Margie Mauldin | Crain's

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

Margie Mauldin


Executive Forum is a boutique leadership-development company based in the Denver Tech Center. It currently has five full-time employees.

Margie Mauldin is also the author of the new book Feedback Revolution.

The Mistake:

I focused too much on short-term success.

There was a period of time in the early and mid-2000s where I feel like I took my eye off of long-term strategy. Executive Forum was doing really well at the time, so it was easy to focus on that. Our outreach, our revenue growth, everything was doing fantastically well.

There were two big things that happened during that time. One is that we were the distributor for a group of training products, and that organization stepped up their requirements. So our quotas increased. In meeting and eventually exceeding those quotas, we neglected other aspects of the business.

Specifically, we stopped adding new companies to our leadership series here in Denver. Seven times a year we bring in business leaders, consultants, and other experts to Denver, and they are gatherings of like-minded organizations and leaders that want to focus on innovation and change. There were a couple years there that it didn’t grow at all.

I have always wanted to be known for our ability to provide programs and services that help leaders solve their problems. It’s important to keep up a certain amount of energy and momentum in the room for that leadership series to work, and new people always do that. We really had to refocus and look at a 24-month plan to get that program back on track.

The second big thing that happened was that I lost a key employee. Together, those things really put me behind the eight ball when the recession hit.

In a word, I’d say that I coasted.

I could have bumped up my intensity level or at the very least just kept it the same. When things are going well, you tend to coast like that. Maybe you’re not as intense in your business development. Maybe you stop developing as many relationships, the kind that take eight, 10, maybe 12 months to mature.

Catching up after that is hard. I think we were growing at about 15-20 percent per year in all of our programs. When you don’t have that cushion for growth, it really hurts you.

In a word, I’d say that I coasted.

The Lesson:

I’m a huge believer in feedback.

To avoid the kind of situation we faced, I recommend you keep current with your advisors, be they informal relationships or a formal board. Even if things are going well, don’t slack off on those meetings and continue to put plans in place for sustainable growth.

I have a group I call my Kitchen Cabinet. It’s not an official board; it’s more of an unofficial team of advisors. Some of them I meet twice a month. Everyone I meet at least once a month. We talk separately and as a group about how things are going and where we might need to shift focus.

Everyone needs to take feedback seriously. What you’re focusing on, what things you might need to change – advisors can help with these big questions.

Executive Forum is on Twitter at @ExecForumCO.

Photo courtesy of Executive Forum.

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