So as not to ‘bury the lede’
I’m starting a new company.
If you want to skip the backstory and jump to that part of the post, go here.
At times, the top seems so very far away.
I’d been working in the Social Media industry for the last 11 years of my life. I grew an agency over the course of 7 years, spoke at conferences, and designed strategies for my clients spanning small businesses to multi-national corporations. Less than 2 years after my agency True Voice Media was acquired, and less than 2 years from being the majority shareholder in my business, I got the itch to once again work for myself. In July of this year, I left the agency.
It’s not you, it’s me.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do next…but I knew it would be something different from what I was doing. Over the course of the last 3-4 years, social media has left a sour taste in my mouth. I won’t go into another lengthy rant about how disappointed I am in what social media has become. Instead, I’ll just link to a Medium post by Scott Monty that echoes many of the thoughts I’ve had: The Dehumanization of Social Media.
I don’t want to rag on Social Media again. Today, I want to talk about building a business, specifically, my experience.
In 2011, I was fired from a PR agency where I was the Director of the Social Media Practice Group. We didn’t see eye-to-eye about what Social Media really was or how we’d sell it to our clients.
- They wanted me to manage client social media accounts and post press releases on Twitter.
- I wanted to design comprehensive long-term business strategies using Social Media as a means to engage and connect with all stakeholders including customers, employees, and strategic partners, then provide guidance, training, and consulting to see that vision realized.
As you can see, that marriage was never meant to last.
So, in March of 2011, I started True Voice Media. I had dreams of building the next Ogilvy, but for Social Business. I truly wanted to change the world and I believed that I would.
My first year was terrible. I was 31 years old, married, and struggling to find enough clients to cover my share of our expenses.
I won’t bore you with all the details so, I’ll summarize.
Over the next 7 years…
My company grew. It grew every year; more clients, more team members, higher fees, and larger year-over-year revenue. While I enjoyed working with clients, producing work I could be proud of, and seeing the progress of my business…it was a grind.
Every single step of the way, I fought tooth and nail to get to the next level. I thought about my business constantly. I was always strategizing, organizing, networking, writing, recording, tracking, optimizing, and generally making myself crazy. I made decisions to benefit the business at my own personal sacrifice. If someone wanted me to step on stage to talk about Social Media, I would travel just anywhere to do it. I attended every type of networking event. I created tons of content to build my brand. I got listed on every directory or niche ranking site I could.
In short, I put in the work…lots of it.
By the time my company had officially been acquired in late 2017, it felt like I had climbed a mountain.
Back to the base
After putting 7 years of sweat equity into my business, my company was acquired and everything I’d worked for began to dissolve into the new entity.
Some of my relationships changed, some of them faltered.
The momentum of my personal brand began to fade.
When I left in July, it dawned on me that along the way, I had drifted back to the base of the mountain.
My New Mountain
My hope is that by being a little older, a little wiser, and a lot more connected, that starting this new phase of my career will be a smaller mountain. At the very least, my hope is that I’ll get to start halfway up the mountain.
Over my 7 years as an agency owner, and 2 years as an agency executive, my interests have expanded beyond marketing. Somewhere along the way I became profoundly interested in sales, pitching, and influence. I became increasingly fascinated with understanding the art of leadership, and trying to decode how great cultures are built. I leaned into my obsession with organization, efficiency, and productivity.
Now, I’m putting all of these skills to use.
The thought of starting something new and climbing a new mountain is daunting. I am currently 39 years old, I got remarried in 2018, and I have a daughter on the way. I have plenty of experience and I have plenty of knowledge. I know that this next phase of my career will be challenging. I will think about quitting. I will fantasize about getting a job and how magical that bi-weekly paycheck will be.
But, if I can remember to be patient, I will keep climbing.
Introducing The Superhero Institute
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I’m an enormous superhero nerd (I’m actually wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt as I type this).
Superheroes inspire me. I admire their selflessness, their extraordinary abilities, and their courage in the face of uncertain outcomes. Despite the widespread reports of Superhero Fatigue in cinema, I think the world needs Superheroes now more than ever.
- All of the lessons I’ve learned about marketing and sales, have the power to do a great deal of damage in the wrong hands…and I’ve seen it.
- Influence and persuasion are only tiny steps away from manipulation and cheating…and I’ve seen that too.
- Leadership, is inherently amoral. It is simply the ability to lead. This ability can be used to build a movement for the betterment of all mankind. This can be used to lead an army of conquerors who seek to ravage and plunder.
The bottom line is that all extraordinary abilities can be used for good or evil.
If at this point, for some strange reason, you don’t believe that, pick up any comic book or, better yet, grab a copy of Mike Monteiro’s fantastic book Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It.
I started The Superhero Institute to help people who feel trapped by their circumstance, who feel scared for their lack of financial security, and who yearn for the tools that give them the power to (figuratively) move mountains.
That all sounds well and good, but you’re probably wondering: what is it, and why should you care?
Truthfully, not all of you will care, because the Superhero Institute is not for everyone. I’m building this company with very specific people and groups in mind.
Starting with Why: We spend far too much of our lives at work for it not to mean something. If we’re going to be stuck there we may as well be damn good at it. And if we’re stuck there and don’t want to be, we should have access to the tools to get where we want to go. I want to make those tools available. I want to empower those who want to live with purpose and pride.
Who is it for: Freelancers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, small agencies, and anyone outside the upper ranks looking to advance inside their company. I have another line of business for executives and large companies. If that’s you, email me and we’ll talk.
What it is: The Superhero Institute is a membership training and development platform providing access to the resources and training materials you need to succeed in the following areas:
- Leadership & Culture
- Marketing (including social media and content marketing)
- Sales & Pitching
- Productivity & Efficiency
There are three levels of membership:
Free Members get access to a library of resources as well as discounted consulting. Paying members of the Superhero Institute receive consulting on a regular basis within each of these disciplines and get access to exclusive trainings and online courses as they become available.
Hope to see you on the mountain!