Eric Wilson | Crain's Charlotte

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Eric Wilson

Background:  

Headquartered in Espoo, Finland, Basware is a global company that provides networked purchase-to-pay solutions, e-invoicing and innovative financing services to businesses in more than 100 countries and territories around the world. Eric Wilson, based in Charlotte, N.C., leads Basware’s North American operations.

The Mistake:

Early in my career in the tech world, I was fortunate enough to move along relatively quickly in customer-facing roles, and ended up assuming more responsibilities than that of my similarly-aged peers. I was feeling pretty good about myself. So when I was later recruited to help run a startup’s tech operations, I was pumped up.

The startup’s business metrics were not sustainable, its customer experience was not great, employee turnover was high, and morale was low. My job was to fix that and move things forward, and I was very confident in my abilities. So I jumped in, assessed what needed to be done, and started making the necessary changes right away – without taking the time to establish the trust of my team beforehand.

I thought that people would follow me simply because I knew what I was doing. I was wrong. Because of that, I ended up falling on my face.

From a customer experience perspective and a business operations standpoint, I was making all the right moves, and my team was following my direction. Unfortunately, they weren’t really behind me.

You have to prioritize relationships.

The Lesson:

Being correct doesn’t matter if you don’t have people’s support. You have to prioritize relationships.

My team trusted me after seeing that I was willing to fail with them, but that didn’t happen until later. Had I taken the time to establish my team’s trust immediately upon my arrival, we could have turned things around for the startup a lot sooner.

Now, when I enter a new position, I prioritize establishing a rapport with the team over all else – despite the many other things that I’ll feel tempted to tackle first, in terms of hitting metrics and making changes. I’ll clear my schedule to go dinner with people, participate in team-building activities, and the like.

You have to show people that you aren’t going to sit away in your ivory tower when things aren’t going well. You have to build trust, and show that them you’ll be right there with them, in the trenches. That makes all the difference.

Follow Basware on Twitter at @basware

Photo courtesy of Basware

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