Shifting My Mind-Set to Go from Struggling Start-up to Billion Dollar Enterprise: Confessions of a Formerly Conservative CEO

Pamela Evette, President & CEO, Quality Business Solutions

Shifting My Mind-Set to Go from Struggling Start-up to Billion Dollar Enterprise: Confessions of a Formerly Conservative CEO

I founded my business as a sole proprietorship in 2000 and struggled for many years through the normal growing pains associated with a start-up – deciding when and where to invest, identifying new target markets and prospects, and determining when the time was right to add new staff or services.  After 13 years of modest but steady growth, my company began to take off, doubling year-over-year revenue and adding new clients in record numbers.  This rapid growth earned us a spot on the Inc. 5000 and me the honor of being name to the Impact 50, a ranking of the 50 most influential female leaders of Inc. 5000 companies, as well as numerous top entrepreneur awards and accolades.

This recent exponential growth was no accident, but the result of a series of conscious decisions to think differently – to shake up the status quo by embracing what we as a company were doing well and to challenge some of my long-held business beliefs and practices to see if there might be a better way.  Here’s what I learned:

  • Risk is your friend – I am an accountant and controller by training and background, which makes me a fairly risk-averse person.  While taking bigger risks can result in bigger failures, avoiding risk virtually eliminates any possibility of significant gains. It’s easy to get comfortable when your business is doing well, but, in this case as in many others, good really is the enemy of great.  Leaders of high-performing companies must know how to think through a variety of outcome scenarios and actively balance risk and reward. This is perhaps the biggest thinking shift I faced in my journey toward making changes.
  • Slow down – Entrepreneurs are by our very nature high-energy people of action.  We like to make things happen and make them happen quickly, seeking immediate gratification in terms of seeing our ideas come to fruition.  This can inadvertently lead to occasionally sacrificing long-term performance in favor of short-term gains.  While it’s important to focus on quick wins, it’s important to play long ball and remember our ultimate goals.
  • Choose the right people – While I am extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by a team of highly qualified professionals, all of us have occasionally fallen into the trap of filling a skill gap or need quickly rather than being more selective and waiting until a better candidate comes our way.  I have learned to wait for Mr. or Ms. Right, rather than going with Mr. or Ms. Right Now.
  • Take a step backward to take two forward – The greatest irony I uncovered was the fact that only when I was finally willing to take a small step backward from the 24x7 hands-on work was I able to get an accurate view of the big picture.  As I switched my brain from task-orientation to actively reflecting and strategizing on the business as whole, I gained a whole new perspective, which opened the flood gates of creativity.  The bottom line is that it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees, so we need to consciously and conscientiously remove ourselves from the day-to-day sometimes to achieve better results.
  • Listen more and talk less – We can work so hard at leading that we run the risk of forgetting the value and talent of those around us.  Give your people room to dig deep into their concerns, challenges and problems and empower them to solve them. You will get a much greater understanding of where they are coming from, what’s possible and how you can help.
  • Get help – Our vision, intuition and controlling natures are at the core of why we’ve become successful entrepreneurs, but actively seeking second and third opinions from mentors, employees and colleagues provides another set of eyes and multiple perspectives.  We also need to bear in mind that no one can do it all; so consider bringing in outside help to handle non-core functions.  Ironically, I built my company on providing business process outsourcing to growing organizations but was reluctant to cede any degree of control in my own organization to outside vendors.  When I stopped trying to do it all and focused exclusively on doing what was most important really well, I reaped huge rewards.

While overcoming these issues is a daily challenge for me, I have made these decisions without regret and never looked back.  Even if you’re not ready to jump in head first, I encourage you to challenge your assumptions and pre-conceived notions to make a few small changes that can yield big results, taking your organization from good to great and allowing it to achieve even more than you may have thought possible.

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About the Author

For more information on Pamela Evette or her company, Quality Business Solutions, visit