I've always wished that I had a crystal ball that would allow me to see into the minds of other CEO's. How do they make decisions? How do they approach and communicate with their teams? I've always found that one of the most difficult decisions one makes as a manager is "how much do I tell my team?" How do all of the people I look up to make decisions about who in their companies are on a "need to know" basis? And what level of clearance do they have? Is there a secret tipping point at which you realize as a member of upper management that someone knows "too much," or "just enough," that it's time to clue them in on the companies grander plans?
This has happened to me in startup situations and in mid-sized digital agency settings. Do you tell everyone on the team about a potential deal that might go through? Or do you keep it close to your chest, in fear that a botched deal could lead to a downturn in morale?
Steli Efti, who I will be writing about later this weekend, has a great quote: "Startups run on morale." And I believe his statement to be true. I believe that positive morale is a bi-product of strong leadership, based in action and adherence to values. The questions I've posed above are not easy to answer because like so many frustrating things in life, the answers are always going to be situational. The relationship you have with your employees or your manager is just that....a real relationship. One of the best managers I've ever had (and one of the most amazing people I've ever met) beat this lesson into me. She knew that if I didn't have a sense of what the companies overarching strategy was I would easily become distracted and disengaged so she would go the extra mile and set time aside for us to talk about the abstract. I wanted to know what the CEO's were doing, and why. I feel like asking "why?" is a very fair thing of employees to ask their employers. Especially because I don't want to follow someone who hasn't asked that question of themselves first.
Most of my management experience has come in the form of trial and error. Learning to manage and communicate with people in businesses that I've started on my own without much direction. And boy, have I learned A LOT. There's nothing quite like feeling the rush of adrenaline you get when you know you've screwed something up with your own business. Said the wrong thing. Lost a deal because of your own hubris. It has a way of teaching you tough lessons in a very short amount of time (shame is one of the most powerful human emotions). I encourage anyone who's never owned their own business to go out and start one. I'm looking forward to putting together a post about some of the biggest business lessons I've learned from my own entrepreneurial ventures. I'm positive that at the very least you'll get a kick of my failures, because they haven't been pretty.
I sent out a message today on Slack to the entire OTB team about future direction of Only The Beat. It's extremely personal, but I'm hoping that giving you a window into my world can provide you with some new perspective about how you approach your business relationships in the future. I want you to see what this type of communication looks like. I want you to see how much I care about each and every one of the passionate people who've chosen to become a part of my world, our world. I want to hold myself accountable by putting this into the world where others have the opportunity to tear me apart and question my ability to follow through. I want you to provide me with feedback about my style and methods of communication with my team. I want to get better. I want us all to get better. And I'm hoping that the message blow is helpful for you in any way that you need it to be:
@channel: Hi Team, I couple announcements to make. I wanted to let everyone know that John Jensen, co-founder and CTO of OTB has stepped away from the business to pursue his own ventures with a new company here in Seattle. For any of you who are into vaping, check out his new line of e-vapor liquids at artisanclouds.com. I wanted to thank him for all of blood, sweat, and tears he's put into this blog over the last three years, and believe me, there have been all three. It's been a pleasure getting to watch him grow personally and professional and I'm confident that he will accomplish great things in both business and in life. I would encourage each of your to reach out to him and build your own relationship with him as he's an extremely valuable guy to know. I learn something new from him every time we talk, and that type of knowledge is something I truly value and look for in a friend. Feel free to hit me up via personal message to get his personal email (or add him as a friend on Facebook).
This being said, I now retain full ownership of the business, but that might not be for long, I know that I can't get OTB to that NEXT level with out the help and support of others, you included. I've gone ahead and taken the steps necessary to move OTB in a new positive direction that I believe is in line with the demands of the EDM market, so I'm asking you to be open to change while we enter a period of transition over the next 2 months.
The first step was finding someone new to help me on the technology side, I've done that with @imjustinbraun. Beginning Monday, Justin will begin leading a team of freelance developers that we've hired to build out a new platform for OTB. This is something that I've been wanting to do for the last 8 months, and I just wanted to give you my sincerest apology for not making better decisions that could have allowed this to move forward more quickly. But as you know, life is all about timing. In the last 8 months I started a new job, left that job, went through a break up, and moved home to Seattle after 4 years in Arizona to be closer to my 3-year-old son. I'm not bringing any of this up to make you feel sorry for me. I'm telling you because I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I let my personal life get in the way of the company's success. I'm also telling you because all of the things that have happened, all of the choices and decisions I've had to make, have reminded me about what's most important to me. What I need to focus on and how I need to get it done. It's given me new perspective and a new found sense of hope for Only The Beat. A sense of hope that I want to pass on to you. I want you to know that I'm more dedicated than ever to helping you accomplish your personal goals and the goals you have within the company.
Again, I'm asking you to bear with me during this time of transition. Continue writing with confidence and fostering important relationships. Don't forget that YOU are the reason people keep coming back to the site everyday. I'm extremely grateful for everyone's loyalty and dedication. I'll be the first to admit that it's been hard to be proud of the site lately. We haven't given users the experience they deserve. This note to you, and the work that will start Monday morning, is the first step of many in a new direction. I'm so thankful to have you along for the ride. Let's have some fun and share the music we love with the world.
I hope you found this post enlightening. Maybe you even like the way I do business. If that's true, then make sure you connect with me on Linkedin. I'm always looking for passionate people to share intellectually stimulating conversation with. Now go out there and leave the world a better place than you found it.