You Need a Team or You Will Always be a CEO of One. I always ask myself, “if I would have built my team three years ago where would the company be right now?” While my business has amassed great success as an army of one, I truly believe I would be farther along if I would have started building my team earlier. In all honesty, I realize my hesitation has stunted my growth. This year, I became very intentional about adding new members to my team.
I had the pleasure to interview Eric Woodson. Eric is the Founder and CEO of The Kool Source an award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. A passionate entrepreneur and organizational leader, Eric has spent the last decade strategically guiding brands to help them optimize their presence and increase revenue.
Thank you for joining us Eric! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child, I was always interested in what it meant to promote or sell a particular product or service. A natural go-getter, I would sell refreshments at events and repackage and resell baseball cards. As I got older, my mother took note of my interest in marketing and business and purchased me a subscription to Black Enterprise, Forbes and USA Today. She expressed that while she didn’t have the answers to the questions I would ask her about business and marketing, she believed these resources would help. I leaned on these materials to feed my hunger and passion for business and I’m grateful that my mother and my father provided the tools I needed at such an early age.
In college, I majored in marketing and came to realize that real-world experience, from my vantage point, trumped standardized education. I decided to take the entrepreneurial route and open up a pizza eatery on my college campus with three of my classmates. We used our on campus connections, assessed the demand for business of this type, marketed the business during athletic events, and began to grow our email list of customers. While the approach was a bit unorthodox at the time, the experience gave me a chance to stretch my marketing and business skills in real time. My early entrepreneurial undertakings ultimately became the catalyst for The Kool Source today.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
As I started to grow my list of clientele, one of the challenges I faced was learning how to navigate the marketing landscape without guidance. I truly learned business through trial and error. It’s a lesson that has helped and humbled me because it’s taught me to go with my gut when making tough decisions and also to utilize the resources I have in my ecosystem such as mentors and successful colleagues in and outside my line of business.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
The recession in 2008 really opened my eyes as an entrepreneur. I know I am not alone when I say this particular point in our country’s history became a turning point for many entrepreneurs who had to course correct the direction of their business to stay afloat. I was one of those entrepreneurs. Quite honestly, it was a low moment for me financially and emotionally. However, the recession forced me to become a greater leader by shifting my mindset on the way I was doing business. I began to think more strategically on how to build a business based on sustainability rather than situational circumstances. By asking myself questions such as how can my business model stand the test of time? How will it evolve? I was able to change the trajectory of my company and my career.
Additionally, while this may sound cliché, becoming a father and a husband has truly grounded me as a business owner and as an individual. My family has not only allowed me to create a clear vision for the future, but also has given me a reason to continually work hard to leave a lasting legacy behind.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
You Need a Team or You Will Always be a CEO of One
I always ask myself, “if I would have built my team three years ago where would the company be right now?” While my business has amassed great success as an army of one, I truly believe I would be farther along if I would have started building my team earlier. In all honesty, I realize my hesitation has stunted my growth. This year, I became very intentional about adding new members to my team.
Vacations are Not Yours
I vividly remember being on vacation in Hawaii and wanting to take a four-hour helicopter tour and having to decline because the exact time of the tour was also prime time for business on the east coast, where more of my clientele resided. I was tethered to my laptop the entire vacation which was truly a wakeup call for me. I realized at that moment I wanted to build a team to handle the demand if I needed to step away. As an entrepreneur, there will be times where some of your vacation time will be spent on growing the very business that allowed the vacation to happen in the first place.
Mentors are Important
In my earlier years, I was blessed to find a mentor in Brett Holcomb. Brett owned a series of Kiosks at the local mall.The motto for the team was simple, “if you don’t sell, you don’t eat” so I quickly learned how to maximize sales and build a customer base built on word of mouth and demand. Brett really took me under his wing and gave me a safe place to explore what it truly meant to become an entrepreneur and for that I am forever grateful.
Business Services are Vital
As a business owner having your “business” in order becomes imperative. Utilizing accounting and tax services from the very beginning are crucial to your success, especially when considering hiring a team. You must have your finances in order to gauge if you can bring on a new hire and if you can sustain them.
Sleep Doesn’t Always Come Easy
Business will always be on your mind as the leader of a company. You are always thinking about how to scale your business, next steps to take and opportunities that are available to you and your team.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self-care is not just a trend, it has become an increasingly important aspect for any and everyone, especially CEOs. I find that when I make time for myself, I am more productive and a better leader.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My Mother and Father were very important in my success and made a concerted effort to ensure I had the resources I need to pursue my interest as a child.My Mother provided me with books and resources such as Reginald Lewis’s book “Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun?” and my Father would consistently take the time to introduce me to local business owners in our community. I was able to ask questions and gain an understanding of how businesses were run and operated in real time.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally? My goals are to truly be the best father and husband to my family. This is extremely important to me. Everything that I do is with the intent to leave a lasting legacy behind for my family, friends, and those I have mentored and helped along in their own professional journey.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
My ultimate goal is to be the catalyst to help others achieve personal and financial success. I want to provide a blueprint for success that others can replicate and follow. I realize that my success is not just about what I am able to achieve, it’s more so about helping others through education, mentorship and opportunity. I stress this heavily with my team. So much so that we have started a book club within our organization that allows the team to talk about and expand on topics to help them become better individuals all around. I believe when the entire team possesses a winning mindset, we can achieve anything.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
The Kool Source is not just the namesake of my company, it’s truly a way of life. If I could start a movement that would enhance the lives of others it would simply encourage others to #BeKool. I strive to live a stress-free life as much as possible, and as we all know, things happen. However, the way in which people react to situations and circumstances can make all the difference in their outcomes. It would be a movement of positivity and of course being as “kool”, calm, and collected as possible in every situation life throws our way.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find The Kool Source on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn at @TheKoolSource.