Chris Miget | Crain's St. Louis

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

Chris Miget

Background:  

EnviroPAK manufactures custom-molded pulp packaging products made entirely from recycled newspapers.

The Mistake

This goes back more than  20 years ago to the first business I started with a couple of business partners. It was a printing distributorship. Basically, it was it was the three of us doing everything. My biggest challenge came as we added more people. The mistake was that I didn’t allow them to do all the things that they could to grow personally and to help me grow the business. I held onto everything tightly and didn’t delegate very well. That led to me becoming overworked and not doing as good a job as possible. I also didn’t get to enjoy much of a collegial relationship with my fellow employees. I got frustrated because business had gotten to the point where I wasn’t able to do it all myself.

Finally, the light came on. It took a lot of work over the next couple of years to let loose of the reins and delegate some of the authority of helping manage clients and continuing to grow. I think my biggest character flaw is that I’m a perfectionist and have a certain way of doing things. But people were not going to do things exactly the way I’d do things, and that wasn’t necessarily bad. I would mentor them and allow them to develop their own methodology. And as long as we accomplished the same objectives, that was okay. That was a bit of a leap of faith for me because of how I had to build my business and how important each and every client was.

One person cannot operate as an island in a business and be successful in the long term.   

The Lesson 

When we sold the business, I wanted to do something that was entrepreneurial in nature. I was one of the original investors in EnviroPAK, and 22 years after the business began, I was asked by the board to become involved in the day-to-day operations and management. It was a different company with different personnel, so I’ve been able to apply lessons learned. Because of my previous experience, I was able to take a look at  people within the organization, look at what they were doing and project how they might help us take things to the next level at the company.

We were able to promote some people from the shop floor to the management side and really upped our game in regard to quality and production efficiency. We’ve also been able to afford an opportunity to some folks in areas like accounting and our design and tool shop to grow into management positions in different aspects of the business. These people have helped us solidify the management team, and improve our quality and speed to market. They are not only able to do better for themselves, but do better for their families and to really build a good base for this business. The value of this organization is not really me as a leader, it’s the people and the management team that help things happen on a daily basis.

Because of what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to pick folks out along the way and offer opportunities up they haven’t had. Have all those people in new positions worked out exactly as we thought they would? No. But, on the whole, we’ve been able to afford everyone the opportunity to improve themselves personally and give them a career path while helping us continue to build value in this company through the employees that we have.

My advice? Take a look at what your goals are and how you’re going to get there. Then think about how those around you can help achieve those goals without you doing everything yourself. One person cannot operate as an island in a business and be successful in the long term. There is a lot to be gained from mentoring and sharing knowledge with others and then finding collective success in building a team. Because now more than ever, it's about team-building while continuing to bring value to the customer. If we don’t do that, there’s no need for us, and the customer will find somebody else who can. 

Follow EnviroPAK on Twitter @enviroPAK

Pictured: Chris Miget | Photo courtesy of EnviroPAK.

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