Why I’m Starting My Own Company

Every entrepreneur who starts their own venture better have a clear idea of why they’re doing it. With a clear “why”, it will be easier to navigate when the inevitable obstacles pile up.  If for no other reason than to get my own thoughts straight, here goes:

I’ve got Some Personal Motivation

I’m a small business guy by birth – I grew up the son of a second generation entrepreneur. My grandfather took a huge risk in 1916 and started a car business. He never made it to college, but i benefitted because he had the right combination of courage, vision, perseverance and a super supportive wife. He sent his two boys (my dad and uncle) to college, gave a ton back to his church and community, and sold the boys a successful business. They managed it well and grew it so that their combined 11 kids could go to college and grad school. I can’t count how many of their employees sent their own kids to college, or bought their first homes or a cottage on a lake or were able to retire because they were paid well by dad’s small business. It’s in the hundreds. So, i’m a believer in main street. I think the world needs more successful small businesses. We probably have enough Facebooks, Googles, and Twitters.

I want to build a great culture – I was having coffee with Amol Dixit, the brains behind Hot Indian Foods and he told me that his goal wasn’t to get into the restaurant business. His goal was to build a great company and a great brand, first. The restaurant business was just the fastest way in. When he wakes up in the morning, he’s thinking about how to keep the business growing so the people that work there can get where they’re trying to go, professionally. I hope that, in my small way, the little company i create can be a place where others can get their start on a new career or at least a new phase in their career.

Create More, Consume Less – I try, everyday, to focus on creating. Whether it’s words on a page, music, or even a dumb sketch, it’s critical to me to put something good out into the world to balance out all the consumption i’m doing. Business is the medium where i think i can be the most creative (should have practiced my guitar more) and this is a time where creativity in business will be rewarded. I hope when i’m done working someday, i’ll be able to look back and feel proud of what we all created together at my little company.

Put it into Practice – I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing leaders. Whether it was learning how to manage through rapid change at Ameriprise, or learning how to build excellent brands at General Mills, or how to build an amazing professional services business like Ciceron or GoKart, i’ve been around inspirational folks my whole career. I owe it to those leaders to try to do something special. I want to see if i can put it into practice.

It’s time – I started out as a small business guy, but then found my way – through luck and being in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge –  into corporate America. My whole rationale for going corporate was to learn enough to sell some digital marketing into big companies. My longterm plan was to go start my own business; i just needed a little corporate experience first. As i look ahead and make my plan for the next 10 years, this is the best way to get where i want to end up.

Why this Particular Business?

We’re starting a company that will make it easier for companies to find the talent they need to innovate and change. It’s a professional services business, but not an agency. We’re going to have a pool of talented consultants who can provide interim leadership and support for your most strategic digital initiatives. They’ll have experience at the senior levels inside big corporations and agencies and could step into your VP and Director level roles.  I’ll save the particulars for another post, but the general reasons for this business are going to be pretty familiar:

  • The market size is huge
  • There’s a gap in the marketplace
  • There is long term opportunity
  • I’ve got a unique way to help address some market needs

More on that later…

But, beyond the financial and business rationale, there’s a deeper reason. The transformational change that most companies are pursuing will come about through hard work and courageous leadership. That change will be driven by technology, but it will ultimately be a cultural change, where the company vision, mission, values, incentives, ways of work, tools, leadership behaviors, communications and customer experience will all be challenged.

It’s going to come down to great leadership.  It’s going to take vision, courage, resilience and persistence. And – we think –  partners that work like we do.

The Middle is Where the Change Gets Real –  This kind of change will have to be supported at the “top of the house”, the C-Level folks. And, the execution has to happen everywhere, from the entry level folks on up. But, the leaders in the middle – the Directors, the VP’s – are where the real change happens. Or, I should say, where the change gets real. Those people are in the tough spot of trying to influence up (to the C-Level), across (to their peers) and around, to their teams, their vendors, their functional partners. They’ve got to bend and dismantle the old ways of working to create the space for the new ways.

While we will probably be hired by “senior management”, we think we can make the most impact by helping to lead from the middle. So, we are building this organization to to help at the Director and VP level, the ones who have to make the change actually happen. The ones taking the risks to innovate where their peers are playing the game, the ones who are trying to create something new or pioneer new techniques instead of following the path laid out by their boss.

This might be one of the best times in American history to start a new business. It’s also the best time for existing business reinvent themselves. And, it’s an amazingly interesting time to be a business leader. If we work our plan and this business evolves the way we want it to, we’ll be doing our little part to help those great companies – and the leaders inside – reinvest in their futures and reinvent themselves.


Call the Blogger: Monitor Mix

My new favorite blog, from my favorite guitar player. Seriously. Link: NPR: Monitor Mix. Listen to the bridge and transition into the chorus of "Start Together" from "The Hot Rock" someday when you’re driving, and tell me it’s not just a mind-blowing guitar arrangement. Super simple, but dizzying in effect. And, don’t get me started on the drumming either.

I Really Will Take This Blogging Thing Seriously, But First

I try to keep this blog pretty bland and non-personal. There are plenty of reasons why, but mainly i live a very boring life and the world doesn’t need that boredom inflicted on it. With all that is going poorly across the globe, i don’t feel my pissing and moaning would make things better or worse. So, i pretty much stick to dumb stuff like "irish hotties", "golf porn", and "Multiple ipods on XP". At least, that’s what my referrer logs say.

But, evidently, this site is read by others, and i’ve gotten a few emails from former coworkers and old friends asking where i’ve been. Short answer: in a dark hole, and at a new job. Longer answer: Below.

September & October:
– Traveling back and forth to De Pere WI every weekend, watching Cancer kill my mother from the inside out, and my father helpless for the first time in my (and his)
– Some insights into the problematic way i’ve been avoiding stress, emotions, and a couple other things. THey come home to roost, and I have to start dealing with them.
– Fantastic new job starts.
– I finished my second Chequamagon Fat Tire Festival, cutting 14 minutes off my time. Start looking to next year.

November & December:
– Still on the road to De Pere every weekend
– Feeling pretty low,  but at the same time, more optimistic than ever about my future.
– Sad to see my beloved brother crushed, too, dealing with difficult times himself
– Mom dies. Dad crushed. Family shattered.
– Meet Bob, a wise man, who can help me make sense of a couple questions i’ve struggled with for a while. Glad to have met him!
– Holidays are weird with mom gone. She’s as present as ever, but not there at all. Stressful and tenative. Moreso than ever. But, Dickensian ending where we all hold hands and gain deeper, richer appreciation for the importance of having family to lean on and share pain with. Good times. Seriously.
– New job is awesome.

– Trip to Uruguay with Dad and my brother and family friends. Great trip, but missed the family
– A. goes to Las Vegas
– Trip to Google, blown mind. Great possibility. This internet thing is going to be huge!
– Feeling pretty good about the future

– Start riding my bike again (!) and feel better already. Looking forward to Fat Tire fest in September
– Stop riding my bike due to work and sickness
– Fantastic weekends at the cabin in WI, skating on the pond, making fires on the pond, great quality time with family.
– Feeling very positive about the future

More time at cabin (!)
– Great trip to AZ, with a bunch of bike riding thrown in.
– Start shopping for a carbon fiber bike to buy this summer
– Work is still going well
– The future is bright, I’m looking at shades

– Take Cooper to Kids Choice Awards 2007. Best trip of a lifetime ever.

A couple other things:
Amy Winehouse is fantastic, and her new album is dynamite. Buy it today.
– Listening to a lot of old Buffalo Tom
– Love the John Hodgeman book/audio CD. Extremely false and equally funny.
– Still trying to get in shape. That 15 lb weight loss is unicorn-esque, but I will capture it one day!
– Looking at boats. Seriously. Runabouts, you know, for the kids! At the lake!

All is good. Its getting better all the time.

Thanks for reading. Seriously.

I’m One of them And Even I Don’t Care

There was a time, not so long ago, where I’d read an article like this article about "Grups" and get all Fascinated-American-Studies-Major-Guy and start making big statements. But now, now that I actually have kids and responsibilities and stuff, I couldn’t care less. I didn’t even get three paragraphs in. (Yes, I realize that i’m saying I don’t care, but blogging it nonetheless. I will refer you to this quote by Walt Whitman).

Great stats on the decline of Mainstream Media & timshifting

At  The Long Tail. However, internet advertising and consumption keeps it’s steady march.

Nothing on tv consumption, though, and the “time shifting” impact of Tivo and DVR. I can’t remember when I last watched a major network tv show in “realtime”, without skipping over commercials. Like most users of DVR, i’m happily free for the most part. When I have to watch a tv show that’s not recorded, I typically pause it and go do something else for 10 minutes so I can watch without the commericals. Awesome. Even Cooper and Eli don’t really “get” commercials, but the few times they are forced to sit through them, the boys see the commericials for what they really are: little short tv shows in between the long tv shows.