Lani Rosales | Crain's Austin

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

Lani Rosales

Background:  

The American Genius covers news in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture.  In addition to her roles as COO of The American Genius and The Real Daily, Rosales also co-founded the Big Ass Social Happy Hour (BASHH), and is the (self-proclaimed) iron-fist co-founder and Evil Overlord at Austin Digital Jobs (ADJ). She has been named one of the 12 most influential web writers. 

The Mistake:

Not seeing how quickly something might scale.

In the past when we’ve started new initiatives, I expected a trickle effect but then found things exploded almost every time. Our founder ­– who also happens to be my husband and boss ­– is an amazing visionary and I’m a great workhorse – but I didn’t always prepare properly for rapid growth because I didn’t necessarily see the potential for it at the time. Then I had to play catch up.

An example of this occurred in 2011 when we started the Austin Digital Jobs Facebook group. It wasn’t intended to be something so big at first. We noticed people were starting to leave Austin and we were trying to retain talent here. We also wanted to create a Facebook group to help people in Austin connect better. It was our way of helping the tech industry. That thing took off so quickly and continues to grow at a rapid clip. Today, it has 36,000 members and hundreds of people attend our quarterly hiring events.

Imagine starting a Facebook group to simply help out your city. You don’t always assume it’s going to become an entirely new branch of your business. Suddenly there was this big thing we had to manage the time input for. We had to prioritize and juggle to fit it in when we didn’t really have time for it to begin with. But it had become so highly in demand we had to make time for it. Plus, we had the added challenge of integrating ADJ into our brand and that took some finagling. But we did it.

Another example is the Big Ass Happy Social Hour, a monthly networking event we’ve held in Austin for the past 10 years. I wasn’t initially prepared that it would scale so quickly.

In the early stages of both initiatives, our main business did suffer initially. In the tech industry, people have strong opinions of what culture should be and I had to continuously monitor the ADJ page. There were times that I thought there was no way I can watch this group all day. I was busy putting out fires constantly and then there were fires we didn’t even know about because we were focused elsewhere.  Eventually, we created a flow chart of rules that everyone is required to read so there are fewer fights over what’s acceptable and what isn’t. That helped a lot.

I was raised to be humble and make no assumptions ... but that can limit your vision for what your growth can be.

The Lesson:

Those experiences resulted in my investing more time in planning for the best-case scenario, or rapid scaling prior to launch. At times, I hesitate to take on new things and have to think them through more thoroughly. So even though our founder is really amazing at being a visionary and can see how moving parts fit before I can comprehend it, I have to be able to plan. I need to have time to go to him and brainstorm about how things can be prioritized and effectively streamlined. I’ll talk to him about things like how we can use an existing support team for it, for example.

Now there’s more planning upfront in case of the possibility of a new initiative doing better than I imagined it could. A lot of my previous behaviors had to do with me being a Southern woman. I was raised to be humble and make no assumptions. I think in the south you’re taught there’s always someone smarter than you, but that can limit your vision for what your growth can be. So, sometimes that’s been a challenge for me. But now I know things can get out of control if you’re not careful, and you have to be ready just in case you’re lucky.

 

Follow The American Genius on Twitter at @AGBizWire.

Pictured is Lani Rosales. | Photo courtesy of The American Genius.

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