From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!


Tucked away in Old Town, the McChrystal Group is an advisory services and leadership development firm with a global reach. With the mission to improve the performance of organizations, their team has worked with varied industry sectors around the world. We caught up with Will Smith, Partner, to find out more.


AEDP: So, tell us a little about McChrystal Group.

Will: McChrystal Group is a leadership consulting firm. We help companies develop more effective systems & cultures to execute their strategy and to navigate change more effectively. We were founded by General (Ret.) Stan McChrystal, a 4-star General in the US Army, to help leaders in all industries deal with the complexity of today’s business environment – by building on the lessons he and his co-founders had gained in the post-9/11 military environment. Today, McChrystal Group is a team of 100 consultants, academics, experienced executives, and military veterans. We work with clients globally in all industries.


AEDP: How would you describe your company culture at McChrystal Group?


Will: Our company culture is based on the book Team of Teams, written by two of our senior executives – Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell (and two other authors). A Team of Teams culture is one that is inclusive, transparent, and empowers employees at all levels to take action and be creative. Ultimately, the culture we’ve tried to create with this Team of Teams ethos is one where all employees can act and think like owners, where they take a long-term view about building deep relationships with our clients and focusing on long-term impact.

AEDP: What’s the most rewarding aspect of running the business so far?


Will: The most rewarding aspect of our business is seeing leaders and companies we work with thrive. We go to work every day to empower our clients with the best thinking on how to lead an organization well – so seeing leaders embrace these ideas, and achieve great results, is wonderful to see. We’ve worked with some of our clients for four or five years now, so watching them build on our ideas in novel ways to continue dominating their industries is exciting.


AEDP: Can you share what the next big thing is for you? The next big project or milestone?


Will: For the past 5 years, McChrystal Group has developed and employed cutting-edge tools in data science to help our clients understand their own organizational performance. The next big project we’re working on is developing new analytical tools that allow for real-time understanding of how an organization is performing, how employees are interacting, and where leaders can make improvements and interventions in organizational culture – ultimately allowing for stronger cultures and constant improvement.

AEDP: What would you say is the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?


Will: A former colleague of mine had a simple lesson for me that’s guided me for years: “Life is long.” Taking a long view of life means building authentic relationships with people, viewing success in terms of years and decades, not weeks and months. It means never selling something unless you believe in the impact of what you’re selling. And it means that the problems you face today won’t kill you. We view growing McChrystal Group as a multi-decade endeavor, and our client relationships as a multi-year endeavor, and that’s served us really well.


AEDP: Lastly, will you share why McChrystal Group chooses to call Alexandria, Virginia home?


Will: We located our business in Alexandria because of unparalleled access to talent. Our business was founded by veterans, and hiring veterans who had unique leadership experienced forged in post-9/11 service was important to us. There are few places in the country with as many veterans as Alexandria and the surrounding towns, and being able to access that talent and create an organization where we could unleash that amazing talent on our clients around the country was very important to us. It is also an incredibly attractive destination for other types of talent to move! We’ve been able to recruit employees from amazing colleges and companies to come work with us in Alexandria, and it’s in no small part because our office is beautiful and the town we’re in is beautiful.

To learn more about McChrystal Group, visit their website.