What a summer it’s been.

In the past six months, I relaunched my Digital Marketing Consultancy, started another company and took on a business partner.  Here are some things on my mind as I look towards 2019…not good, not bad, not right, not wrong…just an open stream of conscience 🙂

1. Everyone’s a winner.
I often listen to the song, “Every1’s a Winner,” by Hot Chocolate. When it comes on my playlist during a jog it always gives me an extra burst of energy.

It gets me thinking about people. We all have things we are really good at and things we aren’t. I don’t know if it’s a perception or how we are truly wired, but I find many people enjoy focusing on the negative aspects of a person or process. That’s not an issue for me anymore. It’s energy sapping and lately, I find myself complimenting even people I don’t like or respect in an effort to eat my own dog food. Give credit where credit is due.

I have lots of conversations with different types of people and often times I find them talking about what so and so isn’t good at. I always say, “Well yeah, that’s fine. They are the best in the business at this, though!” Put some effort into changing the conversation and helping someone be more understood. It will pay you back in so many ways and make you a better person.

2. There is a fine line between being hands on and being a micro manager.
I met with the former CEO of the first company I worked for (more on that later) and one of the things he stressed was that if I wanted to be a successful CEO or President that I would need to be hands on in many areas of the business. He also said there is a fine line between being hands on and just being a micro-manager. My experience has always been the latter.

Various times in the past, there were times I needed help. I found it didn’t come (even when I asked). In other instances, things I didn’t need help on I felt like I had the spotlight on me to the point where the work no longer felt like it was mine. I’m sure I didn’t help as I probably offended people with my assertions that I had things under control, so when I really needed them, they were like, “F*** that guy.”

At any rate, it’s on my mind. I’m not looking to sit up top in an ivory tower or corner office, so my involvement in various activities is warranted, but strategy and client/employee well-being are what’s most important to me. Knowing when to get involved and when not to is about to give me a taste of my own medicine. Finding the balance of it all will be the challenge.

3. Cutting your losses is different than learning new lessons.
I don’t mind admitting that things at my last employer didn’t end well. I felt I launched a Digital Marketing practice. We sold tons of deals, kicked off the work, the clients really liked us…and then we made no hires to support the workload, despite multiple recommendations. I was wearing so many hats and some things were going great and others needed help. We were always going to lose a few clients in order to focus on bigger ones or learn new lessons. I still have trouble making sense of it, especially because I believed I would ultimately be rewarded for my work. Starting my deflation, I had to force a meeting with the CEO (which I knew he wasn’t going to like) to discuss next steps, which he took via a video conference even though he was in the same office as me. I was given a choice to move into a sales role or basically quit. I chose the latter and it truly knocked the wind out of me. I’m not sure if I called their bluff or they just wanted to get rid of me, but downgrading to a sales role was never going to be accepted. I knew I’d still be performing the director level role for the indefinite future and it was my heart & soul for the 8 months I worked there. Moving into a sales role seemed like a step backwards. From what I’ve gathered, much of the momentum/buzz around marketing stopped after I left.  Seems like such a waste of everyone’s time.  The company has since been acquired.

What’s interesting to me is most people told me to either cut my losses (and never interact with them or think about them again) or to stay and collect my salary for as long as I could before forcing them to fire me. I wasn’t going to put myself through that mentally (or do that to my clients), so I swallowed my pride and got ready to move on. What about the lesson to be learned, though? I took that job to gain experience and learn how to scale a business and I feel like I received both one way or another. If my company grows significantly, I want to protect the brand, people and assets of it. Ego is a part of it, but I want to be around people. I want to help people. I can’t always describe where that comes from (or if it’s unhealthy), but it’s undeniably there. I want lasting partnerships with various stakeholders.

I’m convinced I’m better off for the experience and I want to carry it with me. My company will go from a two person shop, to a small business to a medium size business and beyond. I now have some better ideas of what to do once we get there.

^ I’m aware this is just my side of the story. There are some great people there and they do some great work and I definitely took on more than I could handle.

4. True love does exist.
If you’ve read my past blogs, I’ve shined a light into my frustrations with dating. I find it’s all mind games and people just wanting what they can’t have rather than focusing on what they could have (I’ve been guilty of it, too) with few people actually giving things a real chance. You find someone attractive or interesting? The expectation has become that you just have to add water and you’ll instantly be in an intimate relationship with that person. A courtship? No one has time for that in a world where you can have 100 matches at once. They want it now! I’ve never been good (or comfortable) at moving that fast.

I was recently the best man at my best friend’s wedding. Seeing the mix of nerves, the preparations, the partnership between he and his bride (for both the event and life in general), the celebration afterwards…and most importantly being allowed to be along for the ride for the past 5 years during which they dated. It just felt great and was easily one of the best weekends of the summer.  I found myself wondering what my wedding might be like someday (It would be whatever she wants, of course…)

Probably the most optimistic I’ve ever been about it all and now I’m back on all the dating apps with a refreshed profile and photos… and you know what? I’m willing to meet people where they are and move faster…

5. I don’t shine if you don’t shine.
I was fortunate enough to go to The Killers concert at the Fiserv Forum Grand Opening with a good friend of mine. Sam’s Town was my go to record in college and I used to pour money into every jukebox playing, “Read my Mind” over and over again.

There is a line in the song where Brandon Flowers belts out…

“She said I don’t mind if you don’t mind, cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine, put your back on me, put your back on me, put your back on me!”

…and it just made me think more about my business (and all my college friends). All I really care about is happy stakeholders. If I do my job, other people will do theirs, we’ll support each other, we’ll have happy clients and we’ll all be in it together, for better or worse. Sounds simple, right?

6. I’m becoming more extroverted again, and it feels right.
When I look back on the past 32 years, I feel I’ve gone in spurts of introversion and extroversion. From what I remember about grade school, I kept mostly to myself.  I hated sleepovers and was the occasional target of bullies (I was also one of the few to stand up to them)… In middle school, I came out of my shell and made a slew of new friends. In High School, I remember being so busy all the time and being involved in so much that I’d come across as moody at times, with people telling me I needed to smile more. By the time I got to college I was all the way out there. I loved going to class, going to bars, going to people’s houses, working late, heading up student programming, etc. I never turned down a good time and I’d strut into places knowing half the crowd loved me and the other half hated me simply because I was me… and that I dared to show up. Back then, I viewed it as their problem, not mine. I was as outgoing as I’d ever been and didn’t really have a care in the world.

This carried on until I was about 25. At that point, I decided I needed to clean up my act and wanted to focus on other things, which came much harder than I imagined. I think I spent the remainder of my 20’s more introverted than ever before. I enjoyed spending time in my head and trying to figure out why things were happening or why people were doing what they were doing. A Friday night dinner by myself at Chipotle and then cruising I-43 to Beloit and back with a good playlist didn’t seem like wasted time. It helped that my job was sending me around the world. I wouldn’t trade all of these things I’ve done at this point, as I think I’m a much better person than I was before, but at the same time there is no amount of money you could pay me to revisit my 20’s…

I feel a new energy now, though. I want to be out and about again. I want to meet new people. I want to talk to them about new ideas and things. I want to be moving around. I want to take risks. I want to go to more concerts.  I want to build things. It feels good.

7. I’m looking for a mentor.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably gleaned a few recurring themes with me. What’s funny to me is I can generally help people with their problems, but to an extent, can only identify my own up to a certain point. I’ve never had to interact with me or know what’s its like to see me enter a room, give a speech, introduce myself, get mad, etc. I’ve only ever been able to see out of my own two eyes…

Hence, I know there are still rough edges to be smoothed over. The bigger problem is that with my high aspirations, I’m not looking for just anybody and furthermore, trusting them after I analyze their advice doesn’t come easy. My parents are key alleys, but that’s unconditional and different (and you know it).

I had lunch with the former CEO of the first company I worked for. He led a major company for 20+ years through good times and bad. He’s not perfect (which is appealing), but culture is important to him, he’s incredibly smart, well respected and he left the company in better shape then he found it. I found myself mostly silent during our lunch and ate up everything he said. You know how often that happens??? (almost never). I feel good about it and incredibly thankful for the time he spent with me. I hope it continues.

8. I might be a Feminist… but it’s not quite what you think.
I debated writing about this. As a 32 year old white male who has held VP and Director titles, I fall into a certain category for sure. Although, gay dudes tend to like me, so maybe I’m a bit feminine myself? 😉

Maybe it’s the industry I’m in, but I find women are generally smarter than men in regards to it. The men I’ve worked with can sell it, but they can’t execute it as detailed or with the amount of understanding that the women I’ve worked with can. When things go wrong (as they inevitably do at times) it’s usually a woman that I can talk the issue through with. The men often times get angry, engage in posturing, and bark orders, which always makes things worse.  Trying to forge understanding or agreements has generally been viewed as a weakness in my experience.

My business partner and lead social media consultant are both women and they are no exception. The compliments I receive from clients in regards to both of them is incredibly positive. I’ve also never found myself thinking I was better than them or needed to guide them along or knew what was best for them. I don’t know. Is this a generational thing? Maybe my parents just got really good at raising kids…

… and that’s not to say the gentlemen I’m working with aren’t great, too. Some of you are 🙂

9. I thought I had thick skin before…
There is an Indiana Jones quote where he says, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage,” and I smile when I hear it. I’ve done so much over the past 10 years that at times, it feels like a lifetime. During that time, I’ve received so many compliments and been told how great I was (which fed my ego). I’ve also received a fair share of backlash and told I was basically a psychopath in the workplace (which kept me tossing and turning at night).

If 32 year old James met 22 year old Jimmy, I don’t think they would have alot in common. There isn’t much anyone can say or do to me that will crush my world or stop me in my tracks these days. I am who I am. I know my worth and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.

My intentions may not always be perfect, but they are always good … and always backed up by action. I’ve toned down my introductions and tried hard to be accommodating, trustworthy and forthright. Still, not everyone will like me and I’ll try to convince them up to a certain point or leave them to their self/business.

10. I need to focus on making it rain.
Another piece of advice that was given to me was that I shouldn’t rely on anyone to bring in sales. It’s my vision. It’s my passion. If anyone is going to be able to sell it to its true potential, it’s me.

This makes me nervous. It’s long been assumed that I’m a natural salesman, but I’m not so sure. Breaking the ice has never come easy and I tend to either come on too strong or not at all in fear of doing so. When I’m brought into deals, I have a high close rate, but that won’t happen without introductions.

As the company becomes more formal and grows, 2019 will see me largely take on a much bigger sales role in addition to my Account Executive & Consulting duties. The future of the company depends on it (See – I’m taking the advice).

So there you have it.  The focus is on wrapping up 2018 as strong as possible and starting 2019 with a solid foundation under our feet.  Stay tuned … and thanks for reading!

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