Tarra Sharp joined the show today and we had an incredible discussion around a lot of the things she’s experienced in her career so far. We discuss the impact great leaders can have on a young career and how those impacts are remembered for years on end. She shares some of her experiences working within a large organization and we contrasted that against her startup experience, leading her to the present day with her launching JHMacon Capital. It ultimately is a great discussion on how to grow under good leaders and lead new ventures.


Aaron Spatz  00:05

You’re listening to America’s entrepreneur, the podcast designed to educate, entertain, and inspire you in your personal professional journey. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And on the podcast I interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers that detail their personal and professional journeys in business. My goal is to glean their experiences into actionable insights that you can apply to your own journey. If you’re new to the show, we’ve spoken with successful entrepreneurs, Grammy Award winning artists, best selling authors, chief executives, and other fascinating minds with unique experiences. We’ve covered topics such as how to achieve breakthrough and business, growing startups, effective leadership techniques, and much more. If you strive for continuous self improvement, and enjoy fascinating and insightful conversation, if the subscribe button you’ll love it here at America’s entrepreneur super excited to welcome to the program Tara sharp So Tara comes to us from she’s originally from DFW she migrated away and now she’s on she’s on her way back. I’ll let I’ll let her do all the explaining and and taking us along with her on the journey. And so Tara, I just want to welcome you. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

Tarra Sharp  01:21

Thank you and I’m so happy to be here.

Aaron Spatz  01:24

Yeah. So So I so I know that you’re risen from DFW, but we’re worse. Where in the Metroplex Are you? are you originally from?

Tarra Sharp  01:31

Yeah. So I grew up in Arlington, actually. Born in Dallas, born in Parkland Hospital, lived in Dallas for about five years in the city and then moved out to Arlington and grew up in like on 10, Grand Prairie area.

Aaron Spatz  01:47

I gotcha. That’s a lovely, lovely part of town. And it’s seems to be a bit of a bit of the, it’s like the epicenter for the metroplex, there’s a lot, there’s a lot going on, and there’s been a lot that’s happened just in the last few years in terms of growth, I mean, with with, with the new ballpark to just just open and everything else. So it’s been it’s a it’s a great area, but yeah, to take us a little bit on your journey. So you so and I’ll, I’ll let you kind of walk us through that over, you know, over the course the program, but you know, you’re you’re originally from the area, and then we’re kind of tucked away and now you’re now you’re now you’re working on getting yourself back here. So take take me through a little bit your professional journey, you’ve had found a lot of really interesting experiences. So I loved it loved to understand like the what was that? What was that? Like? Because it looks like your first role was working at American Airlines. So what what was that experience like for you?

Tarra Sharp  02:39

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting because actually, my first I would say professional foray was as an intern at Procter and Gamble in Dallas. So when I was at Baylor, I went to Baylor Go Bears were all in the 16. So pulling for both my men’s and women’s basketball team. But i i When I was in college, I actually interned with Procter and Gamble every summer so I would actually was a sales intern. So I would go out and sale to like regional grocery stores in the DFW Metroplex. So I try to sell tied in for breeze through each summer. So that was kind of my first professional experience. And the first kind of, you know, I guess feat with with corporate America. But I really loved marketing versus sales. And so I was able to get my first role at American Airlines right after undergrad and I started in the Advantage Program. As an analyst. They’re working on marketing campaigns for the frequent flyer program.

Aaron Spatz  03:40

Oh, that’s cool. Yeah. Well, don’t even get me started Tara on the frequent flyer program, because those those have changed. Yeah, 1000 times in the last 10, like 10 years, I remember. So like before I moved up here to DFW. I was originally down in Houston. So that’s a huge United Airlines hub. And I remember taking, I mean, like I was banking, some serious mileage because I was flying overseas all the freaking time. And then they changed. They changed the rules. Instead of it being the the air distance that you’re traveling, it became a function of how much money you’re paying for your ticket and a whole bunch of other stuff. So yeah, so like, what what’s that, like? Then being a being a part of that whole? That whole thing as as a new program is rolled out?

Tarra Sharp  04:30

Yeah, yeah. It was a blast. Actually. I love that job. One, I had really great leaders. My my boss, Cynthia Barnes actually still keep in touch with her. She’s at American now in New York. And Bridget Glacia Maya, who’s also still at American I keep in touch with her. She’s actually running the program now. Where my two bosses and they were so formative in In my development as a leader, just seeing two really great women leaders, and learning from them. But yeah, being in the program was was awesome, because it was actually at the time, you know, the airline broadly is about, you know, optimize that time was like optimizing costs, right? So it was a lot of cost cutting across your line. And we were like, the revenue center, right? Like we were about growth in our department. And so it was just such a really cool environment to be thinking about, how do we grow the program? How do we get more people to our miles, whether that’s flying or using the credit card, I was actually managing our CO brand credit card with Citibank. So I was trying to get people to spend more on the credit card, you know, to our miles and take their trips. And so I loved it, because it was an opportunity to be both creative and analytical. And it was just such a cool experience. The flight benefits were also really nice. And I still to this day, miss.

Aaron Spatz  06:08

Bright, it’s so and I think, I think the era of dirt cheap seats is coming to a close as we’ve, you know, we’re we’re seeing things starting to open up. Now, I don’t tell anyone’s business travel, once that faucet gets turned on full blast, and you know, the the occupancy of the aircraft is going to go through the roof. And then yeah, also, we’re back to the standard, holy cow, that’s a lot of money to fly. But yeah, you said something just a few minutes ago, that I think is really important. And I’d like to circle back to that real quick. And so you talked about the importance of these two women, in terms of their leadership to you and how formative that was to you. And I don’t think I don’t think we can state how critical that is, and how, like how pivotal that has been for you. Because there are so many people that you know, either they come out of school, or they land in a maybe in a new industry, or whatever, whatever a person’s given path is. But I’m telling you, it seems to me that one of the largest, biggest differences is someone’s trajectory, and the way that they’re going to proceed throughout their career, it really come in, it’s crazy to think but like your first experiences with with leadership, and if that’s a positive one or a negative one, either way, it’s gonna have a pretty sizable impact on your career. And so it’s really nice, because I’ve spoken to several people on this topic. And like, I can almost tell the people that had a great positive first experience, it’s really, it’s really interesting. And so like that, that has been so impactful to you. And so what I think is cool, is like you still keep in touch with them. And I feel like that is another that’s just that’s another mark of a great leader is like they they’re caring for you beyond, beyond the office, right? There’s, there’s, there’s more to it.

Tarra Sharp  07:56

Yes, 100%. And I mean, both Bridgette and Cynthia, were invited to my wedding, Bridget came and Cynthia was out of town, unfortunately, but I maintain, you know, those relationships throughout. And you’re right, it it was the both the interest in me professionally, but also the interest in me personally, that really made a difference. And they put me on projects that were at the time, you know, a lot bigger than my role. So I had a project that was celebrating our 20th anniversary of the relationship with Citibank. And I was responsible for the kind of into in celebration, that was a multi Month celebration that involves multiple departments at the airline. So I was working with flight attendants, I was, you know, trying to get them on board with doing some interesting stuff on flight. I was, you know, talking to our folks to revenue management. So I was working across the organization. And this is as you know, a 24 year old kid right out of college. And so, you know, that trust that they put in me to do these big projects, um, you know, in the faith that they had me in the support, you know, really helped me believe, you know, that I could do these types of things, right. And it really instilled confidence in me and my abilities. So it is leadership is so important. And it will, you know, I think about them often in you know, the start of my career and how they played such a big part of my being successful.

Aaron Spatz  09:23

So cool. No, it’s just, it’s, it’s a really, because we, we spent so much time focusing on leadership as in terms of like us personally, right. So like you and I might talk and we probably will talk about leadership at some point during our discussion today, like but how important is as we as leaders, the different the different things that we’re doing or not doing in the way that we conduct ourselves. But then there’s, there’s, there’s the other side of the tables like man, what, what does it like to be led, you know, by people that are just incredibly awesome people, right? And so and there, and I’m sure you can relate to this, but like you Understanding what a rarity, that experience is, in terms of I mean, that doesn’t happen every day. Let’s just be honest. All right. And so people are people I know people who have their flaws. I’m sure those two women as brilliant as they are, they’re, they’re still human, right. But they have great leadership attributes that really have made an impact on you. And so it’s, it’s just, it’s important people are in and then I’m thinking like, Man, how do we like how do we help somebody that’s good, that’s gonna be graduating how, like, how do we help them find great leaders to work under because I like I really do feel like that’s the difference. It’s like, you can work even at a at a not so great company. But if you got great leaders there, it can make a tremendous, tremendous difference. And so be like, I’m just thinking out loud. I mean, like, you gotta like shop around and like as the interviewee you got to inter review the company. Oh, yeah. Boss up. So

Tarra Sharp  10:57

I think that’s right. I think when you’re talking, you know, when you typically have an opportunity to talk to your bosses, you know, not be afraid to ask about their leadership style to ask about some examples of how they’ve supported people who they’ve worked with, you know, if you can do a little digging, and see if you can find somebody who worked with them and talk to them to see, you know, what their experience is like, because I think that’s so, so important. And a big part of the work you’re going to be doing as a leader you have,

Aaron Spatz  11:28

right, and then and then if you find somebody that you just, you’re really attracted to right, like, in a professional way, and you’re like, Man, this, this person is freaking solid, they got their crap together, I feel like they, they really Shepherd and take care of the people that are under them, but they challenge them at the same time, right? They’re like, crazy, cool balance. That’s why I want to go work for like, go figure out, go figure out a way to work for that person. And like, You got to be like, their professional note taker, or coffee maker, it’s like, go make it happen, because I’m telling you, you’re gonna learn so much from those people, as opposed to, you’ll learn lessons too. Obviously, under under negative leadership, there’s a lot you can learn of what not to do. And that’s that’s great, too. I mean, it’s not great in the moment, but it’s, it’s creating the macro. Yes. Right. So but so well. And then one last thing, and then we’ll move on from this is just I think it’s hilarious that we’re spending so much time on this because you you weren’t even there two years, and then you left but like, look at how much of a look how much of an impact it’s had on you. Yeah, just like anything. It’s cool.

Tarra Sharp  12:29

And huge. Like I say, I love those women and you know, can’t say enough great things about Yeah,

Aaron Spatz  12:35

we’re sure. So. So you left there. It looks like you went to America. So it looks like it looks like you went more into like the financial route. So so help me understand all that.

Tarra Sharp  12:45

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s interesting I am, I wanted to stay at American I actually, you know, like I said, Love the organization love what I was doing was really excited about the aviation industry. And I tried to to get a transfer to American in New York, I had been going to New York a lot actually for work, because of our relationship with Citibank. So I was going a lot to meet with my partners there. And just thought, hey, it’d be great to live in this really cool, interesting, diverse city, having only you know, lived in Texas my whole life. Of course, my whole family was like, why would you want to leave Texas? What was wrong with you? But you know, I thought it’d be nice to live somewhere else. And so I, you know, looked at American and unfortunately, the only roles there were sales roles, and having interned in sales. You know, in college, as I mentioned, I knew that I just didn’t love sales as much as I love the true marketing role. And so I actually ended up looking for other roles. And, you know, such a bad moment, I, this role opened up at American Express, essentially doing the same thing I was doing at American Airlines, but on the bank side. So at American Airlines, I was focused on our CO brand credit card and trying to get people to spend on the credit card and AmEx, same thing, but on the Delta, Amex card. And so it was doing pretty much the same work. But now the financial services side, doing acquisition campaigns to get people to sign up for the credit card. But for the Delta American Express card. Wow. Yeah. And my boss, actually, so my direct boss was a manager, her boss, who’s the director had actually worked at American Airlines eat wickson. And he’s actually also still in my life. I was actually texting him earlier. So you know, there’s a theme that I’ve tried to keep good people in my life throughout. But he, you know, I think saw my resume and was like, Oh, wow, like there’s that American connection, that Dallas connection. So I’m pretty sure that that helped as well. So yeah, I ended up joining this team with a director who had been at American Airlines who had lived in Dallas, on a credit card that you know, it was about airline miles, so it was like the perfect transition. I think next step.

Aaron Spatz  14:59

Wow, wow, that’s, that’s neat. And then you’re so you’re you’re there and then you’re in it looks like you at this point, then you you work your way over to Chicago. And that’s kind of where That’s where you’ve been. So catch us up, like where what was all what was going on in your life moving to Chicago? And what these different different things that you’ve been that you’ve been working on?

Tarra Sharp  15:20

Yeah, absolutely. So I, I was at Amex during the financial crisis. So 2008, which is an interesting time to be there. Very interesting. Also, you know, great story of leadership can shut off it was a CEO, the company, and really lead that organization. Well, I mean, even down to, you know, letting people go, we had a big, I think 15% of the workforce was like, go during that time. And one of the things that I always appreciated is how open and forthright the leadership was about, you know, here’s the number of you know, people we have to cut, here’s the timing, you know, there were lots of town halls for people to ask questions. And so it was, it was a very, you know, empathetic way to let people go, if that makes sense. And so that really stuck out to me. So, you know, I stayed there, thankfully, I, my job was it cut, I was able to stay there. And at that point in time, um, I had been there a couple years after the financial crisis that hit, I really started to think about what I wanted to do next. And I knew through, like I said, the leaders that I had watching Kim Chennault, that, at that point in time, I knew I wanted to run a company. And it’s funny, because I didn’t tell anybody that but I, I kind of kept it as a secret to myself, you know, I looked at Kim Chanel and others, and I was like, I think I want to be that person. I think I want to be the one who is leading both in good and bad times. And really, you know, shepherding an organization and shepherding that growth, I really, you know, this stood out to me, so I kept it kind of buried in my mind. And when I looked at all these leaders, a lot of them were going to business school. And so I thought, Okay, that seems like the the next, you know, step to take, I have always, like, you know, like I said, trying to look at people who wanted to be in their role and figure out how they got there and just follow that, being a first generation college student that was like, you know, my, my blue, my blueprint of how I navigated my career. And so, yeah, so I decided to apply to business school, applied to a couple of schools in your, in Texas and Michigan, and ultimately was accepted to Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern here in Chicago, just north of Chicago and Evanston. So that’s what brought me here to the area. And I started business school in 2011. Which, you know, was a, it was a really good time in my career. At that point, I had, you know, been working for five years, had a good sense, like I said, of kind of what I wanted to do next, and business school felt like the next big step to get there.

Aaron Spatz  18:05

Oh, that’s great. Yeah, that’s great. And, you know, like, one one thing again, I’m, I’m notorious for this, but like, I want to go back to another thing that you said a few minutes ago, which was during during the financial crisis, right, there’s, you know, 10s of 1000s of people losing losing their jobs. I mean, I can still I can still see to my head, just the the the, the, the new shots from New York of people literally walking out of buildings, you know, without with other stuff, and just crazy how fast some stuff happened. And so, what one of the things that I think you got to experience through that was, you know, is like seeing all this happen, like with a front row seat, but seeing it done with compassion, right. So like, there’s, there’s so and it’s like, the awkward, it’s like, the awkward corporate moments, right? Of like, Okay, we’ve got to let people go, but like, how do we do this in a way and like they’ve got, they’ve got their entire panel of lawyers and their HR team, and they’re like, Okay, what are we gonna do? And usually the advice is just, you know, hey, just just do it. Just let it we. Yeah, you got to hit these different wickets, right? And I’m not gonna pretend to know all of those different different traps you can you accidentally step in? And I’m sure that’s a large reason why, like, trying to avoid getting sued. Yeah, and creating some problems. So putting all that aside, the risk aside, I don’t want my attorneys in the crowd start like throwing stuff that me because I’m sure there’s some very real reasons for doing that. That said, though, having empathy and having compassion for people in such a, like in such a ground shaking time for somebody, I think is so huge, and I think there is a way to do it, regardless of the advice that you’re being given. There’s a way to do humanely, right? Like these are people, right? Yes. livelihoods. Yeah. Right. And so, I think I think that was kind of cool. It’s You got to see yet again, another positive experience for you. But getting to see, even in the ugliest moments of business, that you’re able to see that being done in a very humane, very compassionate way. And the way that they were very open and honest, they weren’t like, wasn’t like, hopping from room with all these little secret meetings. It was, I’m sure there’s some of that, but like, but then it was all like, Okay, guys, this is this is what we got, right? This is what this is what we’re up against. And so just being very forthright about this. So I just, and there’s another observation, again, I’m following your career and seeing the trend here, like you’ve been been very blessed to be in positions where you’ve had some very positive leadership experiences, even if they were very short experiences, you’ve had very, very positive experiences. And that I think, is another great example. So

Tarra Sharp  20:46

yeah, 100%. And I mean, it’s stuck with me. And I’m sure we’ll talk about this, but you know, I was at a startup, and we are last year had to let people go in our playbook and how to do that. I hearken to My times at American Express and how we did it and how open we were about that, you know, what, what needed to happen, telling people the why, and just being honest, um, you know, during that process, so, so yeah, it was, you know, it was, it was a scary time to I mean, being new is my first, you know, financial crisis or first recession, you know, not really knowing I just moved to New York, I moved to New York in February, the crisis kind of hit in August. So, you know, I was so new to the city. So due to this role, and so a lot of fears, you know, we’re there. And, um, and amongst my team, my team also was right around my age as well. And so this was our all of our first times going through this and so to see it done, like you said, so humanely helped ease some of that anxiety about, you know, what was going to happen? What was I gonna do? Because, you know, they were just forthright and open and, and lead us through the process throughout, which is, I think the, the least you can do when you’re faced with something like that.

Aaron Spatz  22:00

Sure. Yeah. Is it being careful what you say, but also at the same time being very be very compassionate about it? Treating people like people, right. So but yeah, so let’s so so you finish. You finished business school. And so looks like you went the McKinsey route. So love to learn more about better experience with those guys and then to some of the other stuff that you’ve been working on.

Tarra Sharp  22:26

Yeah. So it’s funny because at Kellogg, this is my first time trying to get back to DFW. I actually interned with McKinsey that summer of 2012, in the Dallas office of McKinsey. So I was all ready to come back home. I, you know, been away long enough, and was ready to get back to Texas. So I actually did my summer in the Dallas office with a great McKenzie team. They’re great office leadership, and had a phenomenal summer really loved it. And in loves all the people I met during the recruiting process. So I was like, Yes, I can’t this is it. I’m coming back to to Dallas. And, you know, fortunately, unfortunately, my husband kind of enters the picture current husband, then boyfriend enters the picture. And we were negotiating, okay, where are we going to live? He had already had a job in Chicago. And so I ended up transferring my full time offer once I got it from McKinsey to the Chicago office. So I started the Chicago office full time in 2013. And I remember the day I told the recruiter in Dallas, that I was going to need to transfer my offer. I was like in tears. I love the team so much. It was such a hard decision. And I but you know, it was it was the thing I decision to make for my you know, early family partner at the time to stay in Chicago. So yes, I started in the Chicago office at McKinsey in 2013. Focused on did a lot of lot of work in nonprofits or some work in nonprofits. You know, a little bit of everything. And then I landed doing most of my work in the operations space. So procurement, frontline efficiency, lean operations focused on retail clients. So I did that during my time there.

Aaron Spatz  24:14

Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. And no doubt a lot, a lot of really good experiences. You know, we’re working in a group. So I’m in your imagine you’re probably traveling the country and working on you know, work on different different projects, right?

Tarra Sharp  24:28

Yes, yeah. So I was traveling four days a week. out, you know, our early Monday morning back Thursday night, the normal kind of consultant lifestyle that you know, that McKinsey for five years, I probably traveled like that for four of the five where I was going every week and so definitely great things about that. Love the clients I was able to serve, learn the lie in serving those clients and working with teams you know, was was really great. And you know, the flight benefits and you know, getting the miles, this all comes back right to miles. So it’s getting the miles at the hotel points were also really nice. We were able to use those for personal trips. So that was a nice perk of the role. But But yeah, I was I was definitely a road warrior for four of those five years that I was there.

Aaron Spatz  25:23

Yeah, that’s that’s the that’s the comp. That’s the common theme, right? Is the the life of consultant, you’re, you’re you’re on the road for sure. So take me past that. And you you’ve done a few other things. And I saw, is this the startup you’re talking about? Was it with the crafting?

Tarra Sharp  25:44

Yeah, yeah. So while I was having Kinsey again, this idea of, of leading an organization, being a CEO was still kind of in my heart. And I started a business while I was there that didn’t quite pan out. And so I was really trying to figure out, okay, how do I get into entrepreneur role, because at that point, I kind of figured I didn’t want to go back into large corporate, you know, I love my experiences there, they were really formative, they taught me a lot. But I, you know, there’s also just challenges being in a large corporate setting, right, like, you know, things move slightly slower, and you got to follow the be in a role for a year and a half before you move to the next role. And so those sorts of things were frustrating to me during my career. And so I, you know, knew that I didn’t want to go back into the larger organization like that. So, you know, after being at McKinsey for a while, was kind of at a crossroads of whether I wanted to pursue the partnership route, or go back into an operating role. And what I loved about what I was consulting, I was doing operations work, as I mentioned, which is probably the most hands on work you can do as a consultant, because I was actually on the ground, training my clients helping them pilot solutions, you know, there for like months at a time, right. And so it was close to being an operator. And I love that I love getting my hands dirty, I didn’t like the making the slides presenting the word like I want it to be on the ground with the people who were doing it and trying out our recommendations. And so I love that part. And so I knew that wasn’t going to be large corporate, and I needed to be in an operational role where I can roll up my sleeves and get things done. And so not really having another business idea at the time, or not really knowing how to start something, I decided to go and actually get some more experience in a small environment in the startup of what it’s like to operate. So crafty, which is a startup here in Chicago was actually started by two McKinsey guys and two of their college friends. And the company provides food and beverage services to corporate offices. So if you think of a corporate pantry, where there’s snacks, and machines, and all that we provide that equipment and that service. And so I joined that team at the time as Director of Client Services, leading our account management team and our field operations team, at the time was about 20 people, and I manage manage that program here in Chicago. So, you know, great experience starting to like manage a p&l make hard decisions, hire fire build, you know, um, you know, the organization, the way in which I’ve seen, you know, previous leaders do it. And so it was an opportunity for me to roll up my sleeves and really get in the day to day of a business.

Aaron Spatz  28:37

Yeah, well, and then the, the, the difference in a small company versus a large company, I, it is night and day, I mean, an absolute nine day difference. I mean, you were, you are so nice about it a few minutes ago about talking about the large, the large corporation. So I’ll, I’ll talk a little bit more bluntly for you, because the large companies generally move at a glacial speed. I mean, there’s so much there’s so many layers of approvals. You got to have 25,000 Different people sign off on something or if you want to make a decision, there’s, there’s the politics of it all. There’s the yeah, there’s there’s the time, time in that role. And before you move on, I mean, there’s so so much going on, like just like and that’s why and that’s what contributes to like this slow movement, but there but it’s but there’s so much maths behind it, right? So it’s like yes, it’s like this big machine and you better get on a wave and you’re gonna get run over gonna like big but then like you go to the small the small and in and I’m not I’m not bashing it all the way though. I do like to make fun of them. But they, but no, but they but but in all in all honesty, though. I mean, there’s, there’s there’s some there’s some awesome, there’s some awesome advantages. There’s some awesome opportunities that exist in large corporations as well. I mean, they’ve got large for a reason there’s some REITs or something pretty brilliant people that have helped grow that place. So, and what’s funny is every small business kind of aspires to be a large company at some point. So it’s kind of so it’s kind of funny, like, be careful what you say. But, but but the but the fun of the small companies, all right, there’s so there’s so much more you can do like you’re much more flexible. The decision making process is can be like, instantaneous, right? There’s like, there’s a lot more going on. So, so sure, for you, it’s pretty cool.

Tarra Sharp  30:28

It’s so true me everything you’re saying. And I totally, totally get, and I experienced all of that. I mean, definitely the politics and what it takes to, you know, move up and negotiations you have to do and some of that is black box, and you don’t know who to talk to, or what the rules are. And yes, there was all of that. And my experience, I think, you know, the the thing about being in a large company, you know, that that was good as an early, early in my career was that, you know, if you if you make a mistake, you’re not going to sync the company, right? Like, if you’re, if my direct mail campaign does poorly, American Express will still make money, right? They will still live another day, right? So you know, in that case, you have a little bit more room to make some mistakes and learn in the work that you’re doing, which is great, what you don’t really have right and a small business, it’s much higher. And so, you know, that was that was really interesting going from that place, like I said, where there was a lot of room to make mistakes, and you weren’t going to sync the company to the stakes being higher in a smaller company. And seeing things happen more quickly. Right, you make a decision of here’s what I think we should do. And then you’re doing it the next day, right? Are you doing our and I love that. I love that I thrive in that environment. And for me, it was like, This is what you know, I’ve been looking for all this time. So it was great. It was great. Scary.

Aaron Spatz  32:00

Oh, for sure. For sure. But yeah, with with large companies, too, they’re there, they are generally a little bit more forgiving to the department. But generally, it’s going to take it’s going to take a pretty substantial screw up for you to be let go. Because if if all the other stuff that you’re working on is positive, and you make a pretty good blunder here. It’s like, okay, what do we learn from this and we move on, but in a large in a smaller in a smaller group? Yeah, I mean, you’ve got a very finite finite resources, there’s a lot of stakes, you just you feel the stakes are higher. So there’s a lot more pressure. And then if you can take it personally too, right? Like if you’re not delivering on the performance of that of that company, and it’s not, it’s not going where you want it like it can kind of wear on you. Oh, yeah, a little bit if you’re not careful. So

Tarra Sharp  32:49

that’s 100%. Yeah. And the large companies you have, you know, guardrails, right, like, like you said earlier, you’ve got to go to so and so to get approval. And so there’s many layers to stop you from really screwing. You know, you just got to work those layers. If you learn along the way, you know, you don’t really have that either. There’s no one. I started up, I reported directly to the founder. So you know, it was like, that was the one layer and it’s like, do we agree on this is the right strategy to you know, go with? Yes. Doing it tomorrow, like I said, so? Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  33:21

That’s what he’s like, go. Yeah. Let’s go. So what So what was that experience like for you, though, you’re there. You’re there for for a couple years. And he had a great, he had a great run there. And a great, great, great opportunity and great, great learning experience. What was it like?

Tarra Sharp  33:39

Yeah, it was, uh, gosh, it was, I think I learned there more there than I did. You know, my five, five years at McKinsey, I would say about leadership and like truly running a business, I think I, so at the time, like I said, I started as Director Client Services, my team was about 20 people total of mix of, you know, exempt non exempt salary and hourly folks working in the field. So it was a great, you know, mix of really trying to, you know, think about efficiency in operations and our field staff and scheduling, and how do we build redundancy. So there’s a lot of challenges like that, that I needed to fix in that first year. Because there were times when, you know, someone called out from our field team, I was at our client at five in the morning stocking sodas, you know, that was, you know, we didn’t have much layers of redundancy, right and low resource, so we’re just scrappy. So, you know, I would be up in the morning, checking our email to see if someone called off and so they did, I’m putting on my shirt, and I’m going out to the client. And so that was, you know, my first year was really about trying to build you know, more redundancy and a streamline kind of field operations organization. Yeah. That would allow us to deliver, you know, really high client service and also, you know, cover When people were our people were sick or, you know, Bill for broke. So I did a lot of work. And actually, it was great because I did this work at McKinsey. So I was able to leverage a lot of that. But a lot of work around, you know, our hiring processes our training at our clients. So built out a training program, built out a flexible work staff who we could pull in if people called off so I wasn’t having to get up at five in the morning and go stuck, so does so built in a lot of those redundancies in the organization and also started to hire in a middle manager team to help manage our infield staff. So they were called operators merchandisers, if you will. So at the time, all of those folks, you know, 15, folks were reporting directly to me, which, you know, just spans and layers, you know, just didn’t make sense, right? Too many direct reports to Manage Grades, so that could really learn the business. And I spent a lot of time in the field, you know, shadowing them and learning from them. So I do everybody’s name and had build relationships with them. So that was, you know, positive of it. But, you know, I wasn’t able to focus as much on maybe the strategy, and how do we, you know, grow? Because I was just really focused on how do we build a better foundation. And so built in and hired, actually promoted some of those folks who were operators to managers. To manage the team, actually, that that was later I hired some people from outside of the company, which wasn’t a great idea. But later, they ended up promoting people into the role. So I could talk about the blunders of that. But But yeah, building that middle manager layer in the redundancy was super helpful. So that was really like my first year of like, how do we just run a better field organization, which was the front? You know, it was the it was the that’s what our clients see every day, right? Our people were calling in daily. And so you know, they’re the face of the company. So how do we build a better team and that one, and then, you know, after spending a year doing that, I was promoted to General Manager, I took on our sales team, and I took on our service teams, so people who were actually servicing our equipment. And then we had a small cafe business that I also took on. So my role kind of expanded there. And I was managing kind of all of our clients services within the Chicago area.

Aaron Spatz  37:20

Nice. Yeah, I’ve got I’ve got a ton of other questions. But we’ll go we’ll go ahead and go back to, to what to what you just mentioned. So the there’s two things that you talked about, which was hiring, you grabbing external folks to bring in as management layer. And then you’d also mentioned earlier in the program, I think you mentioned something about letting people go and like what that like being being humane about that, and how, and how that how that happens. So help me go ahead and go there on both those topics.

Tarra Sharp  37:52

Yeah. Oh, gosh. So I’ll start with the the hiring piece. So, you know, I realized, like I said, pretty early on that, you know, having a direct, you know, 1520 direct reports didn’t make sense a lot to have someone in that role. And so there was one person that was already in the position of they were raising up a manager role. And so he was already kind of offered this role when I started. And then I brought in a second interview, the second person from outside the company to bring in, you know, I think what I underestimated and bring someone in from the outside is the cultural fit how important that is. Because I think that the company craft, you have a very, very strong culture of, you know, client service work hard play hard. You know, but the role was very demanding. And I think that I, the person I brought in, I assumed that they could rise to that occasion, but I don’t think they were really prepared for the demands of the role because it was, you know, five to five, every day that we’re staffing and then you know, then you’ve potentially got to step in and help out like I did, you know, so there’s demands of the role, but I don’t think I did a great job of really explaining to the person I hired of like, you know, you will be up at five in the morning and some days you will be working to 6pm and so are you okay with that. So that was a good learning experience for me is like, definitely, you know, sell the role, talk it up, but also talk about the, you know, the non sexy parts of the role and make sure a person is comfortable with that, and make sure you’re good cultural fit. And so, those two leaders, you know, pretty early on, I’ve started to get some feedback from our field staff that you know, they weren’t really happy with those leaders, you know, they weren’t accessible and so, you know, but but I found the challenge we didn’t have any performance management like rubrics or you know, anything written down to say, here is what you need to do in this job. So, the first step and hearing starting to hear that was Putting together a performance management plan, right and writing a performance plan that says Here are the baseline, your job description, which we had to rewrite here is what’s required in this role. And here’s what it looks like. And, you know, here’s what not good looks like. And here’s what you know, exceeds expectations look like, right? So setting that standard and setting that ruler, so then people can be measured against it, because I didn’t, I didn’t think it was fair to let these folks go immediately without letting them know how they’re performing against, you know, a standard that we needed to set. So as a leader, you know, we didn’t do a great, I didn’t do a great job of setting that standard early on. So you know, put together a performance management plan made sure that was introduced to the to folks who were in the role. And then I was able to say, Okay, here’s where you’re doing well, against the plan, here’s where you’re not doing really against the plan, here’s what we need to improve, right. And so we went through that process, you know, had these performance discussions a couple of times before, then it was clear that, you know, those two folks are not going to be able to rise to the occasion. And so, you know, then in that case, you know, I could, I could, you know, sit down with them and say, Okay, I don’t think you’re a great fit. Because as we’ve spoken about multiple times, here’s where you’re not performing. And so, you know, I definitely think the process was a little too long, I think that people probably stayed on longer than they should. But, you know, it was also a situation where we needed to build that standard in order to have to credibility with the organization that we did, right by this person, right, we gave them opportunities to perform, we gave them opportunities to develop, and they just weren’t a good fit. And so then, you know, we parted ways with those folks. And I was able to, you know, pull some people love who were in the hourly role to become managers, and help train them on what it looks like to be managers based on that same rubric, and that same rule now. So, you know, I think that’s super important. And oftentimes, you know, in startups or small businesses you don’t have, you know, that’s kind of the last thing you really think about, right? Is, is performance management, or, you know, really working on these, like HR issues, because you’re really trying to do the business, right, trying to make money you’re trying to grow. And so oftentimes, you know, I feel like in companies I’ve seen, and the company I was that they’re just, that was kind of the last thing to do. And we never had time to prioritize it. But it was really important to do that to be able to raise up leaders in the organization, instead of standard at what good performance looks like. Yeah, that’s

Aaron Spatz  42:33

cool. That’s cool. Well, thanks. Thanks for sharing all that. And, I mean, no doubt, obviously, it’s a great, great learning opportunity for you. There’s, there’s, there’s a lot of growth happening there. And, and so, you know, just just yet another great experience that you can, that you can take with you anywhere you go to understanding, Hey, these are the standards, we got to make sure we have clearly articulated standards for for each layer of performance, and how does that work? And how are we checking on it? So I think that’s I think that’s great. You know, it’s it’s a, it was a challenge, right. But it’s a it was a great opportunity for you to continue to grow through that experience. Right. So

Tarra Sharp  43:08

yeah, one thing I would point out, Aaron is like, I don’t want it to be too rosy. One thing I failed at was, I didn’t do it quick enough. And, you know, those folks who were in a role not performing for, you know, maybe a month longer than they should have been, and what’s happened during that time is, I think my, you know, a little bit of my credibility as a leader was eroded. Because, you know, here it is, the people who are working for these folks are busting their butt every day, right? And they’re seeing their leaders not perform at the level they should, you know, and they’re wondering, like, why, why does Tara have these standards for the organization and for us, but these leaders aren’t cutting it, right. And so it was kind of this, you know, elephant in the room that these people needed to go. And I think I just took too long to do that. And so that was a, you know, a failure on my part. And once those folks were let go, it was something I needed to talk to, you know, the team about in saying that I recognized that I probably waited too long for this. And I apologize, you know if that impacted you guys and I’m gonna learn from it and do better. Because, you know, I definitely think that that was that was a mistake on my part. So I don’t want to make it seem too rosy. No, no, I found all it is what it is also share the mistakes and the mistakes along the way.

Aaron Spatz  44:28

Yeah, well, I mean, you’re, you’re gonna do plenty beating yourself up. It’s kind of my I just, I just take the role of like, I’m gonna I’m gonna help pull you up through out I don’t want to I don’t want to sit here and beat you over the head on a point. I think you’ve done that yourself. So it’s all good. I’m the same way right? I’ll pull myself so plenty, plenty out. Right. plenty, plenty of things to learn. There are plenty of lessons learned. I think, I think and I’ve heard this adage, as relates to hiring, firing, but you know, hire slow fire fast. And so that’s kind of what I was thinking about when you’re sharing all that was like, okay, that’s probably a great example of, of taking that in like, okay, hire hire slow. So you get the right cultural fit and the right people in your team and even if it sucks, and it’s gonna hurt your team because you’re you need the help, right? You’re maybe a little desperate. Yeah, yeah. But then, but then you pay the price for it. And then so then it’s like, okay, well, once it wants you to know that they’re not a fit. You got, like, you gotta,

Tarra Sharp  45:26

you gotta move quick. Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s That’s exactly it. Eric. That’s yeah,

Aaron Spatz  45:31

yeah, that’s cool. Well, so then take me through then the other part that you told me about earlier. And, again, if I’m, if I’m remembering this, let me know. But I thought I thought you said something about, like being treating treating people with respect and compassion as as maybe you had a lot of few people go,

Tarra Sharp  45:47

Yeah, 100%. So, so we, my first year, the company, like I said, building the foundation, you know, we were, you know, doing really well. And that year was able to grow the business by 50%. So we were on track in that second year to do another, probably, you know, 25% in growth from from a timeline standpoint, and that really came from, you know, I would help a lot on the sales outreach and going out to teams. And so we were, we were doing well, through 2020, really, you know, we had launched, I helped a team launch out in the bay area. So we had our second location, and we were looking at launching in New York, so we were really, really growing and doing well. And I, my team at that point had grown to about 60 people. So we were we were in good shape, rocking and rolling, like, you know, on cloud nine, and then COVID, is in March of last year. And so, you know, our revenue, you know, now it’s a private company, so I won’t share, but you know, it, we essentially lost almost 70% of our revenue, you know, and and because, you know, our work was selling into corporate spaces, and everyone started to work from home. And so, you know, we were agile those first couple months, and, you know, trying some new product lines, we were starting to do, instead of snack boxes in the our set of snacks in the office, we were selling to our clients, why don’t you send a care package to your team, and, you know, with snacks, and so we developed this line of, you know, in home products that we would send to employees at their homes versus the office, right. So we were taught testing and trying to be agile and learn and, and work within this new environment. But, um, you know, we just weren’t seeing, you know, the uptake that we would have expected. And so we had to do our first round of layoffs in May of last year. And, again, it’s the first time the organization is going through this. And, you know, we sat down and looked at kind of what our targets need to be, you know, based on our revenue and what was going on? And how are we going to approach it? Who are we going to furlough? How are we going to do that? And again, you know, I harken back to this American Express experience of, you know, let’s be sure that we’re open and honest with everyone about the situation, right, we need to share our how our revenue has been impacted, right? Like it because we want people understand this isn’t their fault, right? No one’s done anything wrong. It’s is a external factor that none of us can control. But our revenue was dropped 70%. And so because of that, we can’t operate with the same number of people. So we had to communicate that. And we have to communicate our approach and how we were going to be evaluating letting people go right. And so our first, you know, group of folks that we were furloughed, initially, were our field staff, because they were, you know, not going into the office. And so we were able to, you know, furlough, some of those folks, we were able to cut down hours for some of them. But essentially, what we did was build that communication plan. And like, here’s the approach, here’s what we need to do. And then between myself, and one of the founders, we called at that home, we were all virtual. So we called everybody in to explain it. So I had, you know, 30 calls that first round to explain to people where they were going to be furloughed or like, and we built a script for and, you know, here’s what we’re gonna gonna tell people. Here’s the plan, we actually put together a full one pager of how to apply for unemployment, and gay you know, when you apply for unemployment, you have to have your start date, your end date, the company’s information, ie a lot of information that people often have to go back to the company to get. And so we made sure that everybody had a one pager of here’s all the information you need to apply to an employment. You know, here’s the link here, you know, call us if you have questions. We had a PEO so we asked them to engage with people if they had questions about that or their benefits. And so we just wanted to make it you know, easy on our employees to be able to, to make this transition out of the company, and to get, you know, the unemployment benefits that were available for them. And so that was, you know, so important. And, and like I said, even the choice and doing phone calls versus just sending an email, right, was really important, because we wanted people to understand that they were valued, we still, you know, loved them as part of our team. You know, as things changed around in the company, we would love to have them back. But you know, here’s where we were as a business, and this is what we’re going to have to do. And we wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to explain all the information. And so, um, you know, it’s my say, wow, like you spent a whole day, you know, making those calls was that the best use of your time. And, you know, I think it was because I think that, you know, you should take care of your employees in and out of a company. And so it was, you know, very important to that me as a leader, that I was able to care for the people who were working for me, and who, in our whole organization felt this way, but to care for the folks who had, you know, given their time and their skills to this company to make it what it was to have it grow as fast as it did. And so it was, you know, a small feat to do. And so we went through that round of layoffs in March, we had to do another round of layoffs, essentially, for the folks who were furloughed. Once we saw that people weren’t coming back into the office, we had to, you know, reach back out to those people and let them know that it was going to be a full layoff a couple of months later, and then we had a third cut pretty deep at the tail end of the summer, because at that point, it was clear, we were probably not coming back to 2021. And so we really needed to just get down to the bare bones of the business. So our company went from, you know, 130 people in march down to 2730 people in that final cut lay layoffs, right. So we were just kind of critical staff that we needed to run the business and so that that last one was hard, because I had to let some people go, who are my account management team who, you know, who had, who had hired who had been with me from the start, and who were rock stars, rock stars. But you know, the work just wasn’t there. And so, you know, between the letting people go, we also went down to a reduced schedule. So we brought people down to like, 75% of the time, and people were working 70, you know, 75% of their salary working 75% of the time, as well. And so we, you know, had to do that. But again, through every round, we tried to be upfront, you know, and honest and have a good communication strategy put in place this to, here’s why we’re doing it, here’s what we’re going to do. And then we contacted people one on one to let them know the act to them.

Aaron Spatz  52:50

Wow. Wow. Well, I mean, not definitely not something as easy to do. Right. It’s like pulling your heartstrings and the, and the difficulty of that, but you know, hats off to you though, and the way that that was handled, because it’s, it’s, it’s just never easy. Alright. I mean, there’s, there’s no getting around it. There’s just it’s not it’s not, it’s, it’s, it’s one of the parts of Java’s not really that fun to do when you, you’re, you’re like, we’re in the business of working with people write, or run or run by people. Yes. And especially when you’re the one hiring people as well, and so on, and then turn, turn, turn them loose. But I think also just being again, because it was modeled for you early on, which is just being very open and honest about it all. And so having a very clear communication about that, and just handling it the way you did, I think, yeah, I mean, it looks, to me, it sounds like there’s a ton of lessons learned that you had in your time there. And so it’s just, it’s a tremendous learning and growth opportunity for you. And so, yeah, so take us through, take us through your own, your own exit from from the company, and then and then take us into what your, what you’re working on now, as we start to wrap things up. Yeah. 100%.

Tarra Sharp  54:03

And so, as I mentioned, you know, going to the company was really, like I said, to get that operational experience to get my hands, you know, into the business to really learn what it is to grow a business manager, p&l and people. And, you know, I’d started to feel in 2019 that, okay, I feel like, you know, I’ve had the experience of, you know, really helping to scale this company. And what’s next for me, and so, again, I still had that dream of doing my own thing and running my own business. And at that point, I think, I built up the confidence to say that out loud now, and had, you know, had the because of all the experience, I had felt pretty confident my ability to you know, be a CEO to run a business and so starting to really think about what that could look like. And so I’d at the end of 2019, I toyed around the idea of you know, it Maybe it was buying a franchise business, maybe it was starting something brand new. So I’ve been playing around with some some business ideas there. And really nothing was sticking out to me. And I’d had a couple of classmates from Kellogg who had, at that point, gone into entrepreneurship through acquisition, so they bought small businesses, and we’re running those as the CEO and owners. And so those two friends, you know, we’re at that point in 2019, we’re running their businesses for about three or four years and doing you know, really well. And so I’d reach back out to them, you know, and understand what their experience was. And a lot of what they talked about was, you know, coming into an established business and, and, you know, taking what had worked well, and just kind of supercharging that, right, and helping the business to grow to that next level. And I thought, wow, like, this is what I’ve done at crafty the startup, what I hope to do it crafty. And I think, you know, this, what I did in consulting, as well, like, take the pieces of what’s there and, you know, help optimize it help, you know, cut costs, whatever it may be, but then also help drive growth. And so I just loved it. And that idea of entrepreneurship really connected with me. And so I thought, okay, maybe this is this is my this is my entry into being a CEO of being an entrepreneur is to go out and search for small business that, you know, an owner is looking to exit and, and doesn’t have a succession plan. And so you know, there will be a good fit for me to be able to take what they started and help take it to the next level. And so last, you know, summer 2020, I decided to go out to some investors and raise some capital for this idea to buy a business and run it. And so I created my company, GH making capital, which is a small investment fund, pulled these investors in to provide committee capital with the goal of you know, going out to look for and acquire and run a small business. And so my company is the J is for John, the H is for Heti, in the last name is making. These were actually my third great grandparents, who were from East Texas, who based on what I can tell from census records, were sharecroppers and then became owners of their farm and the next census that was that was put out. And so they were the first entrepreneurs in my family. And so I named my company after them. Both, you know, in honor of what I’m sure you know, what they want to back in the 1850s 1860s, you know, being in Texas, and probably the first free blacks in my family as well. And they were able to become owners and in small business owners on the farm. And so it seemed only right that my company should be named after them to pay honor to what they’ve done. So, so yeah, so that’s, that’s what I started last year, in November, I left to Krafty. In October, and November, I officially started to full time, search for small business. And, you know, my hope is that this is now my second time trying to get back to Dallas. But my hope is that, you know, I’ll find, you know, an owner that’s looking to exit their company, and you know, could look to hopefully come back to Dallas and run a business there. Yeah. That’s cool.

Aaron Spatz  58:18

That’s cool. Well, that one, I think I think that yeah, the name, the name of the company is just that’s so rich, like just the family history, the family story there and like bringing that to present day. And so I think that’s really cool. It’s a very unique name right. So really stands out. And so that’s, I think, I think that’s really cool. And then yeah, look, I look forward to when you’re when you’re finally able to make it back. It’ll be it’d be great to have you back in DFW for sure. Yeah.

Tarra Sharp  58:47

Yeah, that’s my hope. I hope the second time that I’m trying is the right time hoping I can get it the second time. So absolutely.

Aaron Spatz  58:55

Absolutely. I’m sure I’m sure it’ll, it’ll it’ll come together. And I’ll have to, I’m sure you’re already heavily networked with people here but I’ll teach in touch with with with some folks here as well. So yeah, but what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Tarra Sharp  59:11

Yeah, absolutely. So my website is is the company name www.gh Making capital calm? I’m Tara T A R RA at J H making capital calm so can be in touch with me. They’re also on LinkedIn as well. You can find me find me there.

Aaron Spatz  59:33

Yeah, let me through your LinkedIn profile URL up your real fast so that so we’ll also well, Tara, this has been a blast of really I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting and getting to get to speak with you this morning is your errand. Same here. A blast. Thank you so much. And we’ll we’ll we’ll we’ll have to catch up with some as soon as you get here for sure. Yeah,

Tarra Sharp  59:56

exactly. I’m back there in April to see my mama hopefully He’s still there. So I’m back there to see my mom and some friends in a couple of weeks. So yeah, so looking forward to get back in. I’ll have to catch you there and we’ll grab a coffee.

Aaron Spatz  1:00:08

Awesome. Awesome. Sounds good. Thank you, Tara, appreciate you.

Tarra Sharp  1:00:11

Thank you have a good one.

Aaron Spatz  1:00:12

You too. Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course, you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us That’s a Ron at Bold media.us Till next time

AE Podcast

Never Miss an Episode!

Get episodes and other news delivered straight to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!