Bad Girl, Good Business

#7: Create a Trusted Inner Circle

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the early days of theONswitch (18 years ago)…

I worked solo from my basement. Then, the company grew and I moved to an office and began to hire.

MJ, Amanda, and I were a solid team in the early days. We scaled the business together, got a client an appearance on Oprah (which was a tipping point moment), and had loads of laughs and the usual stresses of running a marketing company. We worked with a wide range of clients and personality types. Scott succeeded Amanda and remains a friend to this day.

Student interns came and went. Some were truly amazing and have gone on to do terrific things. Others discovered that marketing wasn’t as much fun as they imagined and left for other pursuits (some with advanced notice and some simply ghosting).

“It’s about surrounding yourself with a carefully curated group of people who you admire and respect and with whom you share common beliefs and values — people who will set the tone for the foundation of your larger network filled with people who provide value to one another. And that core group should be a lot smaller than you think.” – Harvard Business Review

I now have a small (but high quality) circle of advisors, confidantes, and supporters who I can turn to in good times and bad.

Who’s in the best “inner circles?”

No founder can ever scale a business solo, so as you grow your business, look for people (employees, contractors, and clients) who:

  • Complement your skillset. Don’t just hire “mini-mes.” Get a sense of what talents you need and hire accordingly. For example, I came to realize that Ops abilities balance out my “head in the clouds” side.
  • Can be trusted. People sometimes lie, cheat, and steal. Or they are simply afraid to speak the truth. See Lesson #1.
  • Challenge you and inspire new ways of thinking. “Bobbleheads” and sycophants wear me out. If I had all the answers and was right all the time, I wouldn’t need other people in my inner circle.

  • Bring the steak and not just the sizzle.  Especially in small businesses, the willingness to work hard, be flexible, and solve thorny problems is key.
  • Deliver on time and on budget and care about quality. The best Independent Contractors will give you a sense that they have “skin in the game” and aren’t simply random gig workers.
  • Are self-aware, team players, and open to change and growth. Unless someone has owned a business, they may not really “get” the challenges of small business management. Empathy and willingness to listen/evolve are really important.

The circle may grow, shrink, and change over the years, but the right people will always be part of your orbit!

P.S. Sincere apologies to anyone who’s been in my circle over the past 18 years who I may have inadvertently omitted from this post! If you’re reading it and want to reconnect, simply reach out. 

BGGB.OkeyDokey-fred Memorable interns from over the years:

  • Jacob (now studying to be a social worker)
  • Lindsay (who is now a PR hotshot)
  • Sara (a super-successful brand and content leader)
  • Yeilani (former soccer star and true team player)
  • Gabby (the perfect blend of talent, humor, and snark)
  • Amit (the fastest database-builder ever and soon to be an MD!)
  • Laura (now a practicing therapist)
  • Michelle (who got a client into Crain’s her first week on the job)
  • Bridget (always willing and able to stretch with a smile and now a VP at Citi (ironically)
BGGB_ShakingHands How to identify trustworthy people (aka “keepers)
BGGB_Thumbs-Down-fred Removing people from your inner circle
BGGB_Pointer Balancing business and friendship




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