Joy Bray | Crain's St. Louis

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

Joy Bray


Based in St. Louis, Chi-Chi is a travel services, branded merchandise, event planning and business consulting company.

The Mistake:

Trying to do too much at the expense of big-picture business planning and growth.

Earlier in my career, I was working too much in the business instead of on the business. In those days, I may have been doing more of the bookkeeping and all the financial stuff. I just felt like I was trying to do everything and manage everything.

One of the best things I did was really reach out to people. I really learned and took advice they were giving me. And one of my mentors recommended at the time that, rather than try to do all our financials and everything else that goes into day-to-day business operations, I should delegate to some outside providers. So I started contracting out all my bookkeeping. And I hired a salesperson who could go out and help continue to build the business as opposed to me being president, CFO and CMO.

Of course, everyone wants to make money. But happiness is beyond that.

The Lesson:

Through those experiences, I really learned how to begin to delegate, which is the best thing anybody can do. Learn how to let go and trust your employees and peers and really empower them. Because they come to work every day to get a sense of satisfaction and achievement and to be part of a team. Of course, everyone wants to make money. But happiness is beyond that. It's feeling good from within and feeling you contributed to an organization.

Now, I have an actual accounting firm I work with. I have a bookkeeper who handles the books for the business and my personal finances as well. I can go to sleep every night knowing everything is taken care of and it’s not something I have to be worried about on top of other things. So it allows me to work more closely with clients and be an extension of their organizations. I think that’s something that we really pride ourselves on in our business.

On the selling side of the business, I do go on calls every now and then, but it’s not like I’m making calls every day. So it made a tremendous impact. It probably freed up 60 to 70 percent of my time between having someone who was out selling and having a bookkeeper handling the finances.

I’ve seen a lot of growth because the more you can delegate and empower people, the more they keep growing in their jobs, personally and professionally. Business growth all starts trickling down from there. You just don’t want people to feel stagnant, unappreciated or unneeded. You want people to feel like they are being pushed every day. You want people to push themselves.

For anybody else starting a business, I’d recommend surrounding yourself with as many diverse mentors as possible. Know your strengths and understand your weaknesses. And you need to always work to maximize your strengths and the strengths of the team around you and minimize your weaknesses and theirs. Then, take those weaknesses and hand those tasks off to someone else who has different strengths.

There are so many opportunities out there. People want to help you. I think people are always afraid or think there is no way to reach out. But there are always opportunities to ask for help because people in the business world do want to pass along their success stories and their wisdom, and that’s how you’re going to grow.

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