Mike Faith is a man who knows he can get things wrong. He tells the story of a time when Zappos founder Tony Hsieh came to Faith with a question. “I’m going to do this shoe thing online. Want to invest?” Faith declined, saying the business would never work.
Faith may have missed an opportunity there, but he missed few others in the early years of his business, Headsets.com. The company was on an exceptional growth path, being named to the Inc. 5000 five times. Faith describes the culture as chaotic, with growth so fast that team members felt unsettled as they scurried to keep up. The focus was on sales, and the numbers in 2007 had climbed past $30 million.
Then came the recession.
To survive, Faith made the tough decision to trim his fast growing company from a $30 million business to an $11 million dollar business –from 65 employees to about 30. The move took Headsets.com off the Inc. 500, which Faith admits was a hit to the ego at the time.
By moving the focus to profit instead of sales, and cutting almost all marketing, Headsets.com survived the recession. More than just surviving, Faith found something amazing had happened: Headsets.com had their most profitable year ever.
“I look back now, and I can’t see why being on the growth lists was so important to me,” says Faith told attendees at the 2014 Small Giants Summit in an interview with Bo Burlingham, author of Small Giants. “It shouldn’t have had quite the same level of influence on me that it did.”
Seven years further on, Headsets.com has grown every year since then, and will be about $18 million in sales by the end of 2014.
“I’m far more interested now in decisions that are good for parties around me, and not just for me,” says Faith. He says his interest in customers, suppliers and employees is greater now than when he was just focused on growth.
“Now we can plan for more stability,” says Faith. His leaders are able to assume people will be in the company for a long time, and invest in them accordingly. Faith says the stability, along with a clear focus on a shared goal, leads to better decision making.
“People know what we’re looking for, and what we want to achieve in two to three years out, and they can make decisions to get us there.”
Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership’s chief communications officer.