You can learn many things by running your own business for 8 years

When a child turns 8, he or she has learned a few things.  When a business owner reflects on 8 years in running their own business, the same can be said.  Let me take a moment and share a few things I have learned during my 8 years in running Ryan Search:

  • Nothing is ever as bad as it looks or as good as it appears.
    • Having a good year, even a great year can be a fun experience.  The challenge with good times is that you might become sloppy in your approach because you are busy or you let expenses grow too quickly.
    • Having a bad year helps you to know quickly what is essential and what is fluff.  I’ll readily admit that I like good years better than bad years, but only having good years keeps a business owner from monitoring expenses like he/she should, or at least that was the case for me.
  • Not every client is a good fit for your business
    • During my 8 years with Ryan Search, I have been blessed to have many wonderful clients.  While some of these clients were great people, I have also learned that I am not the right fit for every client.  In some cases this is readily apparent, but in most cases this is a lesson that comes with time.  Nothing against clients, just remember to know what your niche is and what is outside your area of expertise
  • Bigger is not better
    • My firm is smaller now, but in the past I had over double the number of consultants I have now.  One lesson I have learned many times is that I like to have my hands on the business.  This has prevented me from scaling like some might in the type of work I do, but I like to have personal contact with my clients and I am not yet ready to turn over the reigns to others.  Perhaps I’ll grow out of this.
  • Persistence is a virtue
    • Prior to owning my own firm I worked as an independent contractor for 4.5 years.  During that time and in the 8 years after I have had firms I pursued that never seemed to be attainable.  I have learned that staying the course has paid off with several firms that I tried to work with earlier.  God has a purpose in all he does and anything that comes easily is never appreciated as much as something that takes greater effort and substantial time.  For me, this is a powerful and rewarding lesson.
  • I enjoy working with people
    • I have the opportunity to work with the senior decision makers in most of my client relationships.  This enables me to know how the roles we work on fit into the strategic and tactical framework for their firm.  Some of my earlier clients were mega firms.  This work was rewarding, but working with the ultimate decision maker makes things easier, even when the search is tough.  Rather than having to wait for a decision, I can usually get quick answers when I work with those at the highest level in a small to medium firm.

Not every lesson I have learned has been a pleasant one.  I have made many mistakes and will continue to make mistakes as we move forward.  My hope is that I learn from my mistakes and then apply these learnings to make the work we do better.  Having great people to work with like Kaylyn Bruehl and Steve Shores also makes my life rewarding and worth getting up for every day.


In addition, having a loving and devoted wife like Gena makes life worth living.  If not for her faith in my ability, I could have never left my last job in 2006.  Having her as my wife and confidant for 36+ years makes this all worthwhile.

My newest chapter allows me to work with other business owners through my CEO peer group through Vistage.  I look forward to adding this facet to the search work we continue to do.

I hope to be here writing my newest learnings when we celebrate the 9th anniversary in 2019.

I trust you will come back and read what I learn in this newest year.