Business, Boats, and Big Announcements

Surviving Success

Several months ago, one of our team members shared a metaphor that seemed to perfectly fit how I was feeling about the business. Maybe you’ve heard it before–it’s about boats. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

In this metaphor, every fledgling small business starts out as a rowboat. For DPM, that definitely describes where we were as a business a few short years ago. It was just me and a few contractors, paddling down a stream, working with a manageable number of clients. The sun was shining and everything was great!

Fast forward to now, and the river has grown. We’ve added more clients. I brought in more contractors and even full-time team members. Everyone has continued paddling faster and faster—and while we were still managing, the team and I started getting pretty tired. (Ow, my arms!)

Surviving Success

So-called business experts talk all the time about managing risks and hedging against business failure. Naysayers are quick to quip that 96% of business fail within the first ten years. But where is the manual for surviving success? At some point, no matter how strong your rowers are (and ours are top notch!), a rowboat can’t cross an entire ocean.

My team and I have plenty of experience implementing processes to help businesses grow—it’s what we do for our clients every day. Business owners come to us with too much on their plate, and we give them the tools and the help they need to focus on the big picture of growing their companies.

In order to continue growing our business—serving more and more clients with the same standard of quality while providing work opportunities for more and more freelance talent—I have to do the same thing for my own business that I preach time and again for my clients.

Yep, you knew it was coming: We’re gonna need a bigger boat!

People Come First

My entire business has been built on relationships. It’s the reason I spend so much time on the phone, why I pay for virtual office software, and why I travel far and wide, often unpaid, to spend quality time with clients and colleagues.

Trust and fit are what I look for most in clients, employees, and contractors. And as we grow, being on the same page in terms of values and aspirations has become more and more important.

Of course, identifying and spelling out these values and goals can be illuminating in more ways than one. And over the course of the last several months, we’ve made some big and difficult changes in the way we do business. The goal, of course, is to set ourselves up for future success. But I can’t say it’s been easy. Nothing worth working for is, right?

So, I’ve explained the boats and business part of the title of this post, now what about those big announcements?

CPO, COO, and More!

We’ve never had a C-suite at Don’t Panic Management. I never even call myself the CEO! I’ve always thought titles were more about vanity than anything else, which was why I had set up fun titles for everyone and never really delineated between managers, directors, or officers. I also love hearing a chuckle when I tell people that I’m the Director of Calm.

Now that we’re not a baby business anymore, it makes sense to have a clearer and more formalized structure. This helps the public understand who does what, and helps our team members have a larger sense of ownership for the tasks for which they’re responsible.

Since we all wear so many hats, one of the most difficult things about this transition has been determining what our new titles and responsibilities will actually be. I’m still working on defining my own job description after all these years, believe it or not!

But as my dad always says, “life is a work in progress,” so for now, without further ado, here are the fruits of our reorganizational labor:

Becca Vaclavik, our resident Client Happiness Manager and camp counselor extraordinaire has earned a promotion to CPO. What’s a CPO you ask? Well, a Chief People Officer, of course! Since Becca is in charge of the wellness of our team members and clients, this was a logical transition. But her role isn’t limited to HR tasks like healthcare, W9’s, and mediation between team members (ha, that never happens!). She is responsible for cultivating a healthy culture among all of our people, and is the primary “last set of eyes” when it comes to our work product. It’s a hugely important position, and one that she has worked hard to secure. We couldn’t do any of this without her.

Jaime Hanson, our Queen of Content and consistent bug in my ear (in the most endearing way possible, of course) has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Jaime is committed to growing this business in a strategic way, and approaches our processes and books much differently than I do, which is an asset. While I don’t have a co-founder, Jaime is the closest thing to a managing partner at this point because of her dedication to finding new ways for us to change peoples’ lives. She’ll be looking at the business with a birds-eye view, and will also be responsible for launching our new website in the coming months to better reflect our new offerings.

Rebekah Hardeson, former Operations Operative, has moved on to a new opportunity. While we are sad to see her go, we’re also super excited for the new role she has accepted. Rebekah has been integral in developing a lot of the processes and procedures that have helped us grow to the place we are today, and for that I am eternally grateful. She won’t be a stranger, of course—once you’re in the DPM family, you’re in it for life, whether you like it or not!

Jennifer Hines, who has been working with Don’t Panic since 2013 and has been a friend of mine since 2009, is stepping up into a new financial and operations role to cover many of Rebekah’s duties starting April 1st. Jenn brings a different skill-set to the table with her social, marketing, graphics, and administrative background, and we are so excited to see what she can do with more hours. This girl is the queen of efficiency!

Shannon Wurthman, who is another long-term Don’t Panic friend and contractor since 2013, has also joined our team full-time as Director of Marketing starting April 1st. Thus far, all of our business has come from word-of-mouth and inbound marketing like blog posts and my own social media. We’ve never had an outbound marketing strategist or done any intentional marketing before, so we’re excited to see how she can help us develop our brand, raise awareness, and drive new business growth. This is particularly exciting for clients as well, because she’ll be our eyes and ears on new marketing trends and best practices that we can bring to client projects.

Phew! There you have it!

Building a Steamship

If you know me personally, hopefully now you’ll understand why I’ve been so busy lately. And even if you don’t know me, if you’re here reading this blog then I value you as a partner in our growth—so it’s important to me that you know what we’ve got cooking behind the scenes. 

Being in a service business is not easy, and most small businesses don’t make it past the first year. We are all here because of the people who support us both financially through our services and emotionally with trust and respect. These people (you included!) give us a purpose, and help us put dinner on the table. It’s that trust, support, and faith that has lifted us up to where we are today—and for that I am forever grateful.

I look forward to captaining this new, much bigger boat, and continuing this amazing journey with you. I’m learning more every day as we sail into the sunset, so it’s a good thing I love the water.

Are you sick of this metaphor yet? 😉 

To the future…

Get tasks off your plate faster with the VA Starter Kit!

Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm

Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now:

  • Current location: Redding, CT
  • Go-to Karaoke song: “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
  • Favorite kind of cheese: Aged Goat Gouda
  • Beverage of choice: Champagne
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Superpower: Delivering miracles, especially when all hope is lost.

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