On Passion and Leadership by CEO Doug Weston by Neil Savage

We brag a great deal about our company—our growth, our accolades, our work for our clients, and our atmosphere. But most of all, we brag about our employees. If you came into the Towersource office on any given day, you’d see bright and vibrant personalities supporting and encouraging each other both professionally and personally. It’s these personalities that bring the company success. And who’s the personality at the center of this success? Doug Weston, president and owner, the heart and the soul of the company. We recently asked Doug to share some of his secrets to running a successful company while keeping such a bright smile on his face. In typical Doug Weston fashion, he offered advice great not just for running a successful business, but also for running a successful life. Here is Doug’s response to our request for advice on running a firm:

As I get ready to depart on my sixth mission trip, I reflect on a related question—one that is often posed to me: “As an owner of a successful company, how can you take time away from the office for mission trips?” I respond with a simple question of my own: “How can I not?” But I wouldn’t have believed that response when I took my first mission trip.

In 2007, my church offered a trip to the Republic of Georgia. At that time, Towersource was undergoing moderate growth and, with just a handful of employees, we were very busy. I had my hands on most of the projects personally and was very involved in the business. Two weeks away from the company with absolutely no communication—email or phone or otherwise—seemed impossible and irresponsible. But I couldn’t ignore the opportunity; I had a calling. Despite the initial struggle of choosing whether or not to go, I made the temporary leap out of the business. And the trip truly did change my life and the life of Towersource.

I set a plan in motion about a month before I left on the trip. I started delegating my projects to all the great project managers I worked with. Each employee jumped at the chance. To my surprise, my plan worked so well that two weeks before I left, I found myself with nothing to do. I left with confidence, knowing all would be taken care of.

During the trip, I saw some devastating conditions and fell in love with the Republic of Georgia and the wonderful children, people, food, wine, and culture of the region. To say the least, the trip was a moving experience.

When I returned after two-and-a-half weeks, I was ready to jump back into my normal routine at Towersource. I chomped at the bit to get back to work, the same need that most entrepreneurs would feel. While I feared the mountain of emails that awaited me, I was motivated to put out any fires that flared in my absence.

But then I had a great revelation…

Things were running smoothly and everyone was doing a great job. And when things are running smoothly and everyone is doing their job, you stay out of their way. I wasn’t needed on the projects that I left. I began to use my extra time to work on the business and not in it. I was able to look weeks, months, years down the line, instead of having to narrow my focus on immediate projects. And as I backed away from these former projects, Towersource continued, and has continued, to see great growth.  

In hindsight, I discovered a couple key leadership lessons from the situation:

  • Sometimes, people just need the opportunity to be leaders. If you totally remove yourself, the true leaders will step up to prove themselves.
  • Taking time away to discover a passion forced me to empower those around me:
    • These new leaders were stretched and tested and because of that, they gained confidence. This confidence made a positive impact on the company as a whole.
    • The team became stronger and supported each other more and more as they stepped out of their comfort zone and contributed at increasing level.
    • The empowerment and contributions led many team members to realize their impact on and connection with their company, which fostered more loyalty, as they didn’t want to disappoint their co-workers or the company
  • And lastly, if you step away, you may discover another passion outside of the office.

In addition to helping Towersource, the passion and energy I discovered in the Republic of Georgia boiled over to my family, and we soon found ourselves on a family mission trip to Ecuador. Since then, my daughter and I took another trip to Ecuador and we followed that up with another trip to the Republic of Georgia, where my eldest son joined the two of us. Next week, my daughter and I are headed to the Republic of Georgia again, while my older son is going with his school to Guatemala.

I realize mission trips aren’t for everyone. I want you to discover whatever it is that will get you out of your comfort zone, push you a little, and hopefully help you discover your own passions and leadership skills inside and outside of the office.