A well-planned garden puts the right plants in the right place. You end up with climbing vines where they make sense, creeping groundcover where it’s needed and satisfying pops of color and blooms in different locations through different seasons.
Growing a successful business takes similar planning. And, sometimes, part of the plan involves walking away to get a better vantage point.
In spring 2021, COE Distributing laid out a new blueprint for overall growth. I moved from president and CEO into the position of chairman, continuing as CEO, creating more bandwidth to focus on key customer relationships, refining company culture and big-picture strategy to position the company for explosive and sustainable growth. I learned a lot through this period about preparation for an upcoming growing season.
- Lay good groundwork. Plot your garden carefully and let your team help you tend it. Trust the processes and people you put in place. As CEO, it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of everything happening at your company, but putting day-to-day core operations in someone else’s hands allows you to nurture new opportunities.
- Stay out of the weeds. Focus on big-picture strategy. It’s hard to truly look ahead when you’re in the thick of it every day. Spreading key initiatives across more team members smooths the way for future growth. There’s freedom in giving more members of your leadership team more targeted responsibilities. In addition to giving you some breathing room, the changes produced fruit for the entire team. Employees are energized to tackle redefined roles that allowed each person to leverage their strengths to achieve optimal performance. It’s awesome to see colleagues excel in roles that play to their talents.
- Remember to water. Give your team members what they need to grow. Delegating is easier when you have strong leaders to tap. In both business and gardening, you need the correct nutrients to reap dividends. I consistently come back to the importance of investing in employees and developing leaders at all levels of the organization. Having a strong base of engaged employees was key to the evolution of our leadership team.
Finally, you can’t harvest what you don’t sow. I share my passion for continual learning with my team through a book club. In a recently highlighted books, author James Clear writes, “There will never be a perfect time to do something that stretches you … if you were ready for it, it wouldn’t be growth.” Clear says that while it is important to think things through, you also have to embrace uncertainty at some point because it’s the only real path forward.
That message — that sometimes you just need to take a breath and go for it — resonates.
It’s so important to have the right people in the right seats on the bus doing the right things. Fresh ideas and perspectives from all levels are equally important. Create a culture that embraces both to promote change with positivity, make a plan, then go for it and blossom.
J.D. Ewing is chairman and CEO of COE Distributing