Ashley Bowers | Crain's Orlando

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

Ashley Bowers

Background:  

Scottsdale-based HomeSmart International is ranked as one of the top real estate franchises in the U.S. by the Entrepreneur 500 and Inc. 5000. HomeSmart has more than 98 offices in 17 states and upwards of 11,000 agents nationwide, with additional offices and agents in China.

The Mistake:

The biggest mistake I’ve made, and I’ve probably made it a few times, is not trusting myself in being authentic and transparent.

Sometimes, early in their careers, leaders tend to think we need to be something we’re not and that we haven’t actually earned the right to be in that league. When we let that negative thought process take over, we tend to put on a front that we’ve got it all under control – a lot more than we really do. 

I was once in a scenario where I had to remove a distributorship from a customer, which was essentially going to cut off all their business. So, it was a pretty significant phone call. The person had been warned a couple of times that they were misrepresenting the product and that if it continued, we would be removing their access to the product. 

I had one of my directors in the office with me to teach him how to have one of those phone calls. It was a coaching situation. I went through the entire process and he listened in on the phone call. At the end, as we were checking all the boxes, he looked at me and said, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you be human.”

It’s OK to let your people know that you make mistakes.

The Lesson:

It was that moment that sticks with me today – making sure to show that real and vulnerable side. It’s OK to let your people know that you make mistakes. It’s OK that sometimes you make bad judgments and you need to be questioned.

That’s really how you get the best team, work environment, culture and, ultimately, the best productivity and bottom line. It comes from being real with each other. The people who were really close to me in the organization had never seen me flounder or struggle with something. I was just robotic about business; it’s all business, all the time. 

It really set me back, in a positive way. From that day forward, I cut the noise from the older leaders I had been exposed to, who said, “This is how we do business. It always has to be professional. You always have to have your face on. You can’t trust anyone.”

I just said that’s not who I am and I’m not going to operate that way. It was really a change moment for the entire team and what we accomplished in the years after that. It was far greater than what we had ever accomplished before.

Follow HomeSmart on Twitter at @HomeSmartIntl.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Bowers

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