Categorizing Your People

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By Sherry Lutz Herrington

I love classifying and categorizing things. I guess that’s part of why I love accounting.  It’s all about grouping and organizing.  

One thing I like to categorize is people.  I don’t mean this in a racist or demeaning sort of way. It’s a way of seeing who’s on my side, who’s got my back, and who’s not helping me live my dream life.

I’ve always noted who in my life supports me and how they do it. But looking at it more carefully, I’ve neglected to pay attention when someone is no longer supporting me.  

Let’s take a look at the positive groups first.


These are folks who you surround yourself with but are not necessarily part of your direct team.  They may be friends or family members who are always there to tell you how great you’re doing. They always believe in you.  Mostly they’re on the sidelines cheering you on.  They are important but not structurally part of your success. For me this includes my mother-in-law.  Even though I divorced her son, she has stayed in my life as one of my biggest Cheerleaders.  She tells me “you got this,” “everything is going to be okay,” and other little gems that remind me that I can handle anything.


Every business owner needs these.  These people are your core team, lifting you up with their hard work and dedication. You cannot survive without them.  Knowing who they are and making sure you appreciate and reward them is critical.  The key to finding good people is looking for those who believe in your dream and want to be part of it.  They understand that their support will not only help you succeed, but your success will benefit them as well.  Don’t walk on these people; value them.  My team tells me “we love you, but we don’t want to be you.” Meaning, they believe in what I’m doing but prefer that I stand at the helm and guide the ship.


These are, generally, your peers and associates that are in similar positions.  As the captains of their own ships they understand what you are going through.  They also lead teams and face the obstacles of running a business that your Supporters and Cheerleaders don’t.  They make great accountability partners or mastermind group compatriots.  Listening to the challenges you face , they offer their opinion and support on how to get through things.  They sit in a similar position of leadership and/or business ownership, but are not too close to the situation. So, they can offer unbiased feedback.  They are willing to listen and offer suggestions but don’t take offense if you don’t take their advice.  Usually, the door swings both ways, and you are also a Sounding Board of theirs.


We all need Mentors in our lives, but business mentors are extremely important.  They show the way.  They are people who have “been there, done that” before you and have more experience than your Sounding Boards.  Sometimes they are paid business consultants or coaches, sometimes not.  Either way, they offer you advice and suggestions based on personal experience in the business world.  Generally, they are more professional relationships than your others, but still highly valuable.

Recently, I had an experience in which someone I thought was a Supporter turned out not to be.  This has happened to me in the past with Supporters as well as Sounding Boards.  People I trusted and turned to and thought had my back turned out to have a different agenda of their own.  Because these people were close to me and had been loyal in the past, I didn’t necessarily see when they stopped being supportive.  This could also happen with a Cheerleader, although they likely would simply fade away and not be someone you rely on anymore.  

By not facing the reality that the dynamics of the relationship had changed over time, I allowed things to go from positive to negative without addressing what was happening.  What I now realize is that people in your life can move from one category to another and, if they stop having your back, they can become Anchors.


One of my Mentors explained it to me this way.  He said, “Sherry, it’s like you’re driving a boat and you can’t figure out why you’re going really slow.  Then you look behind you and you realize you are dragging an anchor.  Once you cut that anchor free, things take off again.”  He was so right.  When I finally addressed a relationship that was no longer contributing to my success, things changed dramatically.  It was like a weight had been lifted, not only off the trajectory of my business, but also off my shoulders.  

Because Anchors start out as other members of your team and slowly change over time, you don’t always see that they have become Anchors and need to be cut loose.  That’s okay, it happens.  What’s important is that we do our best to recognize when relationships are no longer in our best interest, and then take the steps needed to change the situation as soon as we can.

Loyalty to a fault can be harmful to yourself and to your business.  If your growth or another person’s actions change the relationship from a mutually beneficial one to one that no longer serves your business’s best interest, then it is time to make changes.  Remember, this is your business and you are the leader and captain, so you get to decide who you want on your ship.  Don’t be afraid to change things up if they aren’t working for the betterment of the business anymore.

Sherry Herrington is the CEO and Captain of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm that helps businesses by assisting them in having strong financials to use to guide their success.

If you are running a business and find that you need more guidance than you are getting from your current team, Sherrington Financial Fitness offers business consulting and can help you by either being a Sounding Board or a Mentor.  

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at

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