Bold Growth: Bryn Knatterud '02 on Spiritual Accountability
What: A software and app development company
Why it's Unique: Owner Bryn Knatterud actively works to process decisions through a lens of spiritual accountability.
Notable Clients: 3M • MPR Blue Zones • APM • Pizza Lucé Party City • Anagram
A Question of Contract
It's 2017, and Bryn Knatterud '02 has a work for hire contract on the desk in front of him. He could sign it. But it wouldn't give the client what they really want. He knows that, but the client doesn't know that.
Knatterud has been here before. In the spring of 2015 another client sent him a work for hire contract in hopes of capitalizing on the software Knatterud's company, Acts Media, had developed for them.
"You can go ahead and sign it," Knatterud's lawyer said. "It's not going to give them all they probably want, but you can sign it." So, without clarifying expectations with the client, Knatterud signed it. And he saw the relationship with that client crumble.
Late into the slushy spring of 2015, sitting in the back room of a truck repair shop with eight other Twin Cities business owners, Knatterud processed that decision as well as the fallout.
"I should have brought the decision to the group before I made it," he says. "As we talked, I realized that I hadn't acted in line with my values. While the lawyer's advice was accurate legal advice, it wasn't good relational advice."
The Business of Spiritual Accountability
"The group" refers to a group of business owners, all Christ followers, who meet regularly at each others' business sites to discuss what it looks like to develop a Christ-honoring business and life.
"Anytime you have relationships where you can share your internal thought processes —whether business related or just personal— and where you're vulnerable, that is going to help you grow," says Knatterud.
Anytime you have relationships where you can share your internal thought processes —whether business related or just personal— and where you're vulnerable, that is going to help you grow.
He sees the feedback he gets during these times as offering "the opportunity to ask the Lord to help me to change."
An opportunity he faced in 2017.
This time his team was invited to design software for a company in the home services industry. The team saw potential for this software to be adapted for other industries. While signing a work for hire agreement wouldn't take away that option, Knatterud felt certain that what the client actually wanted was full control and ownership of the software.
"So in that situation, I immediately emailed them and said, Hey, this document doesn't do what you think it does." Knatterud went on to explain which document they would need, but then clarified that he wouldn't be open to signing away the software.
"We hadn't started working together yet. But that moment created trust, because instead of trying to tip the scales in my favor, I put it all out in the open."
Acts Media built the software, the company was happy, and Knatterud remained true to his values.
A Second Chance
Interestingly, around this time that first company from 2015 came back to work with Knatterud, this time with clear expectations on both sides.
"One of the fears people have is that they're not getting a good deal. A good deal is each party feeling like they're getting a good deal. You really need to create an atmosphere of openness and trust to have good business."
You really need to create an atmosphere of openness and trust to have good business.
As for spiritual accountability in his business? Knatterud continues to meet regularly with other business owners, checking in and challenging his choices.
Bryn shares: "I better understand my own values because of the other people that I'm in relationship with who are encouraging me to do the right thing. Entrepreneurs get used to making decisions on their own, however including others supports me in living out my values."
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