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It’s been more than four years since I made the transition from COO to CEO of Any Lab Test Now. As COO, I was already a C-level executive. I had significant fiscal responsibilities and an impact on the overall direction of Any Lab Test Now, so the tactical shift from one role to another was a natural one. As I look back on the past four years though, I realize that, while I did have a solid handle on what direction I wanted to take the franchise system, I still had learning to do.

I suppose I will always have learning to do! But, in the past few years, there have been certain lessons about which I am reminded again and again – and which I think are helpful to anyone, from an entry-level employee to a new franchisee to other CEOs.

The Buck Stops Here

I’ve always liked the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.” The quote was made famous by President Harry S. Truman, who had a plaque with the phrase on his desk. The saying represents the disinclination to “pass the buck,” or pawn off problems and responsibilities onto someone else.

It probably strikes you that this an obvious lesson for someone in the role of CEO. After all, decisions end with me. Ultimately, I’m accountable for challenges or short comings that may be faced by the franchise system. At the end of the day, I’m the one who has to make the call and stand by it.

But, even if you aren’t a CEO, I hope you’ll approach life and your profession with this mindset. Like I am fortunate to do, surround yourself with a fantastic team of professionals (in my case, franchisees and employees) and together, celebrate your all your successes. But, know that at the end of the day, when you turn off your computer, you are ultimately responsible for the decisions that you make.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Direct

When something does go wrong, I do believe that the buck stops with me. That said, my job is also to make sure that Any Lab Test Now gets on course quickly and doesn’t repeat mistakes. That means that I must be direct and clear with franchisees and employees when initiatives fail. It happens: We try ideas that fail. It’s OK. But I can’t afford – and the franchise system can’t afford – to hide from mistakes or the truth behind why ideas didn’t work out. I must be frank and direct in dealing with these.

The irony is that one of my biggest hurdles in assuming this role was to flip this thinking back on myself. I’ve had to learn that some decisions are tough and that it’s important not to take negative feedback too personally. I work hard to listen and sincerely understand what the issues are, as well as to think about what I can do better next time, without hearing the feedback as a personal slight.

I appreciate that it’s hard, but mastering the art of giving and receiving direct feedback is one of those lessons that will take you far in life.

Little Steps Forward Lead to Strategic Wins

Learning from mistakes is only one step in achieving success as a franchise system. You may imagine that there’s a lot more to the job. As the CEO, it’s exciting to provide strategy, establish plans for the direction of the franchise system, and motivate everyone to embrace the ideas. There’s a thrill to guiding things forward.

However, I’ve learned to be cautious about getting so caught up in my plans that I forget to look forward. It can be easy to execute a plan once you get the hang of it. You have a list of items with deadlines, and you start working through them.

But, as the CEO, I must be one step ahead of the plan and look beyond what’s happening with the franchise system today. I have to be thinking about what’s changing in the industry, what new needs customers and franchisees have. I have to be figuring out what our position will be tomorrow, not just today. What I’ve learned to do over the past few years is to stop thinking about this as one huge task that I’m going to do in a single sitting. I have learned that I must move forward with strategic initiatives each day in order for Any Lab Test Now to say ahead of the curve.

I think that this is something that’s very true for any working professional. It’s likely that several of you are not intimately involved in setting strategy at the executive level; however, every role in any company or franchise system is meant to evolve with changing business needs. Make sure that you’re carving out little pieces of time on a regular basis to step away from day-to-day tasks and think about your future direction – or that of your department, team, or business.

Becoming the CEO of Any Lab Test Now did not happen overnight; it took time, determination and a good bit of elbow grease. And, while I will not be passing the buck, I also know that I am not an island. I have an amazing team supporting me, and we work diligently together to make sure that there are many successes to celebrate at Any Lab Test Now.

These three lessons will stay with me as I continue to work hard, build our brand and grow as the CEO of Any Lab Test Now. Now, I’m curious to hear. What lessons have you learned as you’ve transitioned from one role to the next?