Hiring is easy on paper. I am usually really good at hiring but this year I selected an employee that wasn’t right for our team. In retrospect I knew he wasn’t right after a few days of working with him but I had deadlines around the corner and no other candidates on the radar. After a month of deadline chasing it was crystal clear it wasn’t going to work—he knew it, I knew it and the rest of the employees knew it. I compounded an already bad problem by keeping him on a project because of an impending deadline. Nothing makes a potential employee watch You Tube all day quicker than the combination of being paid hourly and knowing you aren’t getting hired FT. This mistake on my part led to: two late/micromanaged projects and lots of do-over’s.
Scope Management involves more than saying, “that’s going to cost you extra.” I want our company to do great work. I want us to work on projects that allow our employees to shine and leave our clients thrilled. But the reality is when you are starting out you:
a. Need to build up your reputation and pay your bills
Which leads to…
b. Going above and beyond
c. Sometimes doing too much out of scope work.
Scope definition at the outset of a project is usually clear if you did your homework. Scope-creep near the end of projects is the silent resource/profit killer that isn’t always as obvious. I said yes to out of scope work on a number of projects this year that neither made the client happy, saved time or made the project better.
A few times this year I let my frustrations become visible to clients and employees. When I give 100% and my 100% isn’t good enough I get flustered. When I should have given 100% but was pulled in too many directions I get frustrated—see the difference. There were a few meetings I was on where clients changed their mind, or vendors came unprepared, and my tone went to absolute shite. Passion may beget perfection. But unburnt bridges beget friendlier drivers. Ya know?
Not committing enough time to marketing and handshaking. I wear many hats at Eat Media, such is the life of a business owner and such is the life of business in its 2nd year. There are long-nights, business lunches, fires to douse, servers to reboot, proposals to re-do and credit card machine salesman to say “Please take me off your list,” to. During the past year I have been in one of two places—my desk and the whiteboard wall—good for work, bad for the sales pipeline. Face-to-face marketing and handshaking are absolutely necessary and I did not do a great job of being out there in 2009. I relied too much on our blog and Twitter and not enough on meeting people and creating relationships in person.
Not sticking to my strengths. Creative/CS and big picture strategy are my strengths. Content Strategy forces you to make many disparate pieces fit together and that jazzes me. Unfortunately great Content Strategy takes time and time management can be a start-up’s worst enemy. You need to have laser like focus but be able to drop and roll for a fire at any moment. Once you have the fire under control you need to hand off the hose. I spent too many nights in 2009 editing XML, making love to Photoshop and making sitemaps.
Growth requires honesty. What were your 2009 mistakes?