Louis Vitiello Jr. | Crain's Raleigh Durham

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

Louis Vitiello Jr.

Background:  

Business and Beers is a business-to-business networking group for people who enjoy a casual environment to meet like-minded business professionals in North Carolina's Triangle area. Since its launch in 2013, more have 2,000 members have joined.

The Mistake:

Trying to grow too fast.

Running an organization like Business and Beers takes a lot of trial and errors. There have been a lot of mistakes to get to where I am now, but the biggest mistake was trying to grow too fast. I was overambitious and attached to the momentum of everything, but not really taking a step back to see what happens. For example, if we go in direction A, what are the potential B, C, and D?

We were doing extremely well at one point and had a really good brand and following. We had a lot of people traveling from different cities and counties to our events and they wanted to bring Business and Beers to their cities and their counties. We thought it was great. We tried to have multiple events each month. At one point, we were averaging one to two events a week.

It was definitely spreading us too thin. The quality of the events that we weren’t directly involved with weren’t living up to our standards. It was all in the best intention, but the brand, the name, and the integrity of Business to Beers got a little muddied. At this time, we were thinking about expanding to South Carolina and Florida.

But, the reality is if you don’t have everything perfected at the local level and you’re still trying to figure out things there, then growing and expanding isn’t a good idea.

The first step was realizing we had a problem and cutting into the ego and admitting that we made a mistake.

The Lesson:

You need all of your lessons learned before you expand. The first step was realizing we had a problem and cutting into the ego and admitting that we made a mistake. Instead of trying to fix it and work out the problems and the kinks moving forward, we decided it would be best to just pull back.

There was definitely an aftermath. We had a lot of questions from people. The dust had to settle. We were just trying to refocus and we couldn’t let our own ego and pride interrupt that process.

Our attendance got hurt for a little bit. People were going to other events because the perception was that we were falling apart. But we took advantage of that, in a sense. We launched Beers and Business 2.0. We rebranded, reimaged and remarketed.

We’re doing all of this for quality, not quantity. It’s about the quality of the events and the quality in the members who are coming out to the events. We consolidated and made it a more prestigious event.

It took about six months for the dust to settle and it took us about a year to really hit our stride again to where Business and Beers was back to being one of the prominent networking events. People are saying our events we’re doing now are definitely the best they’ve ever been to. To me that’s a win. We are growing and doing well.

We tried to grow without having a solid foundation and that almost caused the collapse of the entire organization. Now, we have a good foundation. We’re starting to grow again and we’re more prepared now and we’ll know what to do.

Louis Vitiello Jr. is on Twitter at @LouisVitielloJr.