Roll with the Punches


What’s a Boondoggle? My First Anniversary With Steel City Pops and More…


What’s a Boondoggle? My First Anniversary With Steel City Pops and More…

This week marked my one year anniversary as CEO of Steel City Pops, and I wanted to reflect on that experience and some of my key learnings along the way.  As a first time CEO, I knew that I would make plenty of mistakes, but the key was to learn from them and keep moving forward. Here’s some of the most critical takeaways from my first year on the job:

My first step was to SURROUND MYSELF WITH TALENTED PEOPLE, give them autonomy, and then let them make decisions. I knew right away that I was not the smartest or most talented person in the room, so I sought experts for each of our departments. My first step was to bring on-board multiple leaders that were highly proficient in their respective areas. Once completed, I gave them freedom to make decisions and got out of the way.

It quickly became apparent that feedback was what most of the team needed to continuously move forward. The biggest success I saw happened in our weekly meetings where my team would convince me away from my original opinion. That leads us to the second major learning: DON’T BE STUBBORN when it comes to your opinions. Some of the biggest mistakes over my first year came when I was too bull-headed to listen to my team. Why hire experts if you aren’t going to listen to them?

I recently left a toxic work environment that was held hostage by the leader’s emotions each and every day. I promised myself that I would never allow that type of culture to exist at Steel City Pops. To combat this type of culture, I would frequently ASK FOR FEEDBACK and work on what was said. The goal, of course, is that your team feels comfortable in providing healthy feedback. They have to feel that feedback can be given without fear of repercussion. Once you are given feedback, however critical, acknowledge it and work to change.

After COVID-19 hit, we immediately needed to pivot our business strategy. Innovation became key, and a ton of ideas were proposed to combat our situation. Too many, in fact, for us to focus on all of them and be successful. This is where the third learning comes into play: DON’T CHASE SHINY OBJECTS. I’ve watched first hand as leadership teams get bogged down by too many ideas to effectively complete any one of them well. Our company’s niche is a modern approach to nostalgic foods. If it wasn’t in those guardrails, we weren’t going to chase it no matter how exciting it seemed.

One thing became quickly apparent during 2020; we didn’t have any time to waste. My boss said to me earlier in the year, “don’t boondoggle me.”  I had no idea what that meant, so I had to look it up.

Here’s what google said: boon·dog·gle /ˈbo͞onˌdäɡəl/  noun

  1. Work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

I took this feedback to heart, and keep it in the back of my head throughout each week.  The takeaway here is don’t say something just to say something.  IF YOU DON’T KNOW, SAY YOU DON’T KNOW.  Plain and simple, and yet something I have to constantly remind myself of.

What has been painfully obvious to me this past year is that I am far from perfect, and I don’t have all the answers. I’ve had to learn some really valuable lessons since January of last year including how critical it is to surround yourself with a strong leadership team. Listen, ask for feedback, and don’t be stubborn when you get answers that you aren’t expecting. I promise that you will be better for it.

related articles