I am no longer the President of Ryder Communications Group. I no longer have to make payroll every 14 days. I no longer cut my prices to bring in work. I no longer wait 120 days to get paid. I no longer give my expertise away for free. I no longer work with clients I’ve kept for far too long. I no longer get my six-figure salary or my fancy car paid for, or any of the other perks that come with being the owner of a small design firm.
I let it all go. After more years than I’d care to count, the fire in my belly to keep it going faded. And as hard as I tried to stoke the fire, it became clearer each day that something else was calling my name....
The entrepreneurs running creative firms are different than their older counterparts. Here's a recent podcast episode where Blair Enns interviews me about that subject. If you enjoy this episode, I hope you'll subscribe. We'd also value your positive rating on iTunes.
The only preparation we do before each recording is a quick email that says: "Hey, Blair, interview me about this tomorrow. Here are three or four talking points." And then we launch into what at times could be considered an awkward transparency about what we are thinking (we take turns interviewing each other, with a different topic each episode). There are no retakes and no editing of the content. It's been new, fresh, and fun for us. You can find out more here. Click below to listen to this episode immediately.
Here's another of my favorites. In this one....
The idea of selling your creative firm some day might be far-fetched, but there are some surprising changes in the M/A (merger/acquisition) landscape recently that are upending decades of business as usual:
This process starts by getting an idea of what....
Most aspects of your business will run better without you. Your people will thrive when you aren’t lowering prices all the time or blowing up creative two hours before a presentation.
But over the long term, it will be a disaster if you step away. The effects will be insidious and nearly unmeasurable, but here’s what will happen if you don’t show up over long periods of time:
Learn how to direct this process at an upcoming event in Nashville on September 23, but let’s look at the timing, first. Things are going well at your firm and for several years a key employee has demonstrated unusual leadership. They’ve taken over some of the roles that you’ve never been able to let go of in the past, and you’d hate to lose them. The team at large already respects their role and they’re functioning as if they owned the place (in a good way) already.
There are keys to help you know when and if you should move forward in making them a partner. You should consider moving forward when these four things are true...
I’ve fielded more inquiries about succession recently than at any time in the last two decades. By succession, I’m including merger, acquisition, closure, transfer to key employee(s), and acqui-hire transactions. It’s worth looking at what might be behind this trend:
Click here if you would rather listen to this blog entry (7:39).
It’s too raw to talk much about yet, but I nearly lost my business in 2013. The entire year was largely an epic fail and only now--with the situation in the rearview mirror--can I see it with any sort of perspective. I’ll write a blog post about it shortly (or maybe a book), but one of the threads weaving through those events is this notion of remaining relevant, and for a long time. On the drive to the cabin yesterday, where I am now, thoughts began to flow about just that. I wanted to formulate a perspective about being relevant over several decades, and I was thinking of myself and of you as this began to take shape.
My Declaration for Your 2014: The Year of Your Own Oxygen Mask
This year I will jot down some clever ways to peg the amount of "care" my clients bring to the table, and I will willingly match that level, just because it's the right thing to do. But for my own sake, I will not exceed that level, just because it's also the right thing to do.
I will quit pretending to solve the potable water crisis in Africa and I will take a glass of cold, refreshing water to a randomnly chosen employee on occasion. I am tired of the hypocrisy of wanting to change that world while being a #@%!) shitty manager in this one.
Not inconsistent with this, I will finally boot that one employee out of the nest. Yes, they have done every job in the place and been with me as the organization has matured, but they no longer have the presence, objectivity, ability, or hunger that we need. If I hear them tell one more new employee that they've been here the longest, have done every job, and know how and when to present things to me, I may just make a decision on the spot.
I will be so, so grateful for whatever health and intelligence I've managed to retain through these years. [Pause and be grateful, please.] I won't view life as something that happens after I fix it, but something that happens while I fix it. The journey itself must be savored, along with the control and freedom and opportunities I have to NOT feed the machine.
If what I've just said still doesn't...
I don't think I've ever posted a blog entry this long, but if you read it like I did, you'll forget about time and be so engaged that you read it all. It's from a friend (Schuyler Brown) who consults out of NYC. She graciously allowed me to publish this. More about her work at the end. Broadly, the subject of this is money and life, and based on the questions I've been getting recently, many of you are thinking about just that.
Like many Americans post-recession, I've been taking a close look at my relationship to money. To my surprise, what started simply as a responsible exercise turned into a deeply instructive philosophical journey.
I'd been ignoring the task of addressing my ideas about money for years, hiding behind an image of myself as Bohemian, an artist, a spiritual aspirant. Money seemed something too concrete to factor into my flights of fancy. Even as an entrepreneur I never stopped to think much about money. I worried when I wasn't making it and was jubilant when I was...it was a roller coaster.
It was my daughter's birth two years ago that unexpectedly initiated a shift in my approach to money, because she shifted my entire perspective on the future. Her presence forced me to imagine a future I'd been happy to leave to chance. One day, exiting the subway on my way home, I caught myself with a furrowed brow worrying once again about the numbers in our bank accounts...this time with no regard for my own needs, but for hers alone. I heard a steely voice of resolve somewhere deep inside say, "I never want her to suffer the burden of financial strain." At that moment, I felt my actual walk change. I became more directed.
But it wasn't until an incident this summer....
A great client recently asked me to outline my definition of success for their firm. I really enjoyed doing that, and below is a version that you can adapt to your own situation, putting your own stamp on it: