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What is Your Vision? Do We HAVE to Have a Vision to be Successful?

August 18, 2010 7 comments

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Last week I was offered a phenomenal Chief Operating Officer role in a great start up company. I was offered a decent starting salary (for a start up venture), but more importantly – a lot of equity. Even more important, I saw that I could learn from the co-founders and I believed in the product. One would think I would be ecstatic. I was, but there was something holding me back. I couldn’t figure out why I was not jumping through the roof and accepting, so I called one of the most influential mentors I’ve had, who knows me as an employee, colleague, and personally and he had one simple question that I couldn’t answer. What is your vision for yourself?

My vision (in my mind) is simple; I already have the perfect husband – then add to the picture 2 kids, a dog, 5 bedroom house on the ocean in South Fl, and CEO of my own company. Well, that all sounds plausible in theory and I’m CEO of my own company now; although I’d like to be CEO of a $30-$40 million dollar business so we have some growing to do.

This is where my mentor gave me a dose of reality; he said, “Jamie, my wife and I speak literally every week about how she feels she’s not giving enough time to our children.” His wife is the Chief Administrative Officer for a major company, extremely bright, ambitious, and absolutely adores her children. So, they’re both fantastic parents and it would “appear” they ‘live the dream’, but it also sounds like the “having young children” and “feeling like you are doing a good job as a mother” is STILL something that can be an issue.

I’ve spoken to others whom are extremely successful in business and have fabulous children / home lives and my findings; the mother has usually taken off of work for a year or two after the baby is born or one of the parents have their own business where they keep their own hours.

So, it would appear from all “data” and “anecdotal” points that my vision is flawed…but it can’t be, right? There must be hundreds of women who have been successful in their careers and still feel like they’re giving their children enough time. Isn’t that what the feminist movement was all about?

So let’s assume, for 1 second, that I cannot be a CEO or COO of a large corporation AND be an attentive mother; then what? Do I put my “career” vision on hold for a few years? I can certainly continue to work as I’m working now and make great money and spend time with my children, but I miss having something “to build” and I miss having a “team”.

Is it possible to NOT have a vision relating to business? And if so, can I be successful without that vision?

I am confident, possibly too confident that I will succeed in whatever business endeavor I undertake. I have the experience and the track record there; so can my ‘vision’ only include things that are personal? I see myself being successful at whatever I want to do – can my vision just be broad right now? Can it be, “be successful?”

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Reality Check – Are You a Hypocrite? I think I am!

July 20, 2010 13 comments

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After five years of success in what I termed to be a “large” corporation (about 10,000 employees) and then four successful start up ventures, I thought I had learned a lot. In my experiences, I had learned far more in any start up than my friends or family that worked for REALLY large companies; 50,000 employees +. Hence, I’ve spent the last few years training management teams on my experiences; specifically, how to quickly become successful in the start up world. Once again – very successful. I unconsciously made the decision that there was one way to do things – the “start up” way. By making this decision, I had unknowingly turned my back on the “large” corporations as I always incorrectly assumed that “their way” was corporate; ideas needed sign off, plans took too long to be written, there was politics to deal with, and frankly, corporations seemed to move to ‘slowly’ for me.

At the same time, whenever someone has asked me what has made me successful, my response has always been, “I’m open minded. I know what I don’t know. But mostly, I just love to learn; every person I meet is like a commodity and if I stay in contact with them, it’s because I believe they are a commodity that will allow my knowledge portfolio to grow”.

I’m a hypocrite. If I was so open minded, I’d be willing to work with / for these 50K + employee companies. I wouldn’t only work with start ups, but would also look to learn from high level executives in HUGE businesses. I would learn to relinquish control and learn how to play in a different sandbox.

I frequently meet with executives from all companies, small to large, to get their feedback / advice on how I’m doing in my business. I ask for suggestions as to how I can better myself. Thus far, everyone I’ve met with has said to me one of the following things: 1) “You’re an entrepreneur. You’d be wasting your talent if you don’t start your own business” 2) Continue consulting; you have a wide range of skill sets that are transferable over most sales and lead generation industries. 3) Continue working with start ups and imparting your knowledge there. You have the visions and know how to execute and bring a company to profitability quickly”.

While all of this is ‘nice’ to hear, I still always felt like I was ‘missing’ something. The advice given above is nice to hear and certainly from a monetary standpoint works very well. But again, I still felt the “fire” was missing – the passion was not there as it had once been when I had connected myself to one brand or company.

I had dinner with a brilliant executive last night who finally made me realize what I was missing. I had turned into the one type of person I hated. I was the one that was being closed minded. I had been so successful and enjoy the start up world so much, that I had closed myself off to the thousands of other possibilities to learn. I put all “large corporations” into the same ‘box’ and in doing so, had missed what could have been some phenomenal learning experiences.

For those of you successful entrepreneurs and ‘start up’ junkies who read my blog, I’m wondering…has this happened to any of you? Have you ‘turned yourself off’ so much to the “corporate world” that you think you may be missing out on learnings? I’m trying to decide where to go from here. It’s interesting, because I always said, “If you’re comfortable, you’re dead”…and what I realized last evening is that I AM comfortable in the start up world. While every start up is different, different product, different strategy, etc. the pattern is the same. I’m comfortable with that pattern. In order for me to grow, learn, and get out of my comfort zone – I would need to go to a large company and ‘learn’ how to play the game, learn some patience with slower processes, learn how to NOT always have to be in control. Or I could continue doing what I’m doing, make great money in start ups and enjoy them – but would likely not learn as much. It’s a catch 22, but I’m wondering what any of my readers thoughts are on this and if anyone has been through a similar point in their life? If so, seeking your opinion / advice!

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