Amielle Lake of Tagga Media Inc.

Amielle Lake, Tagga Media | BCBusiness

Amielle Lake—and her company—began to really grow when she handed the reins to a seasoned veteran

Part of leading is knowing when it’s time to step down. As the head of a young and growing company, Amielle Lake showed in the last year that she knew exactly when that time was, and it helped get her company back on solid financial footing.

The co-founder and former CEO of marketing software company Tagga Media Inc. realized in early 2012 that she was “spinning her wheels.” She had trouble accessing more funding to keep the company moving forward and needed more executive support to take sales into the six-figure range. She recognized the need to step back in order to help the company she founded in 2008 scale up faster because she couldn’t deliver the boost the burgeoning mobile-marketing firm required.

“We doubled [in growth] every year, but for a software company that’s not nearly fast enough,” she says. “I realized that this company needed a lot more than just me to make it happen.”

What was your first leadership position?
I had a catering company in university, but I think it sounds fancier than it is—I did one party a month.

Is leadership learned, or something you’re born with?
Charisma is a leadership quality that’s just innate, but without understanding management tools, without vision, without the confidence to go after your vision, I don’t think you’d be a very effective leader.

How do you ensure your continued growth as a leader?
I am in full-throttle growing the company as quickly and as big as possible, and I’m learning on the job every day just as I did when I was CEO.

How do you help ensure buy-in to your company’s corporate culture?
By striving for other goals as a team. One of my proudest moments was when three other women from Tagga and I ran the Paris Marathon.

What is the biggest challenge for corporate leaders today?
Everything’s changing so quickly, and as a leader you need to develop plans and strategies to mitigate risks and take advantage of opportunities.

What qualities do you look for in up-and-coming leaders?
Charisma is important, and work ethic, which is about more than putting in a lot of hours; it’s about understanding where to put your calories.

Tagga announced in May 2012 that the company was bringing in a veteran tech entrepreneur to help scale up the company. Jean-Guy Faubert, who had 24 years of experience with major firms such as Electronic Data Systems Corp. and AT&T Canada, took the helm as CEO while Lake took on a new role as chief revenue officer so that she could focus on expanding Tagga’s sales and marketing.

Moving over to let an external CEO take over would have been too much for some of the swollen egos that notoriously fill C-level suites. It is especially hard for an entrepreneur who helped grow a company from the ground up. However, Lake is candid about her motivation to stop white-knuckling her way through the role and pass the reins over to an experienced driver.

“There were a number of very trying moments where it looked like we might not make it, and it became a very clear point that I needed to step aside,” she says. “I have a lot more greed than I have pride.”

Tagga is already reaping rewards from springing for an external executive. Lake says the company has booked more revenue for the first few months of 2013 than it did for all of 2012.

In addition to helping the company grow, Lake says she’s seen some unexpected benefits of sharing the load with Faubert.

“I now have a partner, and we get to make all those challenging growth decisions together. Having that day-to-day, roll-up-your-sleeves person with you has been really positive for me. I’ve never learned so much about myself as I have in the last year since we brought in Jean-Guy.”

So what’s next? A serial entrepreneur in the making, Lake plans to take some of those leadership lessons around mentorship and sharing the burden of big-picture decisions she’s learned from Tagga and Faubert and apply them to her next business venture.

“And there will be another.”