The most successful teams can look back on additions that make them think, “Damn, I’m glad we got her/him.” Starting 6th round draft pick Tom Brady. Rehiring Steve Jobs. Trying newcomer Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.
For us, that addition was Subi Ghosh.
When we first set out to build a digital marketing firm, our goal was to stay really, really small. Tyson and I did the math and came to the conclusion that we could stay under the radar, grab a handful of loyal clients, and make a decent living by doing all of the work ourselves while maintaining a tiny portfolio. Things exploded much quicker than we imagined. Dealers were lining up to get our aggressive style of content, search, and social media marketing and the early demand made it clear that we would not be staying tiny for very long.
We were contemplating our growth path and knew one thing for certain: there was no way we could grow at the pace we were going without bringing in more leadership. The problem was that we were picky. We had an incredible synergy and bringing in a third wheel of leadership could disrupt our cozy little decision-making path if we didn’t find the exact right person.
Then, something bad happened. Management change at Joyce Koons left someone who we had been watching for a long time without a job. I remember very vividly reading about her misfortune on a Facebook post. I remember thinking what a shock it was knowing what she had brought to the table. I remember pitching her dealership and realizing she was clearly going to be a “high-maintenance customer” (true story that I never told her).
I also remember the sudden realization that this was the precise moment in our company’s path that demanded taking a risk. As I read and reread her post (literally in slow motion) and saw the vendors reaching out to her in comments about applying for a job at their companies, I wrote several comments before erasing them. Some of the comments were about how I wanted to talk to her about her future. Others were about how I thought she was a perfect fit for our company. I even went down the path of commenting how she should talk to me to see if she’s a good fit (as if I didn’t know it in my heart at the time already). I erased them all and decided to commit right there in front of everyone.
She called me. She named her price. We couldn’t afford her.
I called Tyson. We called some dealers and vendors and made them mafia offers, cutting the types of deals that didn’t make sense for us to take but that would bring in the necessary revenue to afford her. Strangely, it didn’t take long. Deals fell into place properly as if they were meant to be.
We hired her. It was scary, but it worked. More deals came in to put our minds at ease. Of course, there was another concern that needed to be addressed.
We were changing the path of our company in a way that meant we would never be able to look back. We were going to grow. Our dreams of a tiny company were gone. We would still be able to be nimble, aggressive, and personalized, but we were now on a path to get a few hundred clients rather than a couple dozen.
What we learned over the following months was that Subi is a dynamic, intelligent, and most importantly a caring leader. She built the strongest company culture imaginable in a company that didn’t realize it needed a company culture. She challenged me to be more than a geek behind a computer optimizing sites or running social media campaigns. She forced me to be a teacher, to share what I knew with the team in order to allow for a truly sustainable growth path.
Most importantly, she reminded me of something that had been lost during my seven years away from working at dealerships. She reminded me to embed our company and my own goals within our clients’ and to align our success with their success.
One year ago today, we took a chance and hired someone to inspire our team. What I didn’t expect was that she would somehow be able to inspire me and Tyson as well. Thank you for the first of many years of shared success, Subi Ghosh.