A string of great bosses early in Darin Lynch’s career taught him the difference between leadership and management. He was given opportunities to learn and try and fail. But he eventually wanted to strike out on his own, fully knowing all of the the challenges that can come along with that.
In 2004, Lynch launched Irish Titan, a digital agency that specializes in e-commerce and strategic digital experiences.
“I wanted the challenge of being responsible for my own destiny,” Lynch explained. “I wanted to win or lose, succeed or fail on my own merit.”
We asked Lynch to reflect on some of the lessons he’s learned from founding his own business during a Facebook Live Q&A. Watch the full interview or check out these highlights in Lynch’s own words:
Irish Titan’s origin story
I came from more of a corporate IT kind of background with a focus on how to leverage technology for business strategies, then, I got my MBA at St. Thomas. I started to see an opportunity in the market to exploit what I felt was a weakness that most digital providers had, and that was an absence of business-focused thought with how to use digital.
I think that by the time I started Irish Titan, I’d had a lot of corporate experience, including some investment in management, in organizational design, in organizational strategy. I’d seen business growth and challenge. I’d seen people growth and challenge. I had some of those sorts of things under my belt, which I think enabled me to do some things at Irish Titan earlier than other companies might have in terms of org design and how we hired people, and managed people, led people.
The challenge, though, with that, is that since I wasn’t a designer or developer, and that’s what we’re doing as a company, and still are doing as a company, I needed to hire those kinds of people right away, which increased my fixed cost, especially with that employee model.
The difference between managers and leaders
Leadership is, in my book, the ability to encourage people and enable people to achieve more than they think they can.
A manager is someone who can execute process and accountabilities to make sure that the system runs. Both are equally valuable. Some people are good at both. I personally don’t think that it’s very easy to be great at both. I think you need to be good at both and great at one to really have the kind of career that probably the people that are (reading this) are shooting for.
Are leaders born or made?
I tend to prescribe to the notion, and this is a little bit controversial, that I think leadership skills are a little bit more innate than some people like to try to say.
That said, whether you’re born a little bit stronger on the leadership spectrum or a little bit lighter, you can always work to improve them, right? Because emotional intelligence is a big part of leadership, and one of the main components of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.
There are things that you can read and exercises you can put through to improve your self-awareness, which then improves your emotional intelligence, which then improves your leadership. Whether you’re a strong leader out of the gate or someone who has more work to do, you can improve those skills.
Being wrong until you’re right
Maybe the heart of being an entrepreneur, and business owner, and starting your own company is being wrong until you’re right, because you make so many decisions with such limited information that you often times have to, if not reverse, at least fine-tune decisions as you start to get more information.
Being aware of that and being comfortable with that means you have to know that you’re going to make mistakes, right? That should be humbling. Then, being curious to learn from those and learn from others is what sets the table for having a mentor or these other resources you’re talking about.
When to get started
If you’re interested in (being an entrepreneur), do it. The longer you wait, the more challenging it might be because you will start to accumulate more and more responsibilities. It could be family. It could be a mortgage, could be whatever, and those sorts of things can be risks that can challenge you if you’re trying to start your own company, be an entrepreneur, because you’re also on that journey going to encounter things you haven’t expected.
If you’re inclined to try it, I would say the sooner the better.
Darin’s recommended resoures
- Join a peer group such as Allied Executives or a business-minded meet-up group
- Read “Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki
- Read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
This Facebook Live event was part of America’s Entrepreneurs: Making it Work, a series of entrepreneurship and career-related content made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.