5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Began Leading A Company

Aug 17, 2022

I’ve always felt like I was born to be an entrepreneur; leading a company is in my blood because both of my parents started their own businesses.

I was always a “go-getter.” When I was 18, I took a commission-only summer job selling Cutco knives, and within a month I broke all the sales records and was a top producer. At the age of 20, I started my first business, which was a storage company that targeted college students in Boston who needed a place to store their personal items for the summer. About 500 students signed up, and in a few months, we turned a profit of more than $8,000.

After the requisite tour of duty in Corporate America doing public relations, I took a leap of faith and co-founded Amendola Communications with my husband Ted. Within six weeks, I had five retainer clients.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. From a shifting media landscape to evolving client expectations to a crippling pandemic, numerous challenges have popped up over the years. To surmount these obstacles, we’ve always been nimble and able to pivot when we need to. Instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole, we’ve gotten good at shaving the edges off the peg.

Here are five important lessons I’ve learned along the way about leadership and leading a company:

  1. Hire where the talent is: When I started Amendola, I wanted to build a workforce in Scottsdale. Well, I did it, but I quickly discovered that when you don’t hire seasoned people in your market niche, it shows. The ramp-up time is too long and the quality of the work is sub-par, which means we couldn’t move up to the next level of clients. As I shared in this post, once I took location out of the equation things got much better.
  2. Don’t try to do it all yourself: I was raised as a PR person, and loved doing pitching, managing accounts, and all the other hands-on pieces of the business. But it didn’t take long to figure out that while I was working on today’s clients, no one was out finding tomorrow’s. That’s a quick way to succeed yourself out of business.  So I hired some good people and gave up doing the day-to-day work to focus on business development, which is my superpower. We instantly became more profitable, and I found myself having a lot more fun.
  3. Know what your company is good at and stick with it: You can’t possibly be all things to all people, nor should you try. Instead of taking on work that doesn’t suit your organization, whether it’s the wrong type of work, or the wrong market, or the wrong size of client, figure out where your niche is and focus your efforts there. If you do get asked to do something that you are not good at, refer the person who asked to someone who can do what they need. It’s a small world, and the odds are the good you do today will come back to you later.
  4. Hire people you like, that share the same philosophy, and fit in well with your work culture: It’s easy to fall in love with someone’s talent, but if they’re not a good personality fit, it can destroy the culture. And all it takes is one bad apple to turn a great place to work into a bad one. Hire the people who fit what you want your organization to be. Every couple of years we do an all-company retreat to a non-work area. Those are some of the best times because we have such a great staff of people and enjoy working together as well as mingling and socializing with each other. We care about each other and that comes from the top down.
  5. Try before you buy: If writing is important to your business, as it is in mine, don’t take people’s word for it that they are good writers. I think 80% of the country thinks they can write, but only maybe 20% can, at least to the level we need. Test every potential writer with a writing test, even if you love their samples. You never know if what you’re reading is their work or whether what they did was propped up by a great editor. It’s like the old saw says: trust but verify.

Leading a company will always have its challenges, but I have found that following these valuable lessons has helped pave the road to long-term success.