Ed Petersen | Crain's Phoenix

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

Ed Petersen

Background:  

Launched in 2016, Wrench aims to disrupt the more than $60 billion vehicle repair and maintenance industry by bringing certified mechanics directly to customers' locations. The Seattle-based startup has already expanded into Portland, San Diego and Phoenix, and expects to enter additional markets after closing on a $4 million Series A financing round from Madrona Venture Group.

The Mistake:

Having started a number of companies over the years and grown them from a couple of people in a garage to a substantial employee base, one of the most impactful learning experiences for me has been changing the way I communicate.

As a company grows, new divisions and units are formed, you’ll have an engineering team, a business team, and a marketing team that will all have their own separate meetings, for example. Each of them starts to deal with their own problems, challenges, and tasks they’re trying to accomplish to drive the business forward. Oftentimes, however, they’re making decisions that impact groups other than themselves, but they’re operating in their own silos.

I have, in prior lives, had business groups that have made commitments to customers and enterprises, where they’ve said, “Yes, this should be no problem at all, we’ll get that done in a couple of months, and we should be good to go.” You think everything is in sync. But when you go back to the product team, you find that’s not the case.

You need to make sure that you communicate each decision throughout the organization.

The Lesson:

At a startup, you’re making decisions – rapidly. And while you might think that people know exactly what you’re doing and where the company is heading, they may not. You need to make sure that you communicate each decision throughout the organization.

One of the most important components of any company’s success is really making sure that the entire team not only knows their role, but also how that role fits into the company as a whole, and why it’s so important that they communicate with each other. If everyone isn’t in lockstep, there will be gaps in communication.

Not only that, but the communication style you use with a handful of people versus 10 to 20 people is wildly different. You may have a satisfying discussion with a couple of people, but forget that the rest of the team needs to be in the loop on that, too. Making that adjustment as the company grows – particularly in a startup environment, where things are so fast-paced – is a never-ending challenge that you have to be aware of at all times.

Follow Wrench on Twitter at: @getwrench

Pictured: Ed Petersen | Photo courtesy of Wrench

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email hgamble@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's.