Together with Jonathan Cohn, Sammy Courtright founded Ten Spot in 2016 under the name Fitspot. From the very beginning, the two founders have set out to accomplish their mission, which is to “deliver wellness where employees needed it the most—at work.” Quickly, the company became a huge success, enabling it to expand to the internet, where it is now offering “online services and morale-boosting engagement tools.” After this successful expansion outside fitness, the founders decided to rename the company into Ten Spot in 2020.
Currently, Sammy Courtright and Ten Spot have evolved into a “workforce engagement platform,” which is now enjoyed by both companies and communities across the country. The virtual platform offers all-in-one services, which companies use to enable themselves to move forward, by increasing productivity, boosting retention, and building a strong company culture.
Sammy Courtright believes that having fun with colleagues, despite their physical distance, is crucial to building a workforce that is committed, connected, and engaged. To this end, the company has developed their tool, which connects distributed teams. Their tool also works with companies from the very beginning of implementing strategies, from constructing “new hire onboarding tools and automated icebreakers” to facilitating “peer pairing and virtual social events.”
Aside from the platform, Sammy Courtright and Ten Spot also employes reliable analytics to track and assess workforce engagement and behaviors, all to help their clients improve their work culture and keep their employees together.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Sammy Courtright: COVID-19 has upended the workplace as we know it. As we’ve navigated this new world for Ten Spot and worked to solve our own issues with how to make our now distributed workforce as engaged, supported and productive as possible, we’ve been innovating in such a way that has enabled us to solve these same issues — and more — for our customers.
Distributed teams aren’t going anywhere. We don’t want our customers to have to piece together a fragmented solution to connect, engage, and manage their distributed teams. That is why we built the all-in-one workforce engagement platform that takes the heavy lifting off your plate whether your team is on-site or remote.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Sammy Courtright: This is something that I am actively trying to work on for myself. Ironically, helping employees thrive and avoid burnout is at the core of what Ten Spot is all about. But there are times where I personally find it difficult to pause, take a break, to take ‘me time’ and disconnect. I still have a lot of personal work to do in this domain.
On that note, as I have been figuring out what works for me, here is what I’ve learned.
Working and living through a pandemic has forced many people to rethink how they structure their day, and I’ve certainly mixed up my routine to help keep me productive, feeling good, and reduce any extra stressors that come my way.
The first item being the lack of a commute. I previously walked to and from the office every day. Rain, hail, or shine, I would always walk. It allowed me to take time for myself to prepare for the upcoming day and unwind mentally. Now that the commute no longer exists. I am still taking those 20 minutes to myself each day to either read an article, listen to a podcast, go for a stroll, drink a cup of tea–whatever I feel like I need that day, I do.
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 to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Sammy Courtright: LJ Kwak Yang, who is a Leadership Development expert and an Angel Investor, is a godsend. We met at Techstars. We work together to develop my leadership skills. At times, I am sure she feels like my therapist, but the best part is that she allows me to vent, then she gives me tangible next steps and exercises. She helps me navigate the ups and downs that come with running your own business.
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?
Sammy Courtright: In the startup community, mental health is talked about fairly often because, for founders, there’s a general feeling that you have to do it all. It’s a burden almost every startup founder faces.
There’s also too much to do — you’re focused on product-market fit or securing ROI quickly, but also trying to delegate when you’re building out a team alongside a business, and it can be challenging to know what to delegate and to whom.
But delegation is an important skill to develop — and quickly — because it frees up the mental space and time to work on the things you need to be doing for your business to survive.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Sammy Courtright: I think there are a couple of crucial reasons that people have difficulty delegating. The first is that some are well-aware they need to delegate but don’t want to come across as weak in doing so, especially if they feel overwhelmed or like they’re drowning.
The second is that, if you’re the founder or creator of the company, it’s your “baby,” so to speak. As a result, trust issues come into play, and the instinct is to protect it fully. It often translates into doing everything yourself. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to huge bottlenecks and stagnation in an organization, leading to failure.
Third, some people instantly think it will be more time consuming to sit down and explain a project you’re delegating to someone than it would be to do it yourself. It might be the most prominent mistake people make when it comes to delegating. Once you explain/teach/train someone what to do and how you want it done, they learn and then do it again and take ownership.
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?
Sammy Courtright: Meditate in the morning — I meditate for 10 minutes every morning, which has helped me tremendously. It helps me calm and clear my mind, which leads me to better focus on what I have to do and accomplish for the day.
Write daily to-do lists — Once you have a daily to-do list down, prioritize it. If it’s way too long, seriously take a look at what you could have someone else do. If you’re new to delegating, start with delegating one or two things each day to employees and expand from there. Over time, your to-do list will get shorter and consist of the critical strategic items you need to focus most of your time on.
Surround yourself with capable people — This starts with hiring and retaining the right people. When your employees consistently show their strengths through great ideas, motivation, and hard work, it is easier to delegate to them confidently.
Get to know your team — Trusting your team makes all the difference, which can take time. In regular times it would be easy to host a monthly dinner or plan a fun off-site activity to get to know team members better. Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, you can still do this with a virtual happy hour, a video cooking class, or even a monthly book club. Additionally, make sure to schedule regular one-on-one time with key reports. It will make all the difference.
Hire a coach — If all else fails and you’re still really having trouble delegating, hire a coach (career, life, business) and make it a priority to learn how to delegate from them. They will be able to help guide you through some of the trickier challenges you’re facing — letting go, trust issues, determining who is best suited for which tasks, etc.
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. 🙂
Sammy Courtright: I value education, and I don’t believe that learning should stop when you leave school. I recently read a report that said to remain relevant in the workforce and your job, you need to be learning and developing new skills at least every four years. This creates one of those challenges that I’d like to help solve, starting with Ten Spot’s customers.
Going back to school is expensive, and it usually doesn’t keep someone in the job market while attending, meaning learning and skill development needs to either occur on the job or with your employer’s support.
We are in the process of rolling out peer-to-peer mentoring on Ten Spot’s platform but envision it going beyond mentoring and expanding into important skills training. This can start with live sessions that are ultimately recorded and archived for use by new employees or anyone needing a refresher course.
I feel if we can help companies do this across the board, we’re helping make education more accessible. Employees can then learn and develop new skills without sacrificing their jobs and without their employers losing them.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Sammy Courtright: Following Ten Spot on one or more of our social media channels is the best way to keep up with what we’re doing.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!