So the number one question that I seem to be getting these days is "what are you going to do next?" My three word answer, and I really like three or four words, is "I don't know." What I am really most likely to do is do what I do best, and a better four words, I build Internet companies.
Something that most folks that have not worked with me do not understand from reading FoG is that I am much more analytical in my work than what and how I write here. I am analytically anal.
So the first thing I did when I decided to leave nCrowd was to make a list of the things that I could do next. The final document runs eight pages with career options, the short-term opportunity, upside opportunity, potential obstacles, and how to overcome them. Here's the list of the options that I came up with (in no particular order than how they initially came to me.
CEO/President/COO position at a early stage Internet where I come in and get it ready for the next stage of investment and run the business.
Start a company.
Head of business development/marketing at venture backed technology company.
Independent consulting on funding/marketing/business development issues facing small early stage Internet companies.
Consulting on digital strategies at a consulting company or digital agency.
Marketing position at a mid size company.
Division President position at a mid size company.
Buy a small company.
Options are good.
The most interesting thing about this list is that I asked my wife, Abby, to review the document and my thought process. She had four words for me. The same four words I have said to entrepreneurs time and time again. Hundreds of times.
A couple of months ago the good folks at Hypepotamus asked if if I would participate in their "How I Work" series in which people share their daily routines. I was flattered and of course accepted. I am republishing the full text here with their permission. You can see the original article here.
Three highlights of your career (so far): 1) Well, the biggest career highlight so far has to be joining MindSpring when it was a startup, going through the IPO process, and growing it into a great company for a period of time. I scaled pretty well with the company and ended up running sales and marketing there. It was a special company at a special time and many people that I worked with there remain my closest friends today.
2) Another thing that I am proud of is to see people that I have helped along the way have some success. When I look around Atlanta I see people that I taught a little something to go on to bigger and better things. To know I played an important role in someone’s career development makes me very happy.
3) The third thing has not happened yet. I don’t know what it is but the best is yet to come.
What’s your current venture? nCrowd, Inc. We operate online local commerce marketplaces that connects merchants to consumers by offering goods and services at a discount.
What’s your current role? I am the COO. I have been with the company for about two and a half years. I came in as part of a $7 million venture capital round in 2011. During my time at nCrowd I have directly managed sales, marketing, product development, and technical operations. I joined to grow the business and in terms of sales we are about four times the size of when I started.
What time do you typically wake up? Depending on what is going on the product development front some time between 4:00 and 6:00am. Much of development is overseas and if we have something big going on I get up and help out with the development/deployment effort.
Describe your typical morning routine: I wake up before my family, grab some coffee and head straight to the computer. I work for a bit and then gather with the rest of the family to get ready for our day and the kids (I have a 15 and 13 year old) off to school. It is a special day when I get to take them to school and we get a treat. Then off to the office for a dev meeting and more work on that front. Around 11:00 am I start to shift my focus from development to sales and marketing activities.
Is lunch a time for solace or socializing? Why? A little of both. I try to stay connected with my network in Atlanta and lunch is a good time to do that. If I don’t have that type of meeting I typically spend lunch at my desk working.
How often do you check email? Too much. I make a habit not to let email take over my day. IM is even worse than that. Just because something beeps or bounces at you does not mean it deserves your attention.
How often do you check social media? These days about three times a day. Morning. Early afternoon.Night. And when I am waiting for someone/something.
Describe your typical afternoon routine: Afternoons are spent more with the sales team addressing their issues and meetings with outsiders.
What time do you go home?
Either before or after rush hour. If before I work at home for a period of time before returning my attention to family.
Describe your typical evening routine: A little exercise (I play a lot of tennis these days), dinner with the family, and some down time with them as well. More often than not I return to the computer before I go to bed. The last is a bad habit I want to break.
What daily habits fuel your success? Just showing up, putting in a good effort, and doing just a little more than the next guy is a big part of the battle. I try to stay up to speed on industry trends and opportunities to find the intersections of success.
What daily habits hinder your success? I love the Internet but it can sure send you down some rabbit holes.
What tools/tech are essential to you? iPhone, Macbook Air, and of course the Internet. That is everything you need. You have those three things you can do just about anything.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you could go back in time and give to your younger self? It is easy to say now but was hard to do then. Life is too short to spend time doing things that you don’t want to do with people that you don’t like. Do what you love with people that you like. I am very fortunate to be able to follow my own advice.
Given his position and popularity I am sure that Fred gets quite a bit of email, much more then me. But I was feeling a bit overwhelmed myself back in November as Black Friday approached and the marketing emails were on the rise. Back then I made a simple decision. I was going to unsubscribe from all emails. If it did not come from a real person I did not want to see it.
I am about seven weeks into this experiment. What a difference it makes. Instead of spending my first 20 minutes every day wading through mail I have about 10 fresh messages in the morning.
I do not have so much incoming mail that I need to do the nuclear option like Fred. Most likely either do you. Try the unsubscribe option. It worked wonders for me.
It is amazing what nCrowd has accomplished since May of 2011 when I joined the company. At that time we were active in two cities and using an off the shelf e-commerce platform. Today we are a leader in the local commerce market with sales from Boston to Honolulu, have built a proprietary platform (along with a few mobile apps), and taken on the role of consolidator in this young industry. Leading our development, sales, and marketing teams over the past two and a half years has been a very rewarding experience. It has been fun. It has been challenging. We have accomplished a lot. I am extremely proud of how far nCrowd has come during my time with the company. 2013 was a record sales year.
However, it seems to me that I have done all I can do for the company. To quote Keith Rabois.
"Every day matters. And it is better at this point for me to be doing something different every day."
While I remain excited about the opportunity before nCrowd I will be leaving the company in the near future.
I will be forever grateful to Alan Taetle for introducing me to Brian Conley and having the conviction to lead our Series A. I am thankful to Brian for his confidence in bringing me on board to expand the business, the faith he showed in me when he increased my responsibilities, and his graciousness in handling my decision to leave. I am thankful to every member of the team that I had an opportunity to work with, learn from, and share a laugh.
But it's time to move on.
Every end is a new beginning. I will be writing about my next adventures soon.
Recently Jeff Hilimire wrote an article on mobile manners. The money sentence was this:
"And if you’re having a conversation with someone you really shouldn’t be checking your phone or device constantly."
When I first started managing people back in the day I reached a point where I could not deal with all the stuff coming at me. People, phone calls, emails. I was a little overwhelmed and had a conversation with my manager about the best way to deal with it all. His advice. Focus your attention on the person that put in the most effort to communicate with you. It works, and it also keeps a certain level of communication courtesy in what you are doing. The communications priority stack looks like this.
People that have physically moved their bodies to communicate face to face.
Don't think this is right? Let me ask you this. What is your preferred method of communication? Most people like to communicate from the bottom of the stack to the top with a certain nuance for the closeness of the relationship thrown in. They like this because it takes less effort to communicate at the bottom of the stack.
Still don't think this is right? Imagine this scenario. I get up and walk over to talk to a co-worker. We are mid-conversation. Her phone rings and she answers it or gets a text and starts typing out a reply. How would you feel? The message being sent is that whomever is calling/texting is more important. Not the type of message you want to send (and BTW my standard reaction to this rude behavior is to leave).
Try the communications courtesy stack. Focus your attention on the person that put in the most effort to communicate with you.
So I did something really bad today. I cancelled a meeting with a prominent entrepreneur/investor at the last minute.
For the second time.
Without going deep into the details my issue was legit. I had an urgent employee oriented operational task that I needed to complete. It was an non-optional business demand. And I had to do the same thing tomorrow morning with an aspiring entreprenuer that asked for 10 minutes of my time.
I hate not having control over my own schedule. If anyone has any tips on how they balance immediate business needs with the desire to be a part of building a great Atlanta tech cluster and pay it forward I would love to hear them. Currently I am trying to do all of the above and failing at the last two.
Amidst a growing rash of lawsuits across the country that might just dork up the whole concept of internships I made my way up to KinetixHR to talk with their class of student workers over lunch. My friends there said all I had to do was talk about myself, my career choices, and what I had learned along the way. Easy enough. No prep required.
This is what I told them I have learned over the course of my career.
Do what you love
Have life goals
The path is not straight
And this was my job hunting advice
Always be networking, nearly all my career moves came from networking
Never send a resume until someone asks for it
Have a well built out LinkedIn profile because...
The first thing someone is going to do is Google you
Control as many top 10 SERPs as you can
Great group, had a lot of fun. Afterwards every single one of them reached out connect on LinkedIn. I was forewarned they would do so. And I accepted of course. I don't know if the Kinetix interns are paid or not, I do know the company is working hard to deliver them value over the summer.
It's interesting situation. I was given a project that required my undivided attention. None of the team that I am working with is in our Atlanta office. They are literally spread across the globe. Remove me from the office, remove distractions.
I have been doing this for a week or so and my typical day looks like this. Get up in the 3:45 - 5:30am time frame and communicate with my Eastern Europe comrades. Work til 8:30 then help my teenagers get off to their summers camps/jobs for 30 minutes. Turn my attention domestically then and perhaps a little exercise or a meeting for lunch. Then back to task with the USA Eastern time zone cohorts. Wrap that up around 5, set tasks for those whose workday begins at 1:00am Eastern time, and communicate with contractors on the West Coast or those with full time gigs between 7 and 11pm. The latter which I just wrapped up before writing this post.
Not sure if it is an actual lifestyle improvement or not. I will say this, I am not getting much sleep but I put on long pants for the first time in about a week today.
Willie King over at WorthPoint reached out to me earlier this month via LinkedIn, "Congrats Lance on 2 years" he said. How time flies. He is talking about my time at Half Off Depot/nCrowd.
It has been quite busy. So busy that I have not really had a chance to practice my preach of updating your resume every year just to remember what you have accomplished. Doing that and keeping it to the required two pages is just way too time consuming. So at the risk of being self aggrandizing here are the bullet points of the past two years (one of the reasons I have a blog is to find things that are important to me) that someday I am going to have to whittle down and properly format for a resume.
Played a significant role in the company securing $7 million series A.
Selected expansion markets and in conjunction with CEO set expansion strategy.
Successfully expanded into first additional market within 60 days of joining company.
Based on the results recommended to board that we accelerate expansion.
Expanded into four additional markets with 100 days of joining company.
When Groupon botched its IPO recommended a market rollup.
Took over direct duties of CTO and Vice President of Marketing.
Personally led the negotiation of two asset acquisitions.
Identified and made initial inquires to major acquisition target, oversaw due diligence and closing of the same.
Oversaw the development of proprietary platform and assumed direct management of the darn thing. As in doing sysadmin and committing code.
Assisted in securing venture debt for major acquisitions.
Acted as corporate secretary.
Started as employee number 21, employee base now reported to be 70.
3.5x revenue run rate growth.
Not a bad list for two years. It will be interesting to see what the next two bring.
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The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone (with the exception of comments by others of course). They do not represent the opinion or position of any other person or entity. All postings adhere to my personal values.