Learning to delegate can be key to success
Striking out on your own in business is always a risky endeavor, especially when your business idea is unique. But with risk often comes reward, and so it has for Samantha Reynolds.
Reynolds is the founder of Echo Memoirs, a custom book production and publishing company based in Vancouver. Since the company began in 1999, Reynolds and her team of writers, graphic designers and bookbinders have created more than 250 visually stunning coffee-table books filled with the engaging stories and photographs that celebrate people’s lives and business histories.
Reynolds studied journalism at the University of Victoria, and spent the first few years of her career working in every aspect of professional writing, from public relations to freelance writing, to managing website content.
“But nothing really captivated me,” she says.
The turning point came when Samantha realized she’d failed to record her grandmother’s life story before she slipped into dementia following an operation. Samantha began recording the stories of family and friends and, encouraged by positive responses from her interview subjects, she turned her hobby into a full-time business in 1999. In the past 14 years, Reynolds says she’s learned some hard lessons on how to run a business.
“My first mistake was my enthusiasm,” she says. “I didn’t know how to say no to clients that weren’t the right fit.”
In those early years, Echo Memoirs produced wedding books, pet books, cook books. But Reynolds soon realized she had taken on too much, and the business was losing its focus.
“I was naive, and it depleted my energy taking on so much,” she says.
So Reynolds focused on projects that she enjoyed, and began to charge clients what her work was worth. After three years of working “pedal to the metal,” she was able to hire her first full-time staff member, and added a second staff member six months later.
“I struggled with hiring someone full-time at first, but I’m so glad that I did,” says Reynolds. “I was able to offload a lot of my responsibilities.”
Being able to delegate has been one of the keys to growing her business.
“It’s the responsibility of a founder of a company to ensure the company will endure,” she says, and you can’t do that without giving up some control.
Today, Echo Memoirs has a staff of six full-time employees and a stable of more than 30 freelance writers, and does work for corporations and individuals across North America.
For Reynolds, starting a family has helped her grow her business further, by forcing her to delegate where she might not have before. After the birth of her son two years ago, Reynolds hired someone to do the business development work she was unable to do. As a result, the year after her son was born was Echo Memoirs’ best year to date.
“It was a slow process to find balance, but it’s really paid off,” Reynolds says. “You have to surrender to the new normal of not being able to get as much done during the day as you used to. It’s just not possible to be as productive and efficient as you used to.”
While it can be challenging to transition from the fast and efficient professional world to the slow and chaotic world of a toddler, Reynolds says being able to laugh at yourself when you’re covered in vomit helps keep things in perspective.
“One of the great skills is being able to gear down when you are at home so you’re present when you’re with your child,” she says. “It’s a real shift, but it’s so important.”
• Reynolds is a member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. For more information, visit their website at www.fwe.ca.