Letting go to grow Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Just as parents struggle to let go of their children as they enter adulthood, Nina G. Vaca struggled with letting other hands work on her business as it grew.

“I brought in almost every customer myself, and then I needed to leverage and hand off those relationships to other people in the firm for scalability because one person can’t do everything,” says Vaca, chairwoman, founder and CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc., a custom information technology solutions company. “If they tell you that they can, they’re probably lying.”

By learning how to successfully bring others into her company and then relying on them to get the job done, Vaca has grown the company to about $60 million in revenue, a 50 percent increase from the $40 million posted in 2005.

Smart Business spoke with Vaca about how she stepped back to see the forest instead of focusing on the trees.

Q: How do you let go of responsibility?

Understand what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and embrace them. Don’t think you have to do everything yourself. As a leader individually, oftentimes we try to do everything ourselves. Just understand what your strengths are. Do what you’re awesome at and hire what you’re not at.

When you start something from scratch and it is your baby, it is hard. Always be constant of the overall mission. The old saying is, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Sometimes it’s really easy to focus on the trees, and sometimes you’ve just got to pull back and focus on the forest.

I handed off the day-to-day responsibilities of client management to work on the business — our strategic focus, our client focus — to work on bigger, more visionary things.

If you’re trying to do everything yourself, your company will only grow to be as good as you personally are. A group of people is better than just one person.

Q: What are the keys to successful growth?

The way you grow is you provide value for your clients. Make certain you have a service or product that is going to be of value to someone. If you lose your focus and start growing so much that you stop delivering for your clients — you’re focusing on things other than delivering for your client, maybe how many sites you have — you’re headed for disaster.

If you don’t have the right people at the helm, you’re headed for disaster because they’ll drive the organization in a different way, which will ultimately not be in the best interest of the firm. The key to growing a business is making sure you have the right people in place for scale.

Communication is one of the most important things within the company. If you’re not constantly communicating to people what’s going on, and certainly while you’re growing, something may be going on at one end of the business that would be helpful to the other end of the business. At the end of the day, if you all get in a room and communicate, you’re going to be that much more knowledgeable and powerful as a corporation.

Q: What do you look for in employees?

Above the obvious, which is their educational discipline, their expertise and their years of experience, one of the things I look for is attitude — a positive one. I look for people that are self-starters and are entrepreneurial in nature. Our company is a very entrepreneurial environment and that means you have to be a self-starter and consider this your own and want to see the company succeed.

Have people that understand the environment that they’re working in. Change is expected. Everybody knows that our company will not look like this in the next 12 months. They know that, they understand that, they embrace that.

People are willing to wear different hats. People are willing to work extra hours. People are willing to see those changes and embrace those changes because they know it’s for the best of the company.

Q: How do you integrate new people into the company?

Allow a competitive, fair work environment. That means that this environment is open to anyone who wants to come in and do a good job.

Tenure is not an issue. Seniority is not an issue. You have to be consistent and create an environment where anybody can succeed.

Q: How do you create that environment?

It’s a variety of things. Work with your level managers to make sure there are metrics available and that people have attainable goals, understand their goals, and that you follow up on those goals.

Create a good working environment, where someone who’s been here five years versus someone who’s come in a year, each have the same financial threshold they can attain, assuming they meet their goals.

HOW TO REACH: Pinnacle Technical Resources Inc., (214) 740-2424 or www.pinnacle1.com