I love having the creative license to design solutions and services that make people’s lives better while simultaneously having the autonomy to bring those designs to life in ways that reflect my personal values. I spent a lot of years helping bring other people’s big ideas to fruition. It’s exciting to be doing it for myself!