Doing something I never thought I would

AJ Vaynerchuk
Mar 24, 2016 · 5 min read

My brother Gary and I started our company VaynerMedia roughly 7 years ago. I never imagined a world where the company would grow to be 600+ people. I also never imagined a world where I would leave the company. Well, we hit 600 people a few months ago, and as of May 1st, I will no longer continue to be the COO of VaynerMedia.

Instead of making this a short announcement (which is really more my style), I’m taking the opportunity to steal a page from Gary’s book and really blow out my first Medium post.

Let’s take a step back

I always knew that Gary and I would start a business together. Entrepreneurship is in our blood (thanks Dad!). At age five I was memorizing the Beckett. By 12 we were raiding garage sales & flipping toys on eBay. In high school we were buying up domains. In college we were building websites & side projects (s/o to PleaseDressMe).

VaynerMedia was inevitable.

How it started

We landed on the idea of VaynerMedia during my senior year of college. Gary started selling (he’s pretty good at that) and I started recruiting. Day one of the business featured Gary and myself, along with a small collection of my friends from high school & college crammed into a spare conference room at Buddy Media(thanks Kass & Laz!).

We had no idea what we were doing.

But at the same time, we knew exactly what we were doing. An agency dedicated to social media & emerging technology was essentially non-existent in the spring of 2009. It was a white space we filled and filled well. It’s been an absolute pleasure to help grow our team & business up until this point.

I’m so proud of this company

As weird as this is to admit publicly, and after countless heart-to-hearts with Gary and my wife Ali, I decided to step away from VaynerMedia about 18 months ago. This may be narcissistic, but I wasn’t going to leave until I was 10000000% confident that the company would not only be fine, but would continue to flourish at this unimaginable pace.

I genuinely believe there is no better leader/CEO in the world than Gary. Yes, I may be biased, but that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.

Every leader needs great leaders below him or her. We have that at VaynerMedia. Our executive leadership, James, Marc, Claude, Scott, Steve. Our department heads, our office heads, our 5-year veterans… we’re dripping leadership at Vayner, and that makes my heart smile.

That, above all else, is why I am 10000000% confident in this company’s future.

My name is on the door, I will always be a part of this company, and this company will always be a part of me.

While I may not be active day-to-day, you better believe I’ll still keep a pulse. I look forward to watching this wonderful team grow. I look forward to the days where Gary and I are tailgating a Jets game and he’s giving me the latest. I look forward to the days where I see one of our clients pull off yet another amazing campaign or innovation.

But wait, hold up, why are you leaving?

Well. Here’s the thing… a lot went into this decision.

The foundation of this decision is my health — everything stems from that. I’ve struggled with the balance of publicly talking about living with Crohn’s Disease. I never wanted it to be an excuse or a crutch. I was VERY insecure about that part of it. This timing, this article, feels like the right way to go about letting folks know.

When I was diagnosed at 19 it flipped my world upside down. Wrapping your head around the fact that you have an incurable disease is really something. It hit me hard at first, but over time I was able to gain perspective and I’m beyond grateful for the the life that I live. I want to emphasize that I am ok.

That being said, I came to the conclusion that I no longer could/want to maintain my current lifestyle. My Crohn’s case isn’t severe, but it does have a daily impact on my life and has led to numerous trips to the emergency room and even a stomach surgery a few years back.

The way I’m wired requires every ounce of me to help run this company, and I have nothing left in the tank. That’s why I have to step away. This is not to say that someone with Crohn’s can’t do this job, but more-so that I personally am no longer able to do it.

So what next?

Time with my beautiful wife Ali. Walks with Enzo. Golf. A lot of golf. More time with family. Martha’s Vineyard. Weddings. Learning how to ride a bike (yup I can’t ride a bike). Learning how to sail. Helping others more-so. Some travel. More exercise. Eating better. Catching up on some bad TV. Tennis. Read. Listen. I’m sure a bunch of other cliché things people do when they take a break. (Also, I know that the tenses above were scattered, but it felt right so I ran with it)

Thank you thank you thank you

I’m petrified of leaving people out of this thank you note. This is kind of a cop out, but I need to highlight that there are so many people to thank. Frankly, the thank you’s could be its own article, but I’m going to do my best.

Thank you to my wife Ali for it all. Thank you to my Mom & Dad for a million things, but mostly for your love. Thank you to Gary for being a brother, best friend & mentor. Thank you to my sister Liz, for being my first teacher. Thank you to Ted & Jaye for welcoming me into your family. Thank you to Justin, Lizzie, Teddy, Jill, Alex & Sandy, for increasing the amount of amazing brothers & sisters I have. Thank you Misha, Max, Xander & Hannah for being the little cuties that you are. Thank you Peter for your guidance & PowerPoints. Thank you Anne for putting up with Peter. Thank you Enzo for being the best pup a guy could ask for. Thank you to my friends that joined Vayner in blind faith. Thank you to my friend’s parents who allowed their children to join Vayner in blind faith. Thank you to my friends who joined Vayner later on… when things were a bit more established. Thank you to my friends who started out as colleagues. Thank you to those who came & went — you made a lasting impact on the company & me. Thank you Web 2.0. Thank you early internet friends. Thank you to those who were confused. Thank you to our clients, especially those who believed in us when they maybe shouldn’t have. Thank you to Matt & Steve who realllllly believed in us. Thank you to each and every single person who works at Vayner, has worked at Vayner, or who will work at Vayner in the future. Your belief in us is just as important, if not more important, than anything else we have done.

AJ Vaynerchuk

Written by

Co-Founder of VaynerMedia