14 years since launching Phoenix Staff, I’ve come to some realizations. Many that made sense then and that I wish I had remained true to, and others that simply didn’t hit my radar then, but do today. Quick background, I have started or co-started 6 companies in my lifetime (only 2 of which I am still involved with or survived). I will never call myself serial anything or even want to be called that, but really like the process and enjoy the learning most of all. Not sure if this is true of everyone who have been on the journey, but there’s so much perspective that you can learn from others and principles and mindsets you can implement from the beginning to help you make things even better when you kick off your business. So many things that are worth reviewing and taking heed. Here’s the thing – none of it was heeded by me! Like, when you do a layoff, do it rapidly and not painfully through “1,000 paper-cuts” method. That would have been a good one to listen to.

Fortunately, we have a great team, solid business and a sense that we are appreciated.

Here are 5 simple things the past 14 years have taught me:

  1. Don’t add layers of management. We are a small company. We have never had more than 25 employees at our peak. It never made sense to have layers of people managing other people – yet I did. This didn’t benefit me, the team or the long-term growth plan. All it did was separate me from the business, the people who worked here and created much more turnover than ever should have existed in a company our size. It was, I suppose, simply a thought that every other company has managers, so why shouldn’t we. For us, hiring responsible people who know what they need to get done and then trusting them to go do it, should be enough. No strike intended against those who served in those roles, they were hired or promoted into the roles by me. A flat style works better for me and will likely be our approach for a very long time and was actually the original intent. Sticking to that plan!
  2. Do what you say you will do. People get busy and the day gets away from you. I know people who are FAR busier than me (you do too), but they are far more efficient and effective than me and they always seem to get their stuff done and fulfill their promises. Why? I think it is primarily because they limit what they promise they will do and only commit to what they know they can commit to. I used to commit to everything. Surprisingly, very little got done and I found myself apologizing a lot. Now, my goal is to only make the promises I can keep, commit to what I know I can do.
  3. Don’t expect everyone to be empathetic at the same “levels”. Little did I know, empathy is not a universal thing. It is learned and definitely, in our industry, something that is very important to learn. It is okay that people don’t care as much as you or that they care more than you. It doesn’t make someone better or worse, just different. Varying levels of empathy exist, I suppose that is all part of what makes the world go ’round.
  4. Transparency is important and you should know what you’re comfortable with and then share to that level. This is written about and talked about with authors I read or folks that I get to hang out with a lot. There are those who say, “share some stuff, but not everything” and those who say you can never “over” share with your team. My personal belief has changed over the years and now it falls squarely to this determination – if there is something impeding my ability to communicate effectively with you (as a client, a co-worker, a vendor, whatever) I will share it. If I can get over it and move on, I won’t. If your lack of transparency impedes your ability to get things done – be more transparent. By the same token – if someone else’s transparency (they “over” share) impedes your ability to work with them – tell them! It would be terrible to think that my over-communication is driving people crazy or making them less effective in what they do. Be open to feedback.
  5. Be grateful for people who want you to win. Over time, I will get to you all! Jamie BarmachRobert Jacobson and Bryan Vincent are 3 who easily can take credit for not only early assistance, but RJ and JEB for ongoing encouragement and constant reassuring that we are on the right path. Thank you!

These are but a few of the things that hit me as I was writing this. Another one is that I am tired of saying “I”, so will do better at that in the future as well. Happy New Year to all and thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey. Wishing you and your family health, prosperity and happiness in 2017. Cheers!