MSMP 63: Adam Anderson on Growing Your People

Believe it or not, even when you’ve grown a business to a level that allows you to step away, business owners struggle to do just that.  It’s a good problem to have, but even better, it’s a problem you can deal with if you are willing to make some important changes.

Today’s guest for Mads Singers Management Podcast, Adam Anderson, is someone who has had to make those important changes multiple times.  Adam has spent 22 years as a tech entrepreneur, specifically in the area of cybersecurity.  He’s had almost two dozen companies and they represent wonderful successes, disappointing failures, and one great sale.  That sale made him think he was special, but over time he’s learned that he was lucky, and that process of learning to grow beyond luck has given him what he calls a “Street MBA” in which you learn by doing. 
Adam is particularly proud of the people who have come to work for him who were either young or inexperienced (or both!) and were transformed by working with him.  One particular group of developers started with him from scratch in one particular business and within the space of a few years were making 6-figure incomes.  This reminded me of a couple excellent employees that I’ve had the chance to develop over the years, both of whom were 18 years old with no education when they started with me and now manage 60 people each.  

This influence and authority over your employees is very powerful and Adam shares at least one occasion in which he felt he did not use that power for good.  In trying to encourage a playful and irreverent “anti-corporate” atmosphere, he created such a party environment that an employee got addicted to alcohol and ruined his life.  

That influence needs to be particularly present when promoting staff into management.  Adam made the mistake of thinking that everyone was entrepreneurially-minded (like himself) and hence used the “throw them in the deep end” strategy when he promoted people into management.  He learned the hard way (and pretty quickly) that this was no strategy at all.  I concurred, underlining an important theme in my coaching: people can learn and grow into management skills, but they have to be taught how to do so: they can’t just be expected to “learn it as they go.”
Once you do get those people properly trained you are free to step away from the business, and Andy confessed that he had a hard time doing that.  He had to learn to trust the process and not interfere with his management team, otherwise, they were never going to grow.  He’s learned how to add value to his company as a whole and gives us some great networking tips (I add one of my own!).

 
Key Learning Points:
1. Adam reflects on the things that make him smile the most - 2:50
2. Mads adds satisfying similarities in his own journey as an employer - 4:35
3. Adam warns about the dangers of promoting great performers into management - 11:00
4. Adam also notes that “abandonment” is not a great strategy for new promotions - 13:00
5. Adam shares his surprise at how challenging it was to manage managers - 15:00
6. Mads assures Adam that he sees this problem all the time - 18:45
7. Adam tells us his new “most important job” once he was removed from day to day operations - 23:50
8. Mads adds a tip for “getting lucky” - 24:30
9. Mads gives some alternative strategies for networking when there don’t seem to be obvious opportunities - 27:50
10. Adam gives us the reason why networking is not prospecting - 28:53
11. Mads shares an organization that is great for networking but isn’t normally thought of as a networking organization - 29:40
12. Adam tells us his four stages of business building - 31:36
13. Mads reminds us that management can indeed be fun - 37:50
 
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