Luis Vargas | Crain's Philadelphia

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

Luis Vargas

Background:  

LeftLane Sports is a membership-based e-commerce platform that specializes in outdoor, fitness, and sports-related clothing and footwear, along with all kinds of gear from bicycles and sufboards to camping equipment and climbing harnesses. 

The Mistake: 

So the mistake that I made as a leader was keeping information to myself, in the spirit of protecting the team from a level of exposure and duress. It was my experience, from having had bad bosses in the past, that made me realize that doing that was having the inverse effect, where the team was not having the context to help drive better decisions, or having a sense of urgency to properly prioritize and put weight behind the things that matter the most. 

One time, we were in the process of making an annual strategic plan. In the business unit that I was running, my managers were not putting together a plan the way it needed to be made because I had withheld information from them. 

Basically, I didn't give view to the fact that there was a concern around the viability of our business unit, given the growth strategy of the core business from the board. I had a group of people who were thinking that everything was okay, and could put together a modest to conservative plan. But when it was really time for fresh thinking about how we could really scale the business, it was a different case. 

I provide an open, transparent, and sometimes a hard look at the state of the state.

The Lesson: 

It was my experience from the past that gave me the awareness to realize that I was doing something that I had run from in the past. Now I think that it's the spirit of transparency in giving people the context and the expectations of what to do. It came from this good place of saying that I don't want to put stress and uncertainty on my team. 

So now, what I do is provide an open, transparent, and sometimes a hard look at the state of the state. Essentially to keep gravity on, if you will, and making sure that everyone is firmly planted, and that the opportunity rests in the business. 

Now, I have a weekly town hall, where I share the major headlines of the business, and performance of the business with the broader group. And then I have a weekly senior leadership meeting where I can have conversations for a smaller room and just ensure that the information is flowing as appropriate.

Follow Luis Vargas on Twitter at: @iamluisvargas

Pictured: Luis Vargas. | Photo courtesy of Luis Vargas.

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