Today I announced the closing of my company, [meta]marketer. I suspected there might be some buzzing about it – after all, to minimize speculation, I sent a press release to some of my friends in the media – but candidly, I kind of viewed that step as a formality. But dude. Dude. When you see your name in a day-long series of breaking news emails and social media statuses… well, it’s a weird feeling.
I’m delighted with the positive and encouraging way the news has been received by friends, industry colleagues, the business community, and so on, and believe me I don’t want to look that gift horse in the mouth. The message has largely been “times have changed and I’m shifting focus.” And that’s true, but here in my own corner of the digital world, I’d like to add a few brushstrokes of personal color to that story.
It starts with this: building and running a company is both harder and more rewarding than anyone has ever managed to convey to me. I’m sure I won’t be the one to find the right words to get it across to you if you haven’t experienced it. It challenged me on levels I never anticipated. But resolving my own internal issues around, say, what it means to lead with compassion and influence more often than authority left me a far better, stronger leader.
In fact the whole experience, from start to the impending finish, left me more aware of my flaws but more skilled at managing them, more wary of selling but more persuasive, more in touch with my limits as a communicator yet more in command of my range, and overall more sure of my capabilities and natural strengths.
“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
One of those natural strengths was made abundantly clear to me over the past few years in particular. When my husband died in mid-2012, it knocked the wind out of me personally and professionally. But as a business owner I had no choice but to get back to work as soon as I could manage it. Credit my team at the time: they came together, stepped up, and kept things running in the interim. Credit my close friends: they all but propped me up to keep me going. And with humility, credit me: I glued together every piece of resilience I had to come through the experience a whole, not a broken, person. I returned to work the following week. Sure, it was only for a few hours each day at first, but I went through the motions. And going through the motions is still forward motion.
Of course, even when I was physically back in the office for full days another week or two later, my focus and motivation was gutted. And it would be disingenuous not to admit that the company lost quite a bit of momentum in the fallout.
But I was determined not to let tragedy and grief cloud my decision of whether or not to keep the company going. For the remainder of 2012 and nearly all of 2013, I labored over what direction to go that would feel like a restart. I spent countless hours – some of it with my team, some of it with clients, past clients, and prospects, much of it alone or in conversations with close friends – sifting through opportunities, looking for a way forward that felt true.
So much good resulted from that. In the aftermath of devastating loss, my priorities and passions became much clearer to me. And what [meta]marketer had grown to be associated with was no longer where I wanted to invest my renewed energies.
On the other hand, some of the opportunities I’ve been afforded through the company’s growth and profile – such as speaking at conferences and to various groups, writing for big audiences, mentoring and investing in startups, consulting with companies to solve strategic problems, and connecting with staggeringly amazing people all over the world – are exactly where I want to continue to invest those energies.
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
― Nora Ephron
I’m relieved that I got past the window when closing the company would have been a direct reaction to Karsten’s death. I made as full a recovery at work as a person could wish for, and arrived at a decision based on a healthy perspective. Taking the time in 2013 to rebuild and reflect gave me the opportunity to really focus on my priorities and passions and to understand what’s important to me.
Closing a company is a lot tougher decision than leaving a job. If I’m honest with you, it took me longer to make this decision than I might have preferred. And let me tell you, indecision is expensive. But that extra time did buy me confidence that I would be making the right decision.
And in the end, I’ve learned a lot about when and how to shed your old skin and emerge lighter, energized, and ready for new adventures.
One last thing: I know I’m incredibly blessed with a support system of friends and colleagues who want to see me succeed, and I know I will be asked many times “how can I help?” That’s one of the things I love about you people. So in the spirit of being proactive with my answer, I’ll quote what I shared on the [meta]marketer blog post –
For myself, I am forming a new holding company (KO Insights) encompassing several passions and projects:
Public speaking. I have so enjoyed being a voice for strategic, customer-centric, disciplined, data-validated marketing, and I will continue to do so. But in addition my experiences as an entrepreneur, mentor, commentator, and consultant – not to mention my personal life experiences – have afforded me much broader perspective and I am eager to fold that into my message as well. I will be exploring opportunities to speak professionally to audiences large and small about pattern recognition, integrative systems and strategy, and especially about meaningful experiences, both in business and in life.
Writing. I have been writing two books, and will focus on finishing and promoting those, as well as additional professional writing projects.
A forthcoming content project. This is still in development and under wraps, but it is perhaps the project I’m most excited about right now.
Taking on select consulting clients. I still have a personal passion for helping companies make smart strategic decisions about their relationships with their customers. I enjoy the privilege of meeting with companies, understanding their approach, and helping provide clarity and direction. It’s a genuine thrill for me when I watch the dots connect for my clients as we solve problems together.
If you have contacts or opportunities that relate to any of these, I’d love to know about them. If you’re interested in keeping up with my updates, I would love it if you “liked” my speaker/writer/consultant page on Facebook. No matter what, I thank you for your support and encouragement.
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
― Dolly Parton