Ryan Detert | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ryan Detert

Background:  

Influential is a data-first platform and social media influencer network. Recently, the company has gained an exclusive partnership with IBM Watson building social marketing artificial intelligence. 

The Mistake:

It's very easy as an entrepreneur to burn out by trying to do everything yourself—a lot of the time on a bootstrap budget—but investing in people and creating a culture where people are working as hard as you are, that's the difference-maker.

I was actually given the advice, and I heard it and understood it but I didn't actually listen to it, to find the right people around you and not try to do everything yourself. You must be a jack of all trades, but you must find people who have a discipline that you're not strong in and you must find people that are as incentivized as you, whether it's through equity or through revenue, to give their heart and soul into a company.

I have a great co-founder Dan Steele, but until we found our CTO, who controls our technology, until we found our CRO, which really helped drive revenue, until that point I was basically trying to do all things at once.

When we found people that …  had the expertise that we didn't have in those certain disciplines, we saw the light. Now we're just focusing on our hires being the best in the business as opposed to doing it all ourselves.

 

You shouldn't be seeing returns as a CEO until you have a certain critical mass.

 

The Lesson:

I would say to my old self, when I was starting off, to worry less about the revenue and worry more about the product, worry more about the people, worry about what the culture is because all that will in fact define your brand in the marketplace.

Getting people that are bought in and believe lockstep with you—and also can obviously dissent and give opinions—led to better products and a better company with better results.

Financially, while it cost us more money to get higher grade people, they also led to much higher revenue.  If you spend the proper dollars, don't worry about your own profit margins, your own dollars internally, until you build a living breathing company. You shouldn't be seeing returns as a CEO until you have a certain critical mass and right now as we build towards raising more money and getting higher and higher goals, that's when you start reaping the benefits.

Follow Ryan Detert on Twitter at: @RyanMDetert

Pictured: Ryan Detert | Photo courtesy of Influential. 

 

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