Lepidoptera Chrysalis

Image courtesy of entophile (http://www.flickr.com/photos/41060081[email protected]/)

Chad and I made the decision to change WebMedley from an entrepreneurially run company to a professionally managed company. The change will be positive for our clients, teammates, and for us personally. This post explains why we’re doing it, what’s involved, and how we’re going to share the details of this journey.

Why Make The Change?

The company is about to reach its third birthday under our ownership. When we bought the company (2008), it was in need of a serious resuscitation — you can call it a turn around job, if you like. Here’s what accompanied the business we purchased:

  • Crazy books: some clients were being billed incorrectly or not at all
  • Too many servers for the true volume of client need.
  • Two content management systems. One was three years out of date and no longer being developed or serviced. Some clients want to stay with older systems — which is fine — and those who want to be current can now do so.
  • No vision for what the company could be.
  • From the end of 2008 until mid-2009, we cleaned up, transferred data, upgraded, etc…and turned it into a profitable company. From 2009-now, we grew the company through sales efforts and wonderful word-of-mouth referrals.

We find our time is spent wearing too many hats. This isn’t uncommon in small businesses. Everyone chips in when work needs to be done. When a company is in growth mode, this must occur and it helps everyone working together touch multiple parts of the business.

It could continue to work for us if we didn’t want to continue to grow and improve. It would be fine if we just wanted a general marketing company: one that paid everyone enough to live a simple life in Lexington KY. We’d turn into another local <10 person ad agency and coast into mediocrity.

And if we wanted that, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

When I was in my 20’s and had my first company, TransDigital, I got to ride the dot com wave. Everyone wanted web sites, systems, etc. We had good cash flow and were profitable. So I did what any 20-something would do: had fun traveling and spending. If I had used some of that cash to hire executives with more experience than me, I might still be traveling! Lesson learned.

This time around, it’ll be different and better.

We know we should focus our time on tasks we both want to do and perform with excellence. Am I the best HR manager? No. Who is? Let’s find him/her to work with us so we can do what we do best. Everyone in the vendor, company, client food chain will be better off for it.

One last answer to “Why?”: because I don’t want to look in the mirror in 2012 and be in the same place I’m in now. I want to be better.

What Does the Change Involve?

A change like this is subtle at first.

We started by interviewing for an operations person, a Chief Operating Officer (COO) for WebMedley. Chad and I reviewed what we want to do and what we are good at. Then we compared the list with what must be done in order to operate as is and where we want to go. It was quickly apparent neither of us want to run the day to day operation of the company and weren’t going to be good at it if we continue to grow. Time to find someone who wants to do it, is good at it, and has a demonstrated success in the ops area.

Luckily for us, someone was looking for just the right opportunity.

After a number of meetings, discussions about structure, spending, and vision, we agreed to pull the trigger with our new COO.

In less than eight weeks, we have a plan for the rest of 2011 and a project workflow that improves on what we were doing. More checks and balances to ensure our clients get a great experience and our team enjoys it. There’s more, but it’ll do to know these major parts for now.

Everyone inside the company will have more accountability, but its matched with empowerment. Everyone also has a financial interest, meaning bonus, if they hit their personal goals. And another one if the company hits its overall goals.

We’re on the lookout for sales hunters, graphic designers with web experience, and account managers.

Everyone becomes more efficient. We have a great culture. That can lead to hanging out together and talking about life, friends, family, etc. This won’t change. What has changed is the output of each person in fewer working hours. Why? I’m not sure. It’s just happening.

One of the personal changes is that I have to remember not to be involved with everything. When people inside the company bring me questions, I need to help them by asking only questions back. How does this help? It helps someone think through their original problem (opportunity ;^) ) and arrive at the solution on their own.

There’s a weird phenomenon going on inside my head: I’m accepting the change quicker than I thought.


Everyone should benefit from the changes.

It’ll be a fun ride.

I might have learned something since I was in my 20’s.

Chad and I have a goal: in six months we have transitioned from wearing too many hats to wearing only a few. It is our responsibility to work with our clients and mentor our team so everyone has a great experience with WebMedley.