Derek FeatherstoneEverything is a work in progress

Two years on.

Derek Featherstone / Published:

I’ve had pretty much one consistent thought that encapsulates my thinking about selling our company. I don’t say this or take it lightly, and it isn’t a reflection of my past, present, or future. It’s just reality for me:

The best part about selling has been not having to run a company, and the most difficult part about selling has been not being the one running the company.

I’m not trying to be funny… that’s really it. I straight up wanted to get out of the day-to-day running of the company. Being on the hook for everything is hard — mentally, emotionally, even physically. I am good with not not being the person in charge of all that side of running a business.

And at the same time, I loved being the one that set the vision and direction for the company. I don’t have that any more — while I am definitely doing my best to influence our direction as much as I can, it still isn’t “mine.” And that’s totally ok — that’s what happens when it isn’t your company any more! Now it’s someone else’s vision. It has been a challenge for me at times to remember “Oh, right… this isn’t my decision to make!” — after all, I had been working for myself for 19 years.

If I loved it, why did I want to change?

I was burning out in a big way. I needed change.

I LOVED that our little company was doing great work and it was helping support 30 individuals/families out there. But those 30 individuals/families also weighed heavily on me as the person in charge. There’s a significant financial overhead that goes with that. I’ll have more to say about that at some point, but for now lets just go with this: it’s a pretty big deal and it consumed a lot of my brain cycles.

Budgets. Sales. Marketing. Payroll and sales forecasting. Human Resources things like hiring and firing, and performance reviews. Professional development for people that reported to me. I mean… all of it. I was very fortunate to have a leadership team that helped with so many aspects of the day-to-day management of the company.

Jeff Smith, Joanna Briggs, Elle Waters, Charles Callistro — thank you for keeping what we had going alive for so long. We went through a lot together, and I’m grateful that you were all such significant and critical parts of our journey.

I still loved doing the work of hiring, and helping people get better, and performance reviews, and sales, and marketing and all those other things. But if I had burned out, I wouldn’t have enjoyed any of it. Not a good outcome. I’m not on a path to burnout right now and that’s very, very good. That’s a great start for 2020, and I’m hoping I can just keep running on that path.

No regrets

So we decided to sign on the dotted line to be acquired by Level Access.

Ultimately I have no regrets on going from a small, punching-above-our-weight company and becoming part of something bigger — part of Level Access, that (2 years ago) was 10x our size, and is now almost 2 times as big again.

I’ve been exposed to all kind of new things, and new clients, and new ways of thinking about things. While Level Access is still a small company, we have departments that are bigger than the entire Simply Accessible team was at its largest.

Biggest lessons so far?

I’ll wrap up this piece with some things I’ve learned or refined my thinking on over the past two years. There’s more, to be sure, but this is a start.

  1. Balance helps with success. I’m a people person. That means I needed people that were as passionate and great with numbers as I was with people. I’m a creative person that likes to innovate and create new things. That means I needed people around me that were as passionate for predictable, known success as I am for creativity. I want to inspire people with a vision and the big picture. That means that I need people around me to focus on the details and excellence of execution.
  2. Not everything is worth losing sleep over. Some things are, yes, but there’s a lot of things that I would still likely stew over today that are probably the wrong things to stew over. What I am hoping is that over the next 5 years I’ll figure out which ones are which. Or maybe it’ll take 25 years.
  3. Personal health, well-being, and self-care are too easy to neglect. I know this. You know this. We all know it. But we don’t necessarily live it in our daily lives. I’m still struggling with this even at a company where I’m not in charge. No epiphanies here, just reminders, because there’s a good chance it’s impacting you right now too.