David K. Williams | Crain's Denver

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

David K. Williams


Orem, Utah-based Fishbowl creates software for inventory and asset management. Aimed at small- to medium-size businesses, Fishbowl’s software has also been sold to NASA and Mercedes-Benz. CEO David Williams said the software, which integrates with QuickBooks and other accounting platforms, is designed for “anybody that has anything that needs to be tracked.”

The Mistake:

I was not a good delegator for most of my career. I was a tough, driving manager who expected everyone to move at the pace I did.

I couldn’t retain people; they would be dissatisfied. I found out I was driving them too hard, that when I’d delegate something, I wasn’t really delegating.

This was while I was at big companies. They taught leadership principles but I wasn’t very good at picking them up.

When people fail, it’s one of the most beautiful things.

The Lesson:

I came to Fishbowl with those things in mind. If I know how to delegate, our team will have failures and also have successes.

I will now give a major assignment to one of our lead programmers. After we decide the direction they want to take, I don’t want to hear from them unless they need me as a resource. If you fail along the way, just pick yourself up and try again. In fact, when people fail, it’s one of the most beautiful things that can happen. They then try to improve.

I don’t lose people anymore — maybe one a year out of 150 people, and with our mean age of 26-27 and a male demographic, that’s phenomenal. They send in a report once a week of what is happening in their area. We have strategy meetings, but after that, it’s up to them to deploy.

I truly have let go, and it’s been hard, but it’s also been beautiful. It’s only been the last two or three months of my life that I feel I’ve really done it.

David Williams is on Twitter at @DavidKWilliams and Fishbowl is at @fishbowl.

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