Brenda Stallings | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Brenda Stallings

Background:  

Matrix Integration is a Fishers, Ind.-based information technology advisory firm for clients ranging from public sector to healthcare to financial institutions.

The Mistake:

I started out very early in my career, at age 19, as an entrepreneur. Building a company, you start out building relationships. You make contact and talk with the people you know to build the relationships and demonstrate what you have to offer. That’s kind of where you get started.

Then, if you’re doing what you need to do, sales are growing. What happens as you grow you start adding people. People take time and energy to teach them about their role in your company. It takes away time from “selling” and you juggle between training people and being in front of your clients. Then you hire folks that may not work out and it takes more and more time.

In training people, you also learn to allow folks to adapt their own style and find many are motivated when given some “figure it out” leeway.  You learn to be adaptable because there are many ways of getting a job done.

As I was growing the company as an entrepreneur, you move away from having those close relationships that you really needed to keep because other activities took up more and more of your time. I also started a family and they want your time, too.

To grow business you desire more clients, with larger budgets to support that growth. You have even less time. Now you hire middle managers, right, and now it takes time to teach them and the cycle continues.

It’s always prudent as an owner to keep a direct relationship with C-level folks and with strategic accounts.

The Lesson:

What I learned is that even though you have sales reps and middle managers working with clients, it’s always prudent as an owner to keep a direct relationship with C-level folks and with strategic accounts, as well as with your strategic vendors.

Even though the WIN—what’s important now—changes, what should not have changed along my journey was keeping a pulse and a focus with strategic accounts at the C- and the executive level.  I should have decided all along that journey to stay involved.

Make sure that you have a good portion of your time spent on what’s important now—and those relationships with strategic accounts. I guess that’s my biggest “Aha!” moment.

Now that a new president has been hired and I have moved to CEO, we’re putting executive sponsorships in place. We have strategic accounts that we are responsible to network with and build those relationships.

I’m spending more time working on the business rather than in it, to keep more in touch with the customer and it’s working.

 

Follow Brenda Stallings on Twitter at @MatrixTechTeam.

Pictured: Brenda Stallings | Courtesy Matrix Integration.