From Solopreneur to CEO: How I Grew a Team and Stepped into a Leadership Role

from solopreneur to ceo how I grew a team and stepped into a leadership role
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from solopreneur to ceo how I grew a team and stepped into a leadership role

January 2020 marked my eighth year as a wedding photographer with my business Laura Lee Photography and fourth year as an educator with my business Laura Lee Creative. In just a few short years, it’s hard to believe how much I’ve grown and learned as a business owner. And let me tell you – what they say is true: “new level, new devil”. There is ALWAYS something new to learn as my business grows, but one of the key lessons I’ve learned along the way is how to delegate, grow a team, and shift mindsets from solopreneur to the CEO of my business. 

And let me tell you, this was probably the hardest – yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done as a business owner.

I needed to shift away from my “employee” mindset and step into a true leadership role in my businesses. 

I needed to stop doing ALL the daily tasks and maintenance in my business and start focusing more on the tasks that actually brought income and growth to my business.  So I had some work to do. And this blog post? This will tell you Step-by-Step how I decided to grow a team, and HOW I did it.

Step 1: Determine my Zone of Genius + Begin Outsourcing the Rest

K – so, the first thing I did? I made a list of EVERYTHING I did on a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly basis in my business. Then, I listed out what was in my zone of genius – AKA what are the things I’m GREAT at doing that ONLY I can do in the business, and what wasn’t. This was KEY to getting one step closer to a CEO role in my business. 

I needed to get the things I was mediocre at, and just plain bad at off my plate – because these were generally the things someone else could thrive at. Enter the first team member: My amazing mom! She handles bookkeeping, financial management, album design, and really, all things reports, numbers, sales, and data reports in the business. 

Step 2: Make a Decision, again: Maintain at this Pace? Or Grow Business Further?

Clearly, I decided I wanted to grow my business even further. But before I could do this, I needed to figure out and define what I wanted for my business. 

Who did I want to help, how did I want to help them, what kind of impact did I want to make?

After I answered this for myself, I quickly discovered that these things could not be done alone – and that what I wanted to achieve in my business wasn’t in my mom’s zone of genius either. 

No matter how many systems and workflows I put into place in my photography business, I truly wanted to GROW the business (and a new business) not just maintain a roster of wedding clients every year. 

I wanted to expand my revenue streams, launch new services, serve more people…and this required a few more hands-on deck. Plus, I just really didn’t want to do the things I wasn’t good at anymore.

Step 3: Get clear on my VISION for the business – and what key players I needed to make this come to life. 

Before I could start growing my business and reaching more people, I had to get clear on WHAT I wanted to launch. Moreover, what type of person I’d need on my team to help me. AKA, Define my VISION for the business so I could translate it to a team member.

I needed a team member with the skills to make my vision and dreams come to life. 

And the even bigger KEY here, I needed to find team members who shared the same values and truly LEANED IN to my vision with me.

Enter the next phase of this whole process…finding my first virtual assistant in Tracy at Rock Solid Virtual Assistants. When I hired Tracy, this was the first time I actually started to feel confident in my ability to delegate and scale my business. And in just a few short months after signing on with Rock Solid Virtual Assistants, I was reunited with one of my oldest friends from study abroad who took over as my new virtual assistant. And together? STRAIGHT UP FIREEEEE. Which brings me to step 4!

Read more on how I delegate tasks to my team here. 

Step 4: Dreams coming to life 

This next phase of business ownership is really where things started to shift for me in my role as an entrepreneur and business owner. With the guidance of her team at Rock Solid Virtual Assistants and skills from previous work experience, my amazing new assistant, Bridget, was able to seamlessly take things off my plate that was weighing me down. And while she was helping with the day-to-day, she was also able to help me strategize and prioritize tasks that would take my visions and make them a reality. 

Those in-person, intimate retreats filled with life and business chats by the fire would soon come to life in my first retreat and all the sequential ones that followed. Since that first retreat, we’ve now worked on 4 retreats, multiple course launches, membership launches, conference planning and so much more. Not only could I NOT do these things alone, but I wouldn’t WANT to in the slightest. 

I truly would be lightyears behind where I am now in my business if it wasn’t for the amazing team at Rock Solid Virtual Assistants.

Step 5: Growing the team, once again 

While we continued to expand with more revenue streams, students, and photography clients,  I decided it was time to hire an employee full time in the business. Along came my photography business manager and right-hand assistant of all things admin, design, and clients – Sydney.

Sydney was the perfect addition to our organized, go-getter, perfection-seeking team, stepping right into the business vision and her role immediately. 

But then, something weird happened. 

I was trying to outsource all the daily, one-off and repeating tasks to my mom, Bridget or Sydney but I kept getting stuck. I struggled to fully let go of certain things, finding myself spending hours in my inbox or posting on social media or culling images from recent sessions. If I was going to fully utilize my team and grow both businesses to their full potential, I needed to make a change. This brings me to step 6.

Step 6: Discovering my new role as CEO

Once I realized it was time to make a change, I knew there were steps I needed to take to get better at my NEW role, I needed to:  

  1. Redefine what my new role was – what tasks was I going to be responsible for? So to do this, we started labeling my role as the person responsible for the “growing tasks” and the visibility of the business.
  2. Learn my team’s Zone of Genius – and get better at delegating to their ZOG.
  3. Learn how to communicate what I need them to do, effectively.
  4. Communicate OFTEN.
  5. Host team meetings weekly to stay on track with our goals and vision as a team.
  6. Learn to ask for help (more than I think I need it)
  7. Learn that everyone has different strengths and that my team enjoyed doing tasks that I didn’t (this really had to sink in for me) 
  8. Realize that just because my list didn’t always consist of checking things off our project management system all the time, didn’t mean I wasn’t contributing to the business.  It’s my job to FEED the business new opportunities for growth which means my role is to be visible, market, and show up as much as possible.
  9. Empower my team to make decisions, and also make mistakes. 
  10. Create a great learning environment where everyone feels valued, seen, heard, appreciated, and know that it’s okay to make mistakes because that’s how we learn!
  11. Continuously give my TEAM opportunities to grow and learn and expand and create their dream role.
  12. And did I mention, communicate, communicate, communicate?

I never imagine in a million years how rewarding, business changing, and life-changing it would be to grow a team.  But here’s why I truly believe it’s the best thing you could do as a business owner looking to grow.

Why I truly believe in growing a team 

With a rockstar team by my side, I’ve been able to truly step into a new role in my business, years after their inception. I’ve been able to become the CEO of my business and focus on the growth & success of our team long term. And focus on new projects that truly LIGHT ME UP.

And the same can happen to you.

By growing a team, you will be able to see some of the MANY benefits I’ve seen in the years that I’ve been working with my mom, Rock Solid Virtual Assistants, Bridget, and Sydney. Things like: 

  • Taking on new projects
  • Growing and expanding your revenue streams
  • Creating your dream role and get away from tasks you don’t love
  • Allowing yourself to step into your zone of genius
  • Allowing someone else to step up to the plate and help craft your vision into reality
  • Finding a new family. Yes, they will become your family, the people you bounce ideas off of, and the people who continuously celebrate the business’s success.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that growing a team is more than just learning how to delegate and grow your business. My team has become my family (yes it’s worth saying twice). 

They’ve leaned into what I’ve envisioned for my business and truly care about the success of it just as much as I do. 

And even more than that, they’ve come up with ways to grow the business and plug in the holes to make it even better than it was the day before. Because, when it comes down to it, they CARE and want to grow, together. 

Of all the things I’ve done as a business owner, growing a team has been my greatest and proudest accomplishment. I could not do what I do without them. 

So to my amazing team: Bridget, Sydney, and Terry – thank you for being the best freakin team on the planet! Who knows what this business would look like without you! 

Are you looking to expand your team, take on new projects, and grow your business too? Without a doubt, there is no one I trust more than Rock Solid Virtual Assistants.  They’ll interview you, and pair you up with someone based on personality and skill that will be the perfect fit for your business. This is something you’ll never regret, and will continuously be glad you did. 

Thank You to Rock Solid Virtual Assistants – Move Mountains Experience Sponsor

And last but not least, I just want to say a BIG thank you to Rock Solid Virtual Assistants, one of our 2020 Move Mountains Experience sponsors. As part of this intimate, 4-month long mastermind experience, my biz bestie, Jordan Jones, and I dive deep into all things workflows, systems, task management, team management, marketing funnels, launches and so much more! Rock Solid Virtual Assistants has been a Move Mountains sponsor since 2019 and we cannot thank them enough! Thank you for helping us to continue to educate, inspire and impact other creatives on their business journeys! 

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