I work in a start-up business. I have been blessed with a great team who lived and breathed the company culture everyday – people who exude the passion to try new things and develop new ways of streamlining and becoming smart in how we grow and attract the right customers.
As a small company, we listened to each other – I mean, we really listened and we respected the viewpoints that each had to contribute, no matter how harsh. I believe in transparency, no matter how much it hurts the ego. Especially mine.
Continuous Change Needs To Be Enabled And Nurtured
I always thought I’d get it right off the bat because I was developing this company from the beginning. Not many leaders have had the benefit of creating a vision and cultivating it from its very beginnings. I have. It comes with amazing outcomes but also detrimental effects.
People Are Everything!
It doesn’t usually take long for me to trust people. My nature is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I also pride myself in the ability to spot awesomeness. It’s easy for me to latch onto people who speak about the future, new ways of thinking and their personal philosophies about where things are going. These are the people I tend to work with because they have this intrinsic drive that allows them to continuously question existing processes and figure out better ways to get things done. And I love that.
It’s because of this that we’ve streamlined our communication processes, improved our filing system and created a more structured way of running meetings. This has provided immense improvement especially in a company whose principles operate remotely in different parts of the U.S. and Canada and I have Joe Cardillo to thank for that. We’ve also improved the quality of our content. Susan Silver and Amy Tobin continue to be vigilant about producing valued content that our customers will read. I continue to be blown away with how data are being used to gain us more credibility and earn us more traffic in the process.
Being a leader doesn’t mean you know everything. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend I do. What I do know is that what we’ve built today is the work of a collective team that believes in the goals of the company.
Become Uncomfortable … Always
As a small company, we are always trying new things. We have often had uncomfortable conversations. Many times these discussions criticized a decision that has been already made. It often times made me question some of my personal views on a situation and my own process for coming to the conclusions I have.
As much as it may feel like it’s a personal slight, the criticism stems from the perspective about company direction and focus. I’ve been known to derail direction in response to some cool ideas that present themselves. My instinct has been to say, “Hey, who’s the boss here?” While I have been known to go after the shiny new objects without any thought to consequences, I have also checked myself in many other instances, allowing myself the time to regroup and think about what exactly has been questioned and why. I’ve also nurtured one on one meetings to allow more transparency and honest opinion.
In a start-up people will come and go, even the amazing ones. I take comfort in knowing that I’ve done everything I could to allow each one to develop to the point where they’ve felt compelled to spread their wings and find their own way. Regardless of the circumstances, there has been considerable learning on both sides. This is a business that thrives because its players want what’s best for the company. That is truly rare in big business.
This is also a business that continues to change because of market demand. We all have lived this nomadic career, that moves us from one opportunity to another because of economy, market readiness, business focus issues or internal dynamics that no longer maintains that alignment.
Change is a constant and I’m reminded of that everyday.
Make Mistakes… Then Move On
When I started this business I had absolutely no experience as an entrepreneur. I had some great experience as a marketer but not as a business person. This learning curve has been a steep one.
I won’t lie: we’ve repositioned the mission for this company several times. It’s been in response to market demand or lack thereof. Each time we’ve gone through the exercise of “Who we are and what do we want to be when we grow up?”, everyone provides their honest viewpoint. This challenges us but also forces us to rethink and refocus, with the intention of getting alignment into what the market needs.
I’ve also made some poor decisions: when it came to clients, our people and how things were done. But I’ve learned from them. I don’t doubt I will continue to make more mistakes and learn from those as well. It’s inevitable.
As this business grows up and changes, I would hope that I will continue to maintain the values that have been instilled from the beginning. I don’t doubt there will continue to be rough waters ahead but as long as everyone has a voice that is heard and listened to; and as long as they feel valued, will I will feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
This post first appeared on TalentCulture
Founder at ArCompany, and Co-founder of Salsa AI, Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.