I stepped into a new role on March 27th of this year as the interim president of the company I sold in 2017.
Friday, June 14th was my last day.
I was interim president for seventy-nine days, and although returning to work in a full-time capacity wasn’t something I wanted to do, I learned more in the last seventy-nine days then probably at any other similar-length period in my business career.
For starters, you haven’t heard from me in a few weeks because I’ve been busy, and frankly, too focused on running a company and all that goes along with being the president. It occurred to me on multiple occasions that I needed to write a blog post, however, I wasn’t able to stay focused and engaged in writing for a long enough period of time. I started a couple of blogs, but I just wasn’t into it. It showed in the idea flow and writing, and I decided that it was better to not post than to post something I wasn’t proud of.
I’m back to writing.
More importantly, I’m back in spirit.
Stepping back in as president wasn’t something I really wanted to do. I was quite busy with everything else I had going on in my life, consulting, real estate, investing, and managing my personal affairs, all of which had to take a back seat for the last almost three months. I realized though that if I was going to do a good job, and turn things around in the business, I had to stay laser-focused on what needed to be done.
I’ve come to learn a few things about entrepreneurship, leadership, and change management, all of which was new learning for me. Ironically though, my most important learning experience wasn’t even business related. It was personal.
It’s Off to Work I Go
Minutes after stepping back in on March 27th and announcing to the staff that I was now acting interim president, I had this nagging feeling that I had made a big mistake. I had accepted a role and responsibility I wasn’t completely interested in fulfilling but was now mine. The words “you touched it, it’s yours” must have run through my mind at least a dozen times that day.
I wanted to quit.
There I was, standing in front of a room full of people, coworkers, accepting responsibility to lead them along a path of business salvation, and the person that was promising to “fix” things wanted to quit.
That was a new feeling for me.
My biggest fear wasn’t that I had to get back to work. My biggest fear was that I would mess things up so badly, even worse than they were and that I would be stuck, back in the very business I sold just 18 months prior, working indefinitely at trying to get things back in order. “You touched it, it’s yours.”
I knew instinctively that I had to eliminate the negative thoughts from my mind as quickly as they entered my mind. I knew that if I said to myself “I can’t” or “I don’t want to,” that I was affecting myself in a negative physiological way, and rather than describing the present, I was actually prescribing my future failure. Even thinking the words “I can’t” would mean programming my subconscious. I was playing mind games with myself.
The first week back was a whirlwind.
There was a lot of work to do, and I had to quickly figure out what was wrong. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone.
Importance of a Team
I quickly realized that there was a team of very devoted, passionate, bright, and dedicated individuals, all of whom were just as anxious as I to get things back in order. Everyone wanted their company back.
I was approached by many, many individuals who pulled me aside and offered their assistance. We were all in this together, and I wasn’t going to let them down.
I had to quickly figure out a few things:
– Who was going to be able to help
– What initial suggestions did they have
– What area, department, and issue needed the most attention
Now here was my challenge.
When I was actively running my company prior to the business sale in late 2017, I was able to devote sixty, and sometimes more, hours a week to running my business, and while I had a large team of very dedicated individuals and managers who did an awesome job at running their department, I nevertheless got involved in many of the tactical and day-to-day tasks.
This time was different. And herein lies the irony and my learning experience.
Here’s what I wrote in my April blog post titled “Another Chance at Bat as I Step Back Into a Management Role“:
Running a business is a full-time, 60-hour-a-week job. My problem is, I don’t have 60 hours a week to devote to being the president of a company. For starters, I have a number of private clients that take up about 10 to 15 hours a week of my time. I also maintain this blog, my apartment buildings, and all of my other personal affairs, not to mention the fact that I made a conscious decision to step away from the rat race and stress of the day-to-day management of a business.
In order for me to do a good job of cleaning things up in the business in the limited time of 20 hours a week, I have to count on the current management team, which includes individuals in marketing, sales, finance, technical, and operations.
Other than one department, I didn’t get involved in doing the tactical work, at all. I relied heavily on the team to do the heavy lifting, and while I didn’t quite work 20 hours a week (it was more like 35), I found myself making a deliberate effort to lean heavily on the team.
And the team delivered.
My involvement in running the business was almost entirely strategic. We managed to clean things up (again, other than one department) rather quickly, morale improved, and the business is now in much better shape than it was just a few weeks ago. Although there is much more work to do, I can confidently say that the team, alongside the new president, is now ready to double the revenue inside the next five years.
Within my first week back, we hired an executive search firm who was responsible for finding a suitable replacement president. Things moved rather quickly.
Boris started on June 11th. We made the official announcement to the staff on June 12th, I spent the next few days helping the new president with his onboarding, and said my official goodbyes on Friday, June 14th.
Leaving the business at the end of day Friday was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, I am relieved that I can get back to my old life, but on the other, I grew attached, once again, to the idea of being involved in the day-to-day challenges and excitement of growing a business and to the people at work, who I view as extended family members.
Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, but I did so knowing that my work was done, the team is ready, and there’s a very capable new president at the helm ready and able to take the lead.
As for next steps, I can now get back to semi-retirement. I’m excited by what I have coming up in the next few weeks, which includes a possible foray into angel investing. I’ll share more about my eleven-week business experience, and angel investing, in future blog posts. In the meantime, there’s an Aberlour scotch (my favorite) and sunset waiting for me.
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