Stronger Together

Top entrepreneurs on why a strong team matters.

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Taking on the role of market disrupter requires strong leadership and an even stronger team. While attending the 30th annual EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards I had the opportunity to sit down with three leading entrepreneurs to talk about the secret to building strong teams: delegating, setting vision, and relying on trusted advisors.

Aaron Krause, Founder and CEO of Scrub Daddy on Delegating

The QVC and Shark Tank star is no stranger to being in the lead role. As a serial entrepreneur Aaron Krause got his start in the car wash business and has parlayed that into selling multiple businesses to Fortune 50 giant 3M. He may have been at the helm, but he didn’t do it alone. Krause explains that early on “my biggest problem in life was that I wasn’t very good at delegating. I wanted to do everything myself and I felt like I was the only one who could do it right.” For Krause it was always important to expose himself to as much of the business as possible, so he could really learn it. However, he quickly learned that scaling a business meant hiring the right team and delegating to those he trusts.

Krause explains that “what I’ve done is become really good at knowing what I don’t know and surrounding myself with the people who are better at those things than I am.” He shared for example that “I have no interest in looking over the balance sheet daily and entering data into the system. I have people who are really good at that and actually like diving into the numbers.” By finding people he can delegate to Krause has been able to focus on what he does best and let the team do what they do best, which is “how I keep the train moving forward.” The Scrub Daddy train has more than just moved forward, it’s rapidly accelerated Scrub Daddy as the most successful investment story in Shark Tank history.

Katie Warner Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Carbon38 on Setting Vision

As an emerging leader in the fashion industry Katie Warner Johnson describes her role as a CEO “is to raise money, build a team, and maintain vision.” Warner Johnson explains “you need to bake a cake with the ingredients in the kitchen and I have filled my kitchen with the best ingredients. I have the most amazing team and I am so proud of them and proud that I’ve been able to build that asset.” Warner Johnson believes that building a strong team starts with having a clear vision and being able to rally your people around that vision. “If I can communicate a clear vision that trickles down we can all become agents of success together.” There is no doubt her agents of success have heard her message. Since launching in 2013 carbon38 has sold over 120 brands through its unique fitness instructor network and launched four branded collections.

Kevin Lavelle, Founder and CEO of Mizzen+Main on Trusted Advisors

Kevin Lavelle started his career as a political intern in DC where he quickly became frustrated with swamp-like heat that often resulted in showing up to meetings in sweated out dress shirts and wrinkled pants. This experience stuck with him and, as any entrepreneur, he decided to tackle the problem himself by merging the technology of performance wear he had experienced in golf shirts with the formal styles expected in business settings. Out of his focused frustration Mizzen+Main was born.

During the start-up process Lavelle quickly found out that building and running a business wasn’t easy. He explained that “the hardest thing about being an executive is the volume of decisions you have to make, and the fact that so many of those decisions have real consequences.” This is why having a strong leadership team you trust is so important. He notes “the decisions are taxing, so to find people I can trust allows me to pick my head up and focus on the bigger picture” while the other elements of the business get taken care of by his team of trusted advisors. With sports superstars like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans as a spokesperson Lavelle’s team has definitely taken care of business.

From my perspective as an organizational psychologist I’ve always preached the importance of team! What I learned from these three superstar entrepreneurs is that at the end of the day being a true market disrupter and force for change requires building a team through delegating to the right people, setting a clear vision for the future, and having trusted advisors to back you up!