Ron Bracco | Crain's Washington D.C.

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

Ron Bracco

Background:  

Hargrove is a nationally renowned general contractor that produces trade shows, exhibits and events of all kinds. During his long career at Hargrove, Ron Bracco has worked on events for Microsoft, Sony, the NATO Summits and the Democratic National Convention, among other major organizations.

The Mistake:

[Before 9/11,] I was operating as an employee [at Hargrove] very autonomously in that I had a sales goal for myself and, at the time, I wasn’t managing the department. So I was very single-focused on what was coming my way and what I did. I wasn’t aggressive about what was coming in, I just reacted. And I wasn’t working with my team or encouraging my team.

When Sept. 11 happened and the events industry started to dry up and competitors were closing offices, we had to go into natural attrition in order to sustain ourselves. People weren’t traveling; they weren’t having events.

It wasn’t enough to just wait for business to come to me.

The Lesson:

I learned very quickly that it wasn’t enough to just wait for business to come to me. It was about the fact that each one of us played a role in our company. And in order for me to ensure that all of us had work within the company so that it thrived, I had to step up and evaluate how I did things. [I couldn't] be passive about the work that came our way, but had to really identify what were the best traits that we had so that we could go out and sell those traits. Also, [I had to] be aggressive and want more and bigger opportunities so that we could be a more sustainable company.

I think 9/11 made me look more holistically at our company and at my colleagues and the people that we worked with. It was the first time that I had to open my eyes and see I was a part of this world and I was a part of this company—that I wasn’t just collecting a paycheck and it wasn’t just about my sales. It was about the sales and success of the company and the security of it. When the going gets tough, everyone rolls up their sleeves.

Follow Hargrove on Twitter at @HargroveInc

​Photo courtesy of Ron Bracco