Many of you know that my mother died last October. The time between when she entered the hospital in late September to her ultimate passing went too fast. During that final dark period, my mother and I talked about a great deal of things reconciling the past with the present. At one point, I asked her how if she had any advice for how I should live the remainder of my life. Her response caught me off guard, she said, “Live your life honorably.”
She died on a Friday morning around 3:00 a.m. Later that night I was on a flight to Sydney, Australia. Business was more important than mourning. The next month I had no time to grieve as business took me from Paris to Sydney to Tokyo – maybe not in that order.
Business got progressively worst over the quarter. Chaos extended throughout the company out to our customer base throughout our channels and continents of the world. It was the typical high technology business school example of get sales first and then fix the underlying problems later.
Personally, it felt like my personal and professional life was blurred. I hadn’t golfed in years. I felt too jet lagged to play with the kids. Picking up the telephone to call a friend was more than I could handle. My mother’s advice resonated – I was not living my life honorably as it related to my work.
My company and I would ultimately separate for good reasons.
Those that know me since childhood know that it has always been my ambition to be a CXO of a company. Out of graduate school, I passed the CPA exam thinking that I would be a Chief Financial Officer. I am really bad at the details of accounting like debits and credits so a friend introduced me to high tech. Over the past 17 years, I’ve been working my way up the food chain slowly and steadily trying to reach that C- level.
As a member of the VP of Sales Forum here in Silicon Valley, I began speaking to many VP’s who experienced similar frustrations in their own businesses. All could agree that the burnout of a VP of Sales here in the valley is 18 months. Why? Because they are required by their CEO’s and Board Members to focus on sales knowing full well that underlying issues need to be resolved first. If you don’t fix the problems, sales suffer.
This group provided me therapy. If the desire to run a company meant skipping the grieving process, wasn’t the cost of the personal ambition a little bit too high? Again, her advice resonated – I was not living my life honorably as it related to my ambitions.
Like my company, my ambition and I would ultimately separate for good reasons.
Ironically, by giving up the company and the ambition, an opportunity arose that would give me both. Through the VP of Sales Forum, I was introduced to two of my current colleagues – Dave Dotzler and Kevin Lynch.
I met Kevin in one of our VP meetings. Within the first five minutes, Kevin bluntly asked the group, “why don’t we fix these underlying problems for companies so that sales can grow? Why don’t we start a company?” as if it was as easy as buying milk. Once Kevin gets an idea in his head, there is no stopping him. Kevin knows how to build a business.
It was music to Dave’s ears. Dave is probably one of the most analytical guys I know. His pragmatism gives him a skill to use methodologies and processes to achieve results. He attached himself to the idea of the company and hasn’t let go. Dave knows how to fix a business.
Along came one Craig Quantz, one of Kevin’s colleagues from a prior life that worked for decades at major consulting firms. He wanted to build out our methodologies. Craig knows how to consult to a business.
I continued to interview, at one point telling my wife, I have no interest in building a company that fixes businesses. I was lying to myself. In one interview, I thought to myself that the person who would be my boss should be reporting to the person who reports to me. I had enough.
So, the four of us are starting a company. We are filing the paperwork, draining our savings accounts and working hard towards a go live launch on August 28, 2013. My mother’s birthday is August 26, 2013. She would have turned 71.
Well, I succeeded in my ambition. I am now at the C-Level of a company and we will fix the underlying problems of businesses so that they can grow. And that seems to be a pretty honorable profession.
It is my hope that my mother feels the same.