Have you ever asked yourself if you are making an impact on your business, team, or company? Are you longing for something different from the huge corporate machine where you are currently employed? More importantly, is the work environment affecting your home life? Each year, during my own personal self-assessment and reflection period, these questions, among others, are ones I ask myself and my significant other. Ultimately, it is what drove me to scale down from the corporate giants I had been with over the course of a decade, to a small startup. That decision has made me stronger both in my professional and personal life.
Before talking about scaling down in company size, you must first self-assess your current situation. Understand the foundation you have built or are in the process of building, is critical in your development and ability to create opportunities down the road. Becoming a top talent in any organization involves a strong understanding of every aspect your business; the ability to deliver results, cross functional leadership, and some logical risk taking. I have been a part of three different billion-dollar organizations; two of which were extremely large companies, and the third a mid-sized. With each move, I scaled down in size of revenue, but significantly increased in responsibility, accountability, contribution, pressure, and leadership opportunities. In extremely large organizations, I have found unless you are part of the upper management, you are just another cog in the machine. The red tape and constant approval processes can be tiresome, leaving you with the feeling you cannot achieve the results you want, or your voice is not being heard on the business. Finally, if you have ambition to move up within these organizations, you can face barriers because of the bottleneck of people currently in the advanced roles, limiting opportunities for you to grow within these companies.
Ultimately, these larger organizations with their politics, red tape, and processes, can sometimes leave you being a shell of your former self. I have seen countless times where people have given up, versus fighting for what they believed was right for the business, because it was “not worth the hassle” or the push could have been “career limiting” long term. This is almost like your life force has been removed and you have become a drone, flying under the radar as to not rock the boat or push the boundaries. Personally, I could no longer accept that type of environment or lack of passion in the workplace. Plus, the constant stresses and pressure were coming home with me, significantly hindering my ability to be the husband and father I wanted to be.
It was when my wife finally broke and said, “I have never asked you to quit anything before. I have followed you everywhere and supported you, but please for our family, look for a new job.” That powerful statement was a turning point in my life. Move on with my career, or potentially lose my family. Looking back now, it also was the greatest thing to ever happen to me in my professional life, because I pivoted, truly assessing what drove me, what I wanted, and what was the best thing for my family. So, I started my search. Being selective, I looked for a team I could be a part of that was unique, special, and was truly building something from the ground up. What I found was a life I could have only hoped for, and a place where I feel totally comfortable. From the top down, Sovos Brands is creating a fulfilling, collaborative, work environment that translates to joy inside and outside the walls of our offices.
Leaving big and established companies to join one less than 6 months old was an experience. When I first started, we had no processes or systems in place. What we did have was a vision and a strong leadership team determined to build the ship while we sailed it, and while we selectively brought in top talent to better the company. From the Sales organization side, we had to rely on the fundamentals, become experts in our categories with our limited data, and utilize our brands strength to consistently over-deliver targets while building strong relationships with our customers. Being a part of this journey with a startup and enjoying the ride we are on has changed my life in so many ways. It has made me stronger as a leader. I have felt great empowerment and accomplishment, watching our brands grow, even while in acquisition mode. More importantly, I have learned a great deal from my peers, and our great executive team, truly experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I am not saying this is everyone’s experience with larger organizations, or even smaller ones, but it was mine. My pursuit for happiness came when I really wanted to make a change for the better. Some people are fearful of change, afraid of what life is like at a new place. I can tell you, sometimes the grass is greener on the other side and all it takes is the “want” to look for it.
Below are some helpful guiding principles or examples that can lead you to make the right decision for a happier work life, whether it is with a smaller or a larger company.
Things to look for in a company:
- The Leadership Team – Their personality traits, goals, and expectations. What example are they setting? Are they accessible to others not in the C-Suite? Can you learn from this team? Are they embodying the principles they have set in place?
- The Culture/Work Environment – Does everyone have a seat at the table or have a voice? Can you debate, disagree, and ask tough questions at all levels? Is there red tape? Are diversity, collaboration, and respect, core beliefs or just talk?
- The Future Opportunities – What does a career path look like? Are people open to being mentors or willing to invest in your future? Are you just another cog in the machine? What does it take to become a leader in the organization?
- The Impact You Can Have – Can you deliver results? Are they achievable? Will you be viewed as the subject matter expert? Does your share of voice increase?
In conclusion, I want to share the best advice I have received in a long time. It came from my current boss/mentor, who knows my ambitions and understands me as a person and leader. During a candid conversation on performance, he shattered my world by saying in a strong tone, “What got you here today will not get you where you want to go tomorrow.” That simple sentence, struck me at my core. It was hard feedback to take and not react negatively. But I have learned that strong leaders can take tough feedback and use it to reassess their positions and stances. Strong leaders learn from their mistakes. Having altered my habits and viewpoints, I am constantly remembering that saying as it guides me today to be a better leader, peer, and more importantly, teammate. Once you understand the investment it takes to be a leader in a successful organization, you can start your journey in becoming a better, more effective and empathetic leader in the right organization.
*Vice President of Sales Walmart, Target, and Kroger – Sovos Brands
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.