Everyone assumes the company's CEO is fully committed to the vision. The truth is, a lot of CEOs aren't. Around 2007, I was one of them.
We were, at the time, a creatively driven email marketing company. People hired us for our email design. We were being very opportunistic. We said yes to anything and weren't strategic about it.
It wasn't fun to work there. I wanted Brooks Bell to be a data-driven testing company, where the analysts were the rock stars.
I left the office for about a year, going to different data conferences to learn that world. By the time I got back, I knew what I had to do. I needed to change my team, change all of our clients, shift from creative to data, and completely redo my business model. We started with the team. We let five people go, which was the most difficult moment I've ever had. Another five people left on their own over the next three months. Then I hired 10 people over the next six months, people who were aligned with the new goals. We had four major clients at the beginning of this period, and we retired one of them every year.
It was the first time I finally embraced the idea of thinking strategically, not waiting for someone to pick me and tell me what to do. I got to go out and create the market I wanted.
Most entrepreneurs won't admit they're not all in and are feeling less committed than they once did. But realize: It starts with you. Have a vision of what you want. Let there be a huge gap between where you are and how you're going to get there. Map out the next two steps and let the rest be a gray area. Trust that you'll get there if you stick to that vision.
As told to Inc. staff writer Issie Lapowsky.