Jessica Fialkovich | Crain's Denver

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

Jessica Fialkovich

Background:  

Transworld Business Advisors is a brokerage and consulting firm that helps people start or buy their own business. Jessica Fialkovich co-founded TBA with her husband, Albert, managing director of TBA, in 2013. Before co-founding TBA, Jessica was the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Decanted Wines, a retail wine tasting shop in Naples, Fla. 

The Mistake:

Al’s my husband, and this is our third business together. We had been through the process of selling a business as a couple, and we knew a lot of other families who were selling their businesses. We decided we wanted to help people through that transition, and we knew we wanted to do it together. We were pretty confident—we were just coming off a couple of very successful businesses, and we were still in our late 20s.

When we started our new business though, there was a nervousness. We were starting from scratch. We had an idea of our business development, but the backbone of the plan was using your network and the community, and we had moved to Denver, where we had no network.

We were both trying to do a little bit of everything: business development, some recruiting, some sales, some operational things. It created a lot of stress. We went through a lot of employees our first year, which is probably a symptom of that greater problem. We were working like crazy — we’re both workaholics, so that’s to be expected — but it’s almost like we were working to avoid figuring out how to solve the situation. We were almost avoiding this problem of figuring out our strategy. Rather than going transaction to transaction, client to client, how were we going to make our long-term business plan?

It was one year in that we finally hit a financial wall. We were looking to buy a house, and we realized we had to qualify for a certain income level. We were talking through various strategies, and we realized that we were making the same mistake that we had in both of our previous businesses.

We were both control freaks, and we were doubling the time for everything we were doing.

The Lesson:

Twice before, we had reached this same point, where we physically could not make any more money. I think what created that wall was that we weren’t dividing up our responsibilities. We were both control freaks, and we were doubling the time for everything we were doing. If there was paper on the desk, each of us would have to touch it when we went out the door. We were wasting time, and in service, time is money.

I was so mad at myself when we finally saw what was happening. I think both of us pride ourselves on being learners and being coachable, and it’s frustrating when you see yourself make the same mistake more than once, or in this case three times. But we realized we had to quickly let that go.

What we did was make a list: How can we apply these strengths to the business to increase the strength of the business overall? What is Jess good at, and what does Jess like to do, and what is Al good at, and what does Al like to do? It had an effect within the first 30 days.

If I got out of Al’s way and stopped questioning how he was negotiating contracts and what clients he was taking on, we made more deals. By removing myself from that sales process, it freed up my time to sit down and find out what our values as a customer were, so we could attract the right type of employees and retain them. The first two hires we made after that decision are still with us today.

When you first get married, you want to be together all the time. Now we joke that "divide and conquer" is our marital slogan. We’re going to put it on a plaque on the wall.

Follow Jessica Fialkovich on Twitter at @jfialkovich.

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email jfisher@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Denver.