Jeff McWherter: Facing Down Fear
At the 2016 Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards, Jeff McWherter, owner of Gravity Works Design + Development, was pleased to accept the Emerging Entrepreneur Award.
McWherter mentioned it took some convincing from co-workers to submit a consideration for the award.
“I’m not a big person on awards for myself,” he said. “When we talked about it internally, I was always referring to it as something for our employees, and our employees were referring to it as something for the company.”
While McWherter proudly accepted the award, he admits there’s just one thing he does really well within his Lansing web design and development company.
“I am just the guy who started the company,” he said. “I think I do one thing really well, and that’s hiring people. And it’s the rest of the staff – I would not be where I am without Gravity Works, and Gravity Works is why I received this award.”
McWherter previously worked for consulting companies in the Lansing area, but knew he wanted to focus more on design, something he thought was missing in web development businesses locally.
“They were heavy on the backend,” he said of the companies. “There wasn’t really a good blend between the design world and the programming world, and when we started Gravity Works, we were one of the first ones around town doing it.”
“We wanted to put Lansing on the map for development, and we thought that we would be able to build a firm to do that.”
Being visionaries in their craft meant the startup had to pave the way, and that leap of faith didn’t come without worry. McWherter admits he was scared the entire time.
The second day after starting the company, McWherter was added to a panel for a Lansing IT council on startups and entrepreneurs. He sat next to his former boss, from the job he had just quit.
The event’s emcee, Chris Holman, was firing off questions to the panel, one of which was asked of McWherter. “The one question I remember was one of the very first questions—something like ‘what is your everyday life?’” he recalled.
“I just came out and said, ‛I’m scared. I’m literally scared with every decision that I make. And sometimes it inhibits my decision to make good decisions. I’m constantly second-guessing myself.’
“And usually, as emcees, they leave it up to the panel to talk about it, but Chris just chimed in and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine. Once you get over that, you’re going to be able to tackle that next problem and just get over it.’”
That little piece of advice stuck with McWherter, more so than the entrepreneurial business books he had read.
“It’s simple advice,” he said. “It’s very difficult to act on it, but I try to act on it all the time, every time I have that issue.”
While this businessman had initially wanted to start his web company with a certain amount of money in the bank for his family and detailed plans in place, he admits it didn’t pan out that way.
“The opportunity presented itself, the time was right and we struck,” said McWherter, “and it worked out great.”
Taking a risk, leaving comfortable jobs to follow a passion to start something new from scratch isn’t always easy, but according to McWherter, it’s worth it.
His advice to future entrepreneurs is to “get over” that fear. “There’s always something to worry about, it’s just how much worry do you need to put into it. Don’t sweat the little things; move on to the big things.”