Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ed Heyward, Founder, and CEO of Rising Tide Solutions, located in Pink Hill, NC, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Rising Tide Solutions is a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business based out of Coastal North Carolina that provides customized leadership and development solutions that improve the success of organizations through improved leadership capabilities. Comprised of a team of leading experts with over 100 years of combined leadership and organizational development experience in both the military and civilian realms, we take pride in the fact that the implementation of our plans focuses on increasing the capabilities of a team writ large without unnecessary interference with an organization's operational requirements. Our products and services provide exceptional leadership development and education with a focus ranging from the individual to organizational level. We provide a full range of services, from fully customized training and development packages to much off-the-shelf courseware and/or workshop options. Our ability to focus on multiple levels of an organization coupled with our care to not disrupt operations and throughput ensures that we have a program that will fit the needs of most any organization or team.

Our clients range across a wide variety of industries and transcend an organization's leadership structure from top to bottom. Each member of our team has an established reputation for success in leadership, mentoring, program development, and coaching, to name a few, and has a passion for inspiring leaders at all levels to be their best, both personally and professionally. Our targeted clientele is individuals and organizations that want to unlock the full potential of themselves and their leaders while in pursuit of optimal organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Tell us about yourself

After my retirement from the Marine Corps in 2019, I spent some time working in the civilian sector as both an HR Manager and an Operations Director, giving me a unique viewpoint on how many companies are run and operated. During this time, I was also fortunate to be exposed to several consultants and other external entities who were hired at various levels of the companies I worked for to bring about change and increase leaders' effectiveness. I was astonished at the fact that improving leadership skills at the Team Lead, Supervisor, and Manager levels was not at or at the very least near the top of the proverbial list of how to improve these organizations.

Techniques like "read this book" or "use this spreadsheet" were central to what many considered leadership education, and unfortunately, in the circumstances, I witnessed these techniques, and many like them were wildly unsuccessful. It occurred to me that the reason for this lack of success was not due to poor student performance; rather, it was due to a lack of depth from the instructor and his or her curriculum. You see, I have a fundamental belief that is backed by decades of leadership experience that leadership cannot be taught in a classroom; rather, it needs to happen "kneecap to kneecap.". Fundamentals of leadership can certainly be taught through curriculum, but the actual leading is what serves as a genesis of actual learning and development. You see, "leading" is a verb that is often segregated from the title of "leader," and I, along with the rest of my team, have an immense amount of experience leading in a wide array of environments and circumstances where those terms were inseparable.

So, after working in the civilian sector for some time, I came to the realization that, when coupled with people of similar mind, drive, and passion - like those who make up the Rising Tide Solutions team - we can do better. We can impart to those leaders of an organization the tools, techniques, and mindsets that made all of us successful in the past. What gets me going each morning is the prospect of making a positive change in some young leaders' life that will carry with them and make them and their organization more successful in the future.

Many of us have fulfilled leadership roles that we had to learn "the hard way," it is my hope that Rising Tide Solutions can replace this with frequent difficulty with resilience and the confidence many leaders need to take their team and their organization to the next level.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Truthfully, I do not have any accomplishments as a business owner. Part of being "the boss" is that all the failures belong to me, while all our successes belong to the team. I have a phenomenal group of associates that work hard and faithfully believe in the purpose and direction of this company, and I say this all the time – THEY are the reason we accomplish anything here. I am so incredibly blessed to have folks like Joe Starkey (VP of Operational Support) who can grab just about any problem and find the best solution in short order. His ability to compare strategies, provide actionable feedback, and develop ways ahead that work is uncanny. Or we have folks like Bob Surtees (VP of Operations) who have an unparalleled ability to compartmentalize requirements and systematically provide solution-based courses of action while not overcomplicating the process. I also cannot forget Natasha Zickefoose, our Director of Communication and Engagement, who took all our wild ideas of how to get our name on the map and put them into action, or Jeremy Scott, who has built our Resilience-Building Leader Program from scratch and has done a fantastic job. Last but certainly not least – our Office Manager (also my bride) finds a way to take all our crazy ideas and glue them together into something that works. I guess if I had to answer the question of "what is my biggest accomplishment?" I would have to say just being lucky enough to have such a great group of people who believe in what we are doing.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think for me, the hardest part was realizing and, moreover, believing that the constraints of being an employee are generally gone. So many times, employees are told to "stay in your box" or "stay in your lane," and now that I am a business owner…… there is no lane or box or anything; having retired as a Sergeant Major, that took some getting used to. The structure is a very large part of the military, and as a Sergeant Major, it was largely my job to enforce it, and in that environment, it is 100% justified and necessary; that said, the civilian realm is much different. I mean, we have all done it. We are sitting at our desk thinking, "why are we doing this?" and when brought up, often times the response is for you to "stay in your lane" or something similar. The transition from "why are we doing this?" to "we are not doing this anymore," while seemingly simple, takes some time to acclimate to. While my time in the Marines was wrought with a decision that had a wide impact, the immediacy of the decisions I make now brings about a different flavor of challenge.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Wow – only 3? I joke, but to be honest, I am learning something new every day, so nailing the list down to three things may be difficult, but I will give it a shot.

  1. Find something you are passionate about. If you do not pursue what you are passionate about, then when the going gets tough – and it will – then you will be left wanting when it comes to self-motivate and staying the course.
  2. Work hard, but don't burn out. I have a whiteboard over my computer, and it reads:
    Do One More
    When you are tired – do one more
    When you are frustrated – do one more
    At days end – do one more
    Don't ever let anyone outwork you!
    You see, this way, no matter what happens, I know that I put in the work. There are not a lot of lazy businessmen and women out there, and in my case, I have people (my team) depending on me. The successful ones are those who put in the work. On the converse side of that statement, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Burnout, especially in the entrepreneur realm, is self-inflicted. Do you need to work hard – yes? Are there going to be times when you don't even remember what day of the week it is – yup. Do you still need to know when to walk away and take a break – absolutely? This time comes differently for everyone, so my advice here would be to know when to go do something that centers and recharges you.
  3. (I'm stealing this from Jim Collin's book "Good to Great") Get the right people on the bus and in the right seat while getting the wrong people off the bus. What this means is to surround yourself with great people and then be sure to put them in places where they can thrive and make a positive impact on your organization. At the same time, get rid of those who cannot thrive and be productive in your organization. This is not to say they are failures – rather, some plants like a different kind of soil are all.
  4. And yes, I know I only got three, but I can't help it. Do not make comfort-based or emotion-based decisions. When making decisions, you must work very hard to take out the emotion and the prospect of the results of your decision, making you (and often your team) uncomfortable. Growth doesn't happen in one "comfort zone"; rather, it only happens in the face of uncertainty and discomfort. This discomfort is often clothed in failure. Failure, or the prospect of, while often avoided, particularly in today's day and age, is the only true environment for growth, both individually and as a company. If you learn from mistakes or bad decisions, you will always grow, and that growth is what will lead to success.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I cannot thank you enough for reaching out to me, and I do hope I answered all your questions. I do want to take this time to highlight my team again, though, because, without each and every one of them, this company would be nothing. I just want to say that I am truly blessed to have their faith and belief in this company and in me. I am so incredibly proud of each one of them and humbled to be part of this organization.

Where can people find you and your business?


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