Rob Bellenfant has worked to grow TechnologyAdvice into one of Inc.’s 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies for four straight years, from 2014 to 2017. In 2019, the company also received a Nashville Business Journal Small Business Award, and was named the Market Mover in the Nashville Chamber’s NEXT Awards. In 2019 and 2020, TechnologyAdvice was honored as a Tennessee Top Workplace.
As founder and CEO, Rob Bellenfant has dedicated TechnologyAdvice to provide education, advice, and connections to both buyers and sellers of business technology. Their work has turned the company into the most trusted resource for buyers and vendors.
How did Rob Bellenfant find success? TechnologyAdvice’s work includes “unbiased research and crowd-sourced product reviews,” which show clients the unvarnished truth they might need to hear. The company also works with vendors who want to expand their market through “lead generation, content creation, and digital advertising programs.” Among these programs are enhancing product awareness by matching the right solution to their ideal client through multiple touchpoints.
Rob Bellenfant and TechnologyAdvice pride themselves in exercising full transparency, making wise decisions, craving for knowledge, challenging mediocrity, and valuing each other. These business pillars have supported the company’s growth, and earned them success in their sector.
As proof of its success, TechnologyAdvice says it has already helped 50,763 software buyers, and has recommended 178,304 products in 101 different software categories. If you want to avail of its services, you’ll have 1,508 different products to choose from.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Rob Bellenfant: TechnologyAdvice has had its ups and downs but we’ve been able to learn from them and grow. Back in 2015, we had this great idea for a way to further productize our data in a new way. We spent months of work from resources all over the company and launched a new product — to crickets. Turns out, no one wanted or needed our product. We had grown our employee count considerably in anticipation of this product, too. It was disappointing to let go of that dream and even more disappointing to let go of many of the people who worked on it.
Ultimately, that lesson made us stronger. We concentrated our efforts back on our core product offering and grew that business significantly over the next few years. That focus and growth made it possible for us to acquire nearly 40 new web properties this year and expand our offerings in a thoughtful and strategic way.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Rob Bellenfant: Take time out to work on the things outside of your work and your job. I find that when I have a real problem with the business that I’m wrestling with, if I give my brain a little break by playing with my kids or working out or doing something creative, I often stumble across something that clarifies my thinking or gives me a breakthrough on a problem. My employees joke that my hobby is business, which may or may not be true. But I make time for myself and my family, which really keeps me grounded.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Rob Bellenfant: Back in high school, the librarians used to send me to the principal’s office all the time because I used the library computers to run my IT business during school hours. She didn’t really understand my business, but when I asked if we could use an empty room near her office to run our business during lunch or study halls, she agreed. It kept me out of her office and in a room where administrators could keep an eye on me, and reduced the amount of paperwork she had to do. She didn’t have to help us. She could have punished me, instead. But she didn’t, and I’m grateful. She’s still a principal, and I go back and see her sometimes.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Rob Bellenfant: When you start delegating tasks to other individuals, you not only gain yourself a break, you also open your days up to do the big-picture work that can jumpstart growth. Some people have drawn the distinction between working on the business vs. working in the business, and I really like that view. When you work in the business, you perform all the daily tasks that keep the business running. But leaders that work on the business take the time to strategize, improve processes, and identify areas for growth.
You don’t want to be so indispensable to your business that you can’t take a day off when you’re sick or leave the shop to go on vacation. The best managers teach their employees to run the business for the sake of the company’s longevity and to empower their employees to hold ownership over the processes. These managers find that their employees care more about their work, work harder, and invest themselves in the improvement of the company as a whole.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
The Venn diagram of business leaders and people who subscribe to the notion that “if you want something done right, you should do it yourself” is often just a circle. We may have been the smartest person in the room for most of our lives, and that ego-boost is hard to let go of. The validation we get from being the guy with all the answers or the gal who knows how to fix everything can be addictive!
Also, it feels harder to take the time to teach someone else how to complete a task. Many of us would rather take the 10 minutes to complete the task ourselves instead of the hour it takes to teach it to someone else. Unfortunately, that means that every time the task needs doing, we’re the only doers available.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
Rob Bellenfant: If you love the validation that comes from knowing all the answers, it may help if you begin to watch your employees when they figure out a difficult task. You can delight in their sense of discovery and accomplishment and simultaneously delight in your own newfound free time.
If you need help investing the front-end time to teach employees complicated processes, consider instead the amount of time you’ll earn back each day by delegating the task. Take that task you spend an hour on every day: by investing two hours to teach an employee to take over the task, you can save yourself 240 hours over the course of the year. With all that time you could develop a new product line, focus more on your marketing plan, or take a vacation for six weeks!
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Rob Bellenfant: In the context of this conversation, I would love to see more companies investing in educating their managers as coaches. We’ve found that it improves outcomes for individual contributors, helps us grow leaders from within the company, and ultimately it grows our business. While it can be an investment of time on the front-end, taking a coaching mindset can create a flywheel in your company.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!