Embrace the Struggle. Let it Drive You.
Have you ever felt incredibly claustrophobic standing outside? As if the sky were closing in on you and the air seemed to just bog you down as if your feet were trapped in concrete? Perhaps a bit melodramatic I will give you that, but after 4 companies and 9 career changes in less than 7 years, that’s exactly how I felt. Suffocated. Insignificant. Void of purpose and passion.
If you asked me the exact moment I realized I had to make a change, I couldn’t pinpoint it. I probably realized numerous times, and then forgot when I woke up in an alcohol-induced haze the next morning.
Honing in on the exact moment is difficult, but I know it was a combination of things that took place over a few weeks that found me sitting in yet another corporate meeting reviewing a process and lessons learned.
Too many of us have been in this situation, needlessly discussing project scopes, management techniques, timelines, stakeholders, etc. Mostly it amounts to numerous people sitting around complaining, wasting time and scheduling more follow up meetings to discuss the results of everything we already discussed. All of this resulting in absolutely nothing getting accomplished, all of us wasting our time, and the company having to pay our thousands of dollars in salaries for glorified water cooler discussions.
During numerous follow-ups to the follow-ups with my boss the phrase “well now you know how NOT to do that” kept coming up. The number of times I have heard those words uttered, or some variation of them, is just insane. Basically, the underlying sentiment alludes to the fact that whoever is in charge or responsible is unqualified or incapable of getting the job done. And yet, no one will address the root of the problem… the person or persons themselves.
It always struck me as odd that this incompetent, moronic person or persons just continued without deterrent, reprimand or any consequences whatsoever. It was like everyone just looked the other way because it was unprofessional to address it, let alone correct it.
It was sometime during all this that I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. It was exacerbated by a complete skid mark of a coworker, telling me not to disturb his “domestic tranquility” when I sent him an email at 630pm one night. I was just done.
Ready. Set… “I quit”.
The Middle of the Beginning.
They say it is always wise to diversify. Hedge your bets. Have a plan B. Right?
So there I was having a beer with my best friend and soon to be business partner and social media genius. Me bitching and moaning about my job, what I was doing, and where the hell I was going, or better yet, where I wasn’t going.
He caught me in the right place, the bar, at the right time, at the end of my rope. “Drew… why can’t we create our own marketing company. We have all of the tools and expertise. Why aren’t we capitalizing on them and bringing real value to clients. Let’s stop talking about it and just fucking do it!” One month later, not even really sure what the hell was happening or what we were doing, we filed, paid our licensing fees, and boom… we were a corporation. Well we were something; corporation was just the technical term. Somehow an EIN number makes you a “real” business. Let me tell you right now, it doesn’t mean shit.
So there we were. Business license in hand. No clients on decks. What next?
The Bottom Drops Out.
It is said that the difference between dreams and reality is called action. And let me be clear. At this point in the journey, there was very little action other than filing our paperwork and paying the government money so that we could call ourselves a business officially.
This is where another phrase took on a whole new meaning: any person can be sued, by anyone, at anytime, for any reason. That ladies and gentlemen is no bullshit.
I had just gotten home from my ordinary day job, and was shifting through the mail when I received three letters from civil defense attorneys referencing a complaint number, my name and 7twelve Marketing.
So as any normal person would do, I turned to Google. You know when you are sick and you look up your list of seemingly harmless symptoms on WebMD and then suddenly you are convinced you are going to die… Well that’s basically the exact feeling you get when you see your name attached to a lawsuit with requested damages ranging in the seven figures.
Oh by the way, have I mentioned that we hadn’t even really started operations of any kind at this point. Let alone having any clients under management. So naturally the response, was “what the hell did we do?”
The End to an Uneventful Prologue.
Did I mention that you can be sued, by anyone, at anytime, for any reason. With that in mind, I have to keep the whole situation relatively vague in nature so as to keep myself out of ridiculous and frivolous situations like the one I have been describing so far.
Basically, when it was all said and done, it took 15 months. Evasive tactics, unclear motives, and heated depositions from the opposition amounted to no evidence, and a completely disjointed and unsubstantiated narrative. Ultimately we walked away with mutual releases of no wrongdoing, and as expected, the attorney’s were the only one’s who came out on top.
Oh and just to clarify, we never did anything wrong to begin with!
The Moral of the Intro.
(1) Get business insurance
Make the call. It’s cheaper than you think. Legal defense is horridly expense and stressful. It’s peace of mind if nothing else.
(2) Vet your business partner(s)
Do your due diligence. You just don’t know what you don’t know. I am still trying to figure this one out, but looking back, it would have been good to know a bit more. It probably wouldn’t have changed anything, but knowledge is power, and it’s all about mitigating risk after all.
(3) Avoid overzealous, illogical, greedy people
This is another matter of due diligence. But always be aware of your surroundings and the people you associate yourself with. You can’t always avoid trouble or crazy people, but you can assess your exposure and take steps to elevate elements of liability.
(4) Get a realistic, even-keeled attorney
How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Three. One to climb the ladder. One to shake it. And one to sue the ladder company.
But seriously, jokes aside, a good attorney cannot only help you protect yourself and get you out of a pile of shit, they can also be a confidante and pseudo therapist when things get really stressful.
It might be expensive, but find one now and start the conversation early.
(5) Trust your instincts
I cannot stress this enough. If your gut is telling you something, listen to it. I didn’t in certain situations and it nearly cost me the business, my sanity and my best friend. You might not be able to rationalize why your instincts are telling you something, but they are there for a reason. Take heed and listen.
Full Steam Ahead
Once I thought getting an MBA would help me understand business. How to set one up. How to run one. Do’s and don’ts. Etc. Well I can tell you during the 15 months right after we decided to start our business, I learned more about business and myself than I could ever learn from a textbook or a professor.
Trial by combat ended up being my classroom and experience my professor. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
7twelve Marketing is making headway. We started with a handshake in mind, and we continue with that to this day. Our business is based on authenticity, quality and results.
Now, I wake up every morning with a passion and a drive to succeed for myself, my business partner, my family, and most of all, our clients. There is only the future. No looking back.