In my day-to-day life, I often question whether or not I am the right leader for my company. Am I making the right decisions? Am I moving things fast enough? Does my team believe in what I do? Is our industry and direction the right one?
Entrepreneurship wasn't something that I learned in school, nor was it my first career plan after leaving college. Looking back, I have run Blueye for almost 9 years and have helped shape the company into what it is today by growing the company from 2 to 18 employees, raising money, shifting its direction, and initially acting as the primary salesperson. We are a successful technology company in a very fast-paced industry with a true opportunity to grow and scale. However, even with many accomplishments, I still had moments of doubt along the way.
If a situation arises and I begin to question myself, I take into considering these four main points to help keep myself motivated and on track.
1. Find Your Validation
At a time when I felt that I had failed the company due to a dramatic shift in the company's direction and push back from personnel, I will never forget how reassuring it was to be accepted into the Springboard Accelerator Program. It could not have come at a better time, and it was the validation I needed to realize that my company plan had support. I also saw my specific contributions as remarkably valuable for my business, my employees, and my self worth as a company leader.
It is incredibly important to stop for a moment, take a look outside of the box, and find a way to validate the work you have accomplished. Do not limit your potential to only your own thoughts. Look to outside mentors, either through a program or your trusted peers.
2. Understand What You're Doing Is Hard
Unlike many career paths, being an entrepreneur does not come with any kind of playbook and so the directions you go in will not always seem clear-cut. Not everyone goes out and starts a company. Being an entrepreneur has risks. These risks could equal no rewards despite a lot of time, effort and money--but that was a chance I was willing to take.
I believe in what I am doing and I believe in my team. Look at your indicators: are you able to sell your product or service? What's the reaction you get when you talk to people? Do they light up when you explain it for the first time, or do they seem confused about your message?
3. Accept Yourself as a Leader
While in the Springboard accelerator program, at one point I uttered the words, "If I am not the right person to run this company, I am willing to step down to do what is best for the company". The silence and tension in the room could be cut with a knife. My peers and mentors quickly pointed out this needless self deprecation and asked, "Who told you that?" and "Why on earth would you think that?"
It was my leadership "aha" moment. I finally accepted that I was the leader of my company, even though I had been a leader for the last 9 years. It's ok to surround yourself with people who are just as smart as you, if not smarter. Great leaders know how to surround themselves with the right people. As individuals, we can get things done, but as a team working together, we can move mountains.
4. Know that the Right Decisions Don't Always Feel Good
I have learned that it is important to know how best to delegate the tasks on hand to others based on their skill-set. You cannot micro-manage. There is only one of you and only so much time in the day. You hired your team for a reason and you should trust that they will get things done the right way. It is easy to tell right away if someone is not up to par. If the person does not perform well, cut the ties fast and do not make it personal. The longer that you hope they will do better, the worse. Doing what is best for the entire team sets you and your company up for success.
Shannon Smith is Founder & CEO of Blueye, a company that helps brands define the engagement journey and build tailored social programs that drive loyalty and ROI. She has been featured in Crain's Chicago, Adweek, and under her leadership, Blueye has been listed as one of the top 10 design companies in Forbes 2009, one of the top 10 web development companies in Entrepreneur Magazine in 2008 and became one of Facebook's preferred marketing partners, holding 2 of the 4 available badges. Shannon devotes what little spare time she has to saving animals through a rescue that she co-founded in 2013. Follow her on Twitter @shannonblueyes @blueyesocial