Anyone currently “playing the corporate game” knows it’s not for the faint of heart. Office politics, a who-you-know culture and a quarterly earnings mentality can hinder motivation and impede your ability to succeed.
I bought into this game for a long time before realizing I would never achieve financial security by following someone else’s plan. I based my success on how other senior leaders viewed me, not solely on my performance. The days of exceeding quotas and being rewarded for it had vanished.
I’d grown tired of participating in the game everyone else was playing. I recognized I needed to focus on a different game: one with less competition, less bureaucracy, and fewer rules. I knew I needed to go somewhere I could be rewarded for results, where I could fail quickly and recover with even faster solutions, and where my value was recognized. So I did.
A New Direction: Fractional Sales Leadership
Starting out, my idea was to pursue sales training and coaching, but I quickly learned many viewed this as a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have. Sales coaching is often the first line item dropped from a budget, partially because it assumes that a business owner will be able to implement the strategies you propose.
That’s when I pinpointed the disconnect: Business owners didn’t just need a coach; they needed effective sales leadership to build their sales infrastructure properly and lead the team. They also need all of this done in a fraction of your time estimate and within their budget.
After some cursory Google and LinkedIn research, my co-founder, Chad Meyer, and I realized that no other company was addressing this market. Many had already built a fractional model in marketing, finance, and other departmental areas, but they had not followed suit in sales leadership. We decided to make the leap.
At the time, I was emotionally somewhere between being excited to create something new and concerned that it had been attempted in the past and there simply wasn’t a market for this type of service. We knew we’d be solely responsible for educating the owners of small to midsize businesses that they had a choice in sales leadership. Letting companies know they had a unique option — one that they didn’t even know existed—was daunting, but it was something we felt uniquely equipped to do.
4 Crucial Investments for New Leaders
Today, our fractional sales leadership business is booming—growing by more than 50% annually—and I’m still thrilled with my decision to leave corporate America. Along the way, I learned I had to spend money to make money. And the same goes for you.
If you want to stand up ideas that could make you millions, you must be willing to invest in the following areas:
1. Foundational Basics
Even the basics—especially the basics—need investment. We spent too little time and money on our first website; where we should have spent $40,000 to $50,000, we only spent $5,000. Those “savings” led to inferior foundational elements that we had to redo later. We lost time and money by not doing it right the first time.
That said, you’ll want to spend wisely when you’re getting started by focusing on the things that matter most for your early success. Investing in things like software systems, facilities and key personnel will help lay a strong foundation from the beginning.
2. Your First Hire
When evaluating an expense, make sure you’re also considering your likely return on investment, or ROI. We made the mistake of waiting too long before finding a director of operations. Once we did, it took only a matter of weeks to realize she made it possible for us to focus on what we did best: sales leadership. She focused on her area of expertise. Make sure you invest in the right hire, too. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hiring the wrong person can cost your company 30% of that employee’s first-year earnings.
3. Failing Quickly
This is more of a mental investment: Fully embrace your risk of failure. Know that the more quickly you fail, the sooner you can iterate and rebuild. The longer you cling to the idea of being right, the longer you’re standing in your own way. When I realized I had lost myself in my sales career before striking out on my own, I knew I had to make the leap and find something meaningful. If you feel you need something more, pay attention to that pull and dive in.
4. A Mentor or Advisory Board
For the first few years, we had a lot of head trash concerning what was possible; we inadvertently placed limitations on our business. Our eyes were opened when we hired an advisory board of experts from different disciplines. They challenged us to think differently, dream bigger, and take paths we hadn’t considered. To build a great advisory board, create a shortlist by asking people in your network for recommendations. Look for people who have rebounded from past failures, doing your best to include people from different backgrounds.
Success is wonderful, but it’s even better when it results from you overcoming a challenge. If you’re ready for the challenge of a lifetime—and limitless potential on your income and success—it might be time to go out on your own. Just be prepared to invest in yourself and your decision.