Lessons Learned from Our First Year in Business
One year ago, we brought Sigred Solutions, a new management recruiting and leadership advisory firm, kicking and screaming into the world. The past 12 months have been a fantastic ride and the success (#sigredsuccess) has been beyond my expectations. Along the way, I have learned several lessons that I wanted to share. Some of these lessons have been a long time in the making, others came out of more immediate experiences. There are a couple of common threads across the lessons, especially: Intentionally grow your network – amazing people will lead you to other amazing people; and Don’t stop learning.
Here are the top five lessons that I have learned over the last year (at least):
1. Surround yourself with amazing people who share your passion. Sigred Solutions’ motto for recruiting is “Connecting great employers with amazing talent.” Bringing together amazing people has opened a lot of doors for us. My good friend Ron Stallworth (who I met through Leadership Detroit) introduced me to his partner (and now my business partner), Kristi Stepp. Kristi has brought to the firm a set of complementary skills and an enthusiasm that is truly infectious. In addition, she has introduced me to her vast network that I never would have met on my own. Paul Riser at TechTown is another amazing networker. He introduced me to Dean Johnson and Hughey Newsome, who helped as we were getting off the ground. Dean introduced me to Cheryl Czach (a great executive coach), with whom we have collaborated on several projects. These are just the tip of the iceberg. If you want some thoughts on how to grow your network, a fantastic resource is “Achieving Success Through Social Capital,” by Wayne Baker. Kristi introduced me to a great resource on building strong partnerships: “The Power of Two,” by Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller.
2. Invest in experts. I am incredibly frugal (read cheap) when it comes to business expenses (not, however, when it comes to triathlon gear). Historically, if I could do it myself to save a buck, I would. The past 12 months have taught me the value of investing in experts that can help me do the things I can now admit that I don’t do well (for example: graphic design and marketing). Some of the folks who have been really instrumental in our success include: Janice Ortbring (our amazing logo and collateral), Robert Herta (our brand strategy) and Dunrie Greiling (our website and copy editing). Leveraging experts has had two benefits: first, the end results are much better than anything I could have come up with; and two, off-loading things that I am not good at allows me to focus on doing the things I am good at, especially making connections and delivering amazing talent to our clients.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask. Throughout my career, I’ve always had the irrational belief that I need to have all the answers. Anyone who knows me may find this funny, because obviously – I don’t! This year has made me comfortable with the fact that I don’t need to have all the answers and more importantly, that I can ask people for help. I have always enjoyed helping others, but often felt that it was an imposition to ask for help myself. I have found that others enjoy providing help as much as I do, and that we are all stronger for it. Two books that helped me with this process are: “Give and Take,” by Adam Grant and “All you have to do is ask,” by Wayne Baker.
4. 80/20 rule. This was (and to be honest, still is) a hard one for me. My consulting days instilled in me a strong foundation/desire to make sure everything was absolutely, without a doubt, 100% before hitting send. I’ve learned that in running a small, rapidly growing firm, if I wait for everything to be 100%, nothing will get done (I will always be checking and rechecking). I have also found a lot of value in being iterative and in trying things out. We are continually tweaking our recruiting processes to provide better experiences for our clients and candidates. We’ve also done some on-the-fly content marketing over the last 12 months (for example our videos) that I never would have done without professional support (and maybe not even then) just a year or two ago. It is freeing (although still difficult) for me to let marketing things go with the understanding that occasionally there may be a typo. As a painful example, my first marketing e-mail was addressed to Dear [first name] and we somehow managed to survive.
5. Give back. Giving back to the community, by making connections and by donating time and money has been personally rewarding to me. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rob Pasick and Michael Cole to develop LeadersConnect Detroit which has brought together hundreds of leaders from across southeast Michigan. As a firm, we try to give back in many small and/or unexpected ways. Each connection we make strengthens our ties to the community and deepens our sense of purpose.
Thankfully, with the support of friends, family, colleagues, clients and candidates, Sigred Solutions’ first year has been a great success. I am looking forward to continuing to work with all of you as we jump into year two!
If you have any questions about the sometimes painful processes that led me to the lessons above, please let me know.