When Adam Williams joined Spotify in 2009 he was only the fourth UK-based employee through the door. When he left in 2015, having overseen its expansion across Europe as MD for UK and Benelux, it was a different beast.
Now it had 800 people globally and feeling as if he had less involvement, Williams decided it was time for a new challenge and left to co-found his own digital communications agency. He's now CEO of influencer marketing agency Takumi, but looking back, he says going it alone helped him learn a lot about himself, which helped him be a better leader.
"It’s not until you're sitting by yourself in your back bedroom with a laptop, without a salary, wondering what you're doing now, that you end up asking some very deep questions. I’m sure lots of people have this experience about starting a business as well - it’s lonely and you’ve got to be sure that you’re going down the right route.
"It certainly made me grow up as an individual because it forces you to get on with things and there’s no one else to do it. That’s not always the case when you’re in a job with a salary, because even at Spotify in the early days there was a HR person, there was a finance person or my boss I could fall back on.
"It made me become a lot more focused and meant that when I was then offered the role at Takumi I was able to be much more direct about how I was going to deliver what I needed to deliver.
"It made me a better leader because it gave me a better understanding of what I’m good at and where I could do better. That makes you better able to understand those traits in other people, and how you can complement each other and develop that relationship for the benefit of the business.
"For example, I knew I was good at talking to clients, doing deals and building relationships, but when it came to fundraising I just couldn’t get to grips with the landscape, which was surprising because I’d worked in sales for years.
"It gave me a much clearer understanding of the need to actually trust people and delegate based on their strengths and mine. Being able to give ownership to people is an incredibly powerful tool."
Image credit: Courtesy of Takumi