My true entrepreneurial story – Success on the outside while the inside was falling apart (part 3)

The business was growing stronger, we had an offensive growth-plan, we had an external board and the pressure on us were increasing.

I remember these years as “when the seriousness took over the playfulness of running a business” …

If you haven’t read part 1 and 2, I recommend starting with these…

My true entrepreneurial story – The start-up (part 1)
My true entrepreneurial story – The building up phase (part 2)

We were on top and the business looked great

Round the years 2009 – 2011 everything looked very good from an outside perspective. We were on the list FAST 50 (The 50 fastest growing companies in Sweden), and we got the Di Gasell Reward (a reward to the most successful companies in Sweden) 2 years in a row.

We did our first small acquisition and increased our customer base, which was a good move for us and also a great experience.

We kept moving forward, but as the pressure on us were increasing, we were also starting to make mistakes…

Things starts going the wrong way

I started to work more closely with our new external board and our future strategy. One mistake that we did (as I can see now) is that we didn’t involve my other close colleagues enough, and the strategy became focused in numbers instead of the content in what we were doing.

We had monthly follow-up meetings and the boards knowledge of structure and reporting were good in the beginning of our collaboration. But as the time went by, I felt that we were getting the wrong focus. The boards knowledge of the business that we were in were too low (in my opinion now), and therefore their focus in leadership is getting more controlling instead of supporting. The focus was all about the numbers following up short term results, instead of focusing in the quality in what we were doing, and our long-term success.

This affected my leadership in a bad way and my own judgment began to fail.

As we were growing, we also needed more people, and we had problem finding the right people matching our high standards. So, what happened is that we lowered our standards and started to hire the wrong people, and we got our self into a never-ending story staff problem.

While things start to go the wrong way, I could also at the same time feel that my personal level of energy is on its way down. I also got a feeling of that I’m moving from “this is my family” to “this is a job that I have to do”.

A personal crisis made me a bad manager

At the same time as all those bad things are happening, I’m getting myself into some kind of personal crises. I was almost turning 35, and the only thing that I had been caring about the last 5 years is work, work and work. I started to think more about the meaning of life, my future, and about me. The feeling inside of me that something in life was missing grew, and it was time for a change.

I wanted more out of life. I wanted to have a family and kids of my own.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way this time. We tried and we tried and after a while it turned out that we could not have children in the natural way.

I started to take hormones, getting myself off balance. And I can see now many years afterwards, that this was when I started to lose control of my leadership, and I became a bad manager.

Even kick-offs that we used to love went wrong

At the same day as we were going to Atrox yearly kick-off to Åre Skiing resort year 2010 (when I just been through my third IVF with hormones), Fredrik an me gets our absolute worst message in life. This is not something that the crew knew about, but on the way to the train station the doctor called me. It’s quiet for a while in the phone, but then he tells me. – You are never ever going to be able to have kids of your own.

Of course I was completely crushed. But despite this bad message we decided to go, and that “the show must go on”.

That was a very bad decision. Almost everything went wrong on that trip. I wasn’t in a very good move, there were way too much alcohol involved, and all kinds of bad things happened during that trip.

On top of that it was very cold, and on our way home from Åre the train got stuck for 12 extra hours at night because of the bad weather. We were spending the night at the train, going directly from the train to work Monday morning.

But I can rejoice now 9 years later that this is a moment in life that everyone at Atrox remembers, and that we can now laugh at together.

Katinka Åre Kickoff 2010
Katinka Åre Kickoff 2010

Keeps following our big plans

Even though I knew in my heart that it was something wrong, we kept moving, trying to stick to the “big plan”.

We were growing out of our third office, and we started to look for a bigger one.

Finally, we signed up for a huge office (a lot bigger than we needed actually). But I taught it was a good idea by that time.

Because we were going to grow big. RIGHT.

Something magic happens

Against all odds me and my husband managed to get pregnant, and also with twins. I never taught that this ever were going to happened, and we were so happy.

But at the same time as we tried to be happy about this, we had so many things that needed to be resolved within Atrox. Who would replace me for example? For the past 5 years, I had basically worked for four in the roles as CEO, Web agency manager, project manager and sales specialist.

I felt sick all the time, going to work wasn’t fun at all. We tried and we tried but we didn’t find the right people to replace me with.

My pregnancy was not that simple, and I suffered from contractions. I had to stay at the hospital in October 2010 and from then I was on sick leave for 3 months, until the twins were born.

Time for the next chapter in life

Our twins Tom and Matilda were born in January 2011, and they are absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me and Fredrik.

Off course they were also invited to become a part of the Atrox family 🙂 .

In the beginning it was quite hard. Running a business of 20 people and taking care of new born twins at the same time. Difficult is actually an understatement, it didn’t work out at all. My energy was running out and I was moving towards getting burned out.

I worked way too much considering my situation and things were going bad. We could see each month that the numbers on the web agency were going down, and that things didn’t work out the way they should.

Then the management group came with a very wise decision. Let’s set a deadline on this.

If the situation hasn’t worked out 31 January 2012, then we will sell that part of the business.

And that is what happened.

The process went quite fast and in May 2012 we sold “Atrox Web Agency”, which was half of the company. It was a painful decision selling “my baby”, but I know by now that this was one of the best decisions that I have ever made in business.

And with a tiny little margin we saved the company from bankruptcy, and also me from getting burned out.

 

Atrox summer kickoff with the twins
Atrox summer kick-off with the twins

Full focus on Atrox IT Services

Now it was time for the next chapter of Atrox. Atrox IT-Services were a good business and we decided to go all in for making Atrox to the best MSP (Managed Service Provider) in the industry.
And so, we did…

Read more about the next and last phase My true entrepreneurial story – Do it again and do it right (part 4) .

/Katinka Nyberg

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