All posts by Todd Uterstaedt

193 — Christopher Wink

Podcast Summary:

Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt like you were not really worthy of the CEO title yet, even though you have the responsibilities? Christopher Wink explains why it took him 8 years to take the title of CEO of the company he co-founded. It’s an incredibly honest interview full of insight. Plus, he shares one of his biggest leadership mistakes on the road to CEO and the effects it had on his growing team.

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This will make you a better Founder & CEO

My first consequential team leadership experience occurred when I worked at Service Merchandise in Derby, Connecticut.

I volunteered to lead our annual MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) fundraising event. Basically it was a big car wash on steroids. There were carnival games for the kids, visits from Miss Connecticut and the town mayor, lots of tables with homemade baked goods for sale, and of course, lots of cars washed by almost every junior high and high school sports teams in the area.

It was a spectacle. It was chaotic. It was fun. Many were happy. We made lots of money for MDA…record breaking for this annual event.

The next year, I volunteered again. It seemed much more difficult to replicate the same atmosphere, spirit, and fundraising results.

I was baffled.

Some of the dignitaries decided not to attend. We had a smaller number of volunteers making and selling baked goods. And, we didn’t raise nearly the same amount of money as we did the year before.

What was different? Me.

A few kind-hearted people shared with me that I didn’t take the time to celebrate and acknowledge all the hard work, dedication, and time that all the volunteers provided in the previous year. And, they remembered that.

I was so focused on meeting my personal leadership milestones that I hadn’t really taken the time to acknowledge the milestones of our task force team and the volunteers. Their sense of accomplishment at a personal level and group level were different and I had not noticed.

Fast forward to 2017 and Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tirl, shared a similar lesson in a recent candid interview on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast.

Here’s her quote that caught my attention: “…what we realized is…there needs to be intentional recognition of incremental successes daily, that we celebrate…”

Carisa went on to explain that she was focused on the big goals of the company and not necessarily the daily achievements that her team and team members were accomplishing…because they were often different.

Has this happened to you? As the Founder you are so focused on scaling the company. You are so focused on transitioning from startup to scaleup, that you forget that a small act of recognition to one of your developers, or marketers, or anyone on your team, can go a very long way to building a culture that will stand the test of time.

I’m reminded of the famous meme that travels the internet. It is from Arthur Ashe. “Success is a journey, not a destination.”

From a practical perspective, you’ll get more from your scaleup team when you, as the Founder & CEO, model the behavior of celebration and acknowledgement on a more consistent and authentic basis.

I do think this is a relatively difficult thing to do for many of us Founders. We are often high achieving and results-driven people who are never really satisfied with the status-quo. That’s often the reason we became entrepreneurs in the first place.

I encourage you to think about this. Do you celebrate the accomplishments of your team members enough? Do you acknowledge the milestones of individual team members? Do you give praise with the biggest gift you have to offer? Your time and attention.

If you realize that your answer may be no. Take heart. Just begin asking your team members what acknowledgement and celebration looks like through their eyes. Take note and begin to incorporate their ideas into your own calendar, behaviors, and the culture of your company.

You will probably end up getting much better results than I did on year two of my MDA fundraising leadership experience.

What works for your team? How do you celebrate at your company?

Please consider sharing your thoughts below so we can all learn together.

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192 — Carisa Miklusak

Podcast Summary:

Over the past two and a half years, many of you have told me that hiring is one of, if not THE biggest challenge you face as you scale your companies. Because of that I have tried to invite guests who not only share their unique lessons learned on the journey from Founder to CEO, but also provide valuable insight into the new and innovative ways of hiring.

Carisa fits both of these requirements…big time. She and her team at Tilr have designed a truly game changing service that makes the challenging process of hiring, that much easier. In this interview you’ll learn about what her team is doing in the space and Carisa gets personal sharing a recent discovery she learned about herself as a CEO and the impact it has had on her growing company.

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Want more productivity?

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I’d Rather Waste Money on Jet Skis Than Invest in a Sales Funnel

SPECIAL NOTE: For this post, I asked Musa Sulejmani to share his thoughts about  how he has managed to build such a strong and committed team at Volume Technologies. Musa was our guest in episode 189 of the “From Founder To CEO” podcast. Let me know what you think. – Todd

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By: Musa Sulejmani, Founder & CEO of Volume® Technologies, Inc.

Yes, I’d rather spend my day riding a jet ski, sipping martinis with my best friends and run up a tab than invest in a sales funnel.

Spoiler Alert: My best friends are my co-workers.

I believe at the core of any business, whether you’re Google, Facebook, or even one of the high school students who have an idea, team development is the most important part of your business. The most powerful empires of all time began as a movement, a team of people who were brought together because they shared a similar vision.

Not only do these groups share a vision, but they grow together. Teams that develop together, share their visions, their fears, all while growing together. A lot of the time, they even fail together. That’s because team development increases productivity, fosters innovation, and creates unbreakable bonds.

I like speaking from personal experience. Let’s rewind back to February 2017 when my company, Volume Technologies, released its principal product, Volume, in a small, controlled market in Champaign, Illinois. Our team was small and outside of the founders, there wasn’t huge commitment. Productivity was slow, I was micromanaging, and pretty much forcing our meetings. I found myself irritated constantly wondering why the team outside of the founders didn’t care. Why was it that they’d rather spend time on homework and not hands-on projects that people wanted to use.

There was no emotional investment in the company.

I realized quickly that no one wanted to work on something with people they didn’t grow with, they didn’t care about. Why should they?

I had an idea. I merged the software development culture with our event-planning culture. I began inviting our development team to the events we were planning at the release of our product. Not even a week later, I was getting messages from the development team asking when our next meeting was and what they can be working on. They cared. Because I merged cultures together, gave them a platform to all grow together on, in this case it was parties, we were all able to grow together. This is why I now encourage all product managers, founders, etc. to plan company retreats or get togethers and have fun with their team.

When I was receiving those messages and calls from my team, I wondered how I could get away from my micro-managing tendencies and increase buy-in. Every book on leadership I ever read talked about team buy-in. I wanted to learn about it in the real world. I began asking my team if they felt we were innovative enough. What could we be doing better? I was amazed at the feedback I was receiving. In fact, it was so moving, when I emailed my mentor for advice, he told me I was doing fine, reassuring me that most product managers would “kill for that type of buy-in.”

Letting go of what I wanted and asking what others wanted was the first step in learning about delegation and the truth about innovation. Innovation never comes from the vision of one. It comes from the perception of many and change occurs collectively.

Becoming more of a, dare I say, ‘cool’ founder, has propelled my company forward. Being ‘cool’ has developed unbreakable bonds between myself and my team. I’ve almost never feared abandonment from any of my core team members. We have already all grown together, endured a lot of failure and a lot of success. It’s in a sense, like a marriage. The more you go through and stick together, the more you grow together.

We were working with a company whose founder had a decently successful track record in the 90’s during Web 1.0 (necessary step forward for tech, but ew). I pride myself on giving everyone an opportunity. That’s the person I am. After working with this company for a few months, we learned they were trying to backdoor fund their own company using our company’s success. Nice. Flattering, but in poor taste. After this obviously exploded in their face, they tried to poach every single one of my team members.

I never worried.

I had the trust in my team to stick together. We did. Not only did we stick together, but we grew stronger and grew faster than we even imagined. Now, we’re on track to release a national version of our app, Volume.

What I learned from this experience was that, by investing in my team’s future and caring about them, I not only grew myself and became an insightful leader, but I helped give a lot of people a sense of belonging and purpose. That’s invaluable.

What I encourage people to realize is that your team is like any relationship, especially like a marriage. Well, I’m not married but from what I read/see, it’s like a marriage. You have to always be communicating, compromise, and grow together. Sticking together and growing together with your team can do wonders for your company’s productivity, innovation, and bonds. After all, if you aren’t all in the water riding jet skis together, you can’t all drown together.

Musa Sulejmani is the Co-founder & CEO of Volume Technologies. Volume is a data analytics company that focuses on how people interact with not only each other but with their surroundings. Volume measures crowd and traffic movement at various areas including wait times, capacity, male/female ratios, and more. Volume uses machine learning and predictive analytics to forecast traffic patterns which has helped businesses plan for staffing, delivery drivers plan for pickup, and more.

Website – volumemobile.com

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/msulej/

Twitter – @musa_sulejmani

Facebook – www.facebook.com/msulej512

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Want more productivity?

Try some of these 63 productivity hacks from 50 Top Founding CEOs.
Download the PDF today!

You’ll also receive our ezine full of podcast updates and tips and tricks from Todd.