Rick Nelson TAG Portrait

To start 2023, I committed to sharing life lessons learned. I let you know the reason for sharing was to honor the people who’ve taught me. As I was thinking about all those amazing people, and the wonderful lessons they shared, I started making a list. Some I’ve written about in previous posts…..the Power of Three, Practice or Quit, and Nothing on the Floor easily came to mind. Today the lesson that stands out for me as I reset and reignite future opportunities, is something my wife taught me in 1997.

Confidence Challenge

I had just left Corporate America to start a staffing company with my good friend. To say I had little experience would be an exaggeration. I had zero. I didn’t know the industry, didn’t know the business, didn’t know the sector, and I had never sold anything in my entire life.

Slowly, but surely, my business partner, Mike, taught me the ropes. My formal business and management training at UPS kicked in and – relying on instinct – I found myself able to fill the sales pipeline and close deals. 

We were experiencing a modicum of success, but it was going slowly, and I was struggling to get the business to a growth rate that would at the very least match what was happening in the industry, and in a best-case scenario outpace those companies that weren’t willing to work as hard as we were. 

There were a lot of sticking points for me: How hard to push on a customer for a yes? How much to ask people to give in terms of effort and hours? What business practices and methodologies should change to make us more effective?

It was an exciting time, but as I reflect on it, I recall feeling that I wasn’t doing enough.

Rather than being jubilant and ecstatic, I found myself melancholy and lonely. 

As a partner in TA Group Holdings , I’ve had the benefit of several exits, but never an exit that I have been so intimately involved with. The beginning of Launch dated back to 2005. 14 employees and $2 million in revenue. No strategic lines of business or McKinsey model business plans. We went to work every day to help our customers build things they would need to improve their business. Over the last 17 years we grew to 500+ employees and worked with some of the coolest companies in the country. 

Now it belongs to somebody else.

Confidence Crucible

One Saturday afternoon in the middle of all of it. I was driving with my wife and lamenting about all the things that needed to change, the ideas I had and the frustration I was experiencing. (Not the first time she had heard it.)

Either out of compassion or a desire to get me to shut up, my wife looked at me and said, “Do you know what’s missing?” I looked at her and replied, “What?”  “Confidence!”

Cristi continued: “When you worked at UPS there was a learning curve. It took time to learn how the business worked, to understand the logistics, and to manage people.” She reminded me that, thanks to the generous, effective mentorship of people like Headley Chambers, Laura Roybal, and Chuck Munson, I attacked every challenge. I was hungry to learn. I wasn’t afraid to make a mistake. “You weren’t cocky, but you were confident.  Find that confidence and get going.”

She was right. 100% right. I wasn’t trusting myself. I wasn’t executing on the things that were obvious and necessary. My own self-doubt was keeping our company from moving forward. I needed a big heaping dose of confidence. So where did it come from?

Confidence Comeback

  1. I ran my ideas and concepts by people I knew, and respected both in the industry and outside of it. Their feedback and assurance was a boost.
  2. Experience taught me that I can measure the outcomes of my decisions, and change course or reverse completely in a timely manner. Reflecting on that experience was a boost.
  3. I gave myself permission to fail. That might’ve been the biggest boost of all.

I had what I needed, and I moved forward. 

Confidence Correlation

I didn’t think about it much at the time. But as I look back, confident leadership changed not only my approach to the business, but the way our entire team approached the business. They became more confident themselves, they moved faster, they stepped outside their comfort zone. They weren’t afraid to fail. We were off and running.

Have you seen an organization’s confidence correlate to the leader’s confidence? Have you witnessed a comeback after confidence has been shaken? If so, you know how powerful a mindset it is — and why we owe it to our teams to continually reinforce our own self-assurance. I’d love to hear your tips for building confidence in yourself, or others!

As an endnote, 15 years later, my wife and our two children were on vacation in Colorado. We were going to try an off-road Segway adventure. None of us had been on Segways before and we were headed up a big mountain side with steep drops on machines with big off-road tires and no steering wheel. We looked at each other, a little unsure, until the gentleman leading the excursion looked at the four of us and said, “Proceed with Confidence!” Cristi and I looked at each other with huge smiles on our faces. Up the mountain we went. 

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