Business Growth: It Takes a Village
Karen Carpenter, COO
Several years ago, I asked my business owners peer group, “How do you know when it’s time to hire a bookkeeper?” To a person, they all said, “Oh, you will know.” And they were right. It was like when I asked my pediatrician when I would know when Kayla no longer needed a nap. He explained that my instincts would kick in and I would just know when a change in routine was going to be needed.
I am proud that both Jason and I recognize our weaknesses and embrace help from outside sources. Our growth—at EPM and even in our relationship—has been most evident around the times in our past when we sought outside help and embraced it. In case it’s helpful to you, as you grow your own business, let me tell you about the professionals we’ve engaged, why we engaged them, and how they have helped EPM grow.
After a particularly grueling month of managing cash flow while trying to make sense of our financial reporting, Jason and I had a discussion with our wealth management advisor about hiring a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He told us if we didn’t see a return on investment after two months, we hired the wrong CFO. He was right.
So, we hired a fractional CFO, Pat Lang, whose involvement has transformed EPM as well as our marriage. His oversight and recommendations ensure the business operates profitably and smartly, while giving both Jason and me peace of mind that any potential financial pitfalls will be brought to our attention before they become unrecoverable.
Business Growth Consultant
A couple of years ago, we engaged business growth consultant, Kim Troy. She helps us strengthen our already solid company culture, attract and retain great people, and improve our processes and procedures. She coaches our key leaders and has helped Jason, Brandon, and me consider the implications of many important decisions. Jason and I both trust her implicitly.
We were recently looking to acquire another company, and I asked Jason, “Whose opinion do you value most when thinking through this?” He immediately said, “Kim’s.” I know I can’t be that person for all things, but I’m glad we have someone whose opinion matters to us both. It’s truly a partnership Jason and I value.
Peer Groups and Mentors
Building relationships with like-minded people, who are all experiencing the ups and downs of operating a growing business, gives us comfort in knowing we’re not alone in our struggles. Plus, we learn from one another about what does and doesn’t work.
Jason and I have benefitted professionally and personally from being a part of business owner groups like the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Conway Center for Family Business. Through these groups, Jason has been privileged to be mentored by Steve Close, George Babyak and Mark Swepston, to name a few. Such accomplished leaders have helped Jason understand that the skills that enabled him to launch EPM are not the same skills that are needed to grow EPM into a much larger, more complex company.
Jason loves learning from others’ experiences and we credit a great deal of our success to the camaraderie and friendships we have gained by being a part of these organizations.
Because Jason and I work together, our marriage is more complicated than the average. It can be extremely challenging to separate our professional and personal relationships.
Our lives changed when we met Amy Armstrong. So much so that we often refer to our life together B.A. and A.A.—as in Before Amy and After Amy. She helped Jason and me see that we are on the same team (in business and in life), and through her guidance we have learned how to help each other be the best versions of ourselves.
Wealth Management Advisor
When we started to be more intentional about EPM’s growth and make decisions about where to invest profits, we sought out a wealth management advisor who had experience working with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Randy Gerber of Gerber, LLC came highly recommended.
Randy continues to challenge us to look through a different lens, not only about our business, but about our personal balance sheet. Jason and Randy have not always seen eye to eye, but that’s why I personally trust Randy’s advice. Sometimes he tells us things we don’t want to hear, but Jason and I both respect his breadth of experience working with other growing, entrepreneur-led businesses like ours.
The relationship began as a friendship and has become one of our strongest professional allies. Helen Mac Murray’s knowledgeable legal guidance has helped us successfully navigate countless issues, large and small.
Her expert counsel gives us peace of mind that we’re doing the right thing, both legally and ethically, and we greatly appreciate that she’s always available to us, whenever we need her (even on an occasional weekend or holiday). Having someone of Helen’s caliber to count among our professional advisors has been invaluable.
Like you, I’m smart and resourceful, and given enough time, I can figure out how to do just about anything. But I have learned over the last 20 years that that’s not necessarily in EPM’s —or my own—best interest. One of the best things a leader can do is to acknowledge they shouldn’t be all things to all people. Choosing to seek help from others is one of the best business decisions Jason and I have made.
It’s my mission in business—and in life—to help people solve problems. If I can be of help to you in any way, please reach out.