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Future State

Future State was founded under the name TechProse by Meryl Natchez 35 years ago. Natchez, a sought- after technical writer, recruited a number of her trusted friends and colleagues to join her as her business grew. As it happened, many were working parents, like Meryl herself.

In a time when it was less common to prioritize work-life balance, Natchez took a non-traditional results-oriented view to what mattered most in the work environment. She empowered her team to do what they needed to do to get the work done, with excellence, while also empowering them to take care of their families.

Shannon Adkins, current CEO of the firm, now named Future State, began her journey with the company after graduating from college in the 90’s. With an English degree and no idea what to do for a living, she interviewed for a technical writing position with Natchez and received some advice.

Meryl told me, “You are probably the world’s worst technical writer but I think you’d make a great salesperson,” Adkins said. Natchez gave Adkins an assignment: “Go figure out what the internet is and what we should be doing with it.” This was typical of her style - giving young and promising team members tremendous accountability and with it, the freedom to do a great job.

Building a Positive Work Culture

A handful of peers from those early days at Tech Prose were also young women straight out of college, flourishing under Meryl’s leadership. As a testament to what the special work culture that was created, these women are still or once again with the company today. Lynette Phillips, a Portfolio Leader at the firm, has held numerous leadership roles in her nearly 25 year tenure. Jen Riebli leads the Learning and Development practice for the firm, Kathy Krumpe is COO and Adkins is now CEO.

As Natchez knew years ago, part of resilient community success requires caring for the next generation and creating a work environment that allows team members to bring their full self to work, and to their whole life. This makes Future State a compelling place to work for parents, who often find the consulting lifestyle to be unsupportive of their broader personal goals and priorities. Says Adkins, “Rather than seeing parenthood as a problem, we understand that parents who are actively engaged in their children’s lives actually make better leaders.”

Parents with careers or any team member with broad commitments beyond work, develop extraordinary skills in prioritizing, execution, leveraging resources and making tradeoffs.

“This is because they have this tension to give 100 percent at work and 100 percent to their personal commitments, and neither can be sacrificed,” Adkins said.

Akins remarks that Future State employees are good leaders because they not only do things right, but they also do the right things, always aware of the value of time.

“Future State has always been a place where a different approach is just as successful—and way more resilient,” Adkins recalls, “We like that we are a little weird.”

New Opportunities Emerge

When Adkins and Krumpe rejoined the firm in 2010, the recession and Natchez’s retirement had brought new challenges and fresh opportunities, and the stage had been set for a company transformation.

To meet the changing needs of the market, recalls Adkins, “We developed a miniature startup within Tech Prose and began selling totally new services and solutions, including larger, fixed price contracts for management consulting services.”

The new endeavors paid off quickly, and revenues grew, with new clients. Executives saw the potential in the new revenue streams, and in 2012, TechProse became Future State and began to fully build out its new brand.

When Adkins took over as CEO in 2015, the company was once again taking a fearless look at what works and exploring where the company should go next. During strategic planning, big-picture questions emerged: Why grow? Does the world need another consulting company? How will we be different, better, unique? And to what end? Why would it matter?

Defining a New Mission

A new mission emerged for Future State: We enable extraordinary visions that positively impact the world. To fulfill that mission, Future State changed to a community-based and event-driven recruitment model, bringing in talent members of the community to broaden and build relationship and make those clear matches with like-minded individuals. These prospective team members came from varied backgrounds, but they all wanted to be somewhere unique, contribute their unique talents, and to be a part of building something special. With a beautiful office environment, empowered employees who have a 100% ownership stake in the business, and extraordinary benefits, Future State continues to deliver on its goal of being different, better and unique, as an employer, and as a consulting company. Not surprisingly, great employees came on board and stayed, making the company even more resilient and valuable.

With a passion for equity, justice and inclusion, Future State added employee volunteerism policies and took on pro bono company projects as well as serving nonprofit clients at a discounted rate. It also hosts the Dellums Institute for Social Justice in it’s office space and offers summer internships to workers entering the work force from non-traditional paths.

Future State also works with Opportunity Junction, a program founded by Natchez, to help provide professional training and coaching to those who need it most. Instead of outsourcing jobs overseas, Future State is at work imagining ways to local-source unemployed and underemployed individuals in placements with their clients. Future State operates in an economy and a geographic area dominated by a short-term approach that pushes to build revenue fast and exit in three-to-five years. Once again rejecting a dysfunctional status quo, Future State is doing its part to build lasting success for their community.

Adkins sees economic changes across the Bay in San Francisco are hitting as hard, or harder, in Future State’s headquarters city. “We live and work in Oakland, one of the world’s most progressive and beautiful, vibrant places but also one with significant social challenges,” Adkins says.

“We have a challenged city government, high taxes, poor and failing infrastructure, a massive income divide, more technology companies coming in, displaced residents, and outrageous rents. Our company and other leading businesses in Oakland need to take a real role in preserving local arts and culture, affordable housing, and the overall community, and ensuring that a thriving economy benefits all of our residents and our community.” The benefits of this approach are apparent to clients, many of whom feel Future State is simply more empathetic to their concerns and authentically connected as a partner. Says Adkins, “Clients tell us they just feel listened to, cared for. They see us a true partner in helping them to achieve their visions. We share their values. We’re hoping to expand that approach to relationships with our vendors and partners, as well. We are all in this together”