January 17, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
I’m laying in my bed in a small hotel room over 1,000 miles from my sons and wife.
Three feet away, in his bed, our SVP of Operations Stefan is trying to get sleep, wearing earplugs so my typing doesn’t keep him from getting needed rest, or more likely a flare up of my infamous apnea.
I’m on the road again.
I traveled a lot in Q4 of 2012 as our company grew, but in so many ways I was on the road throughout the entire year. The road I was on was one of self-discovery, where my passions became clear.
“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” — Confucius
When we started SteelCast, the idea was simple yet flawed; create support companies for the parent companies owned by its investors. The flaw is that support companies are just that – secondary in value.
As we moved into 2012, and the composition of our ownership group changed, we had to make real decisions, and in Q2 we did just that. We put FunLink and PerformNow on the back-burner and decided to merge everything we had built with Hua Marketing and CopyPress into one unit.
We set out on an unpaved road without an idea of its destination.
I took over CopyPress as CEO, and Stefan Winkler stepped down to COO. He has since again transitioned to SVP of Operations so we could bring on Igancio Lucea as our COO.
Why did he do it? Because it was what was best for the company we were building together.
Early in 2012 and again after our decision to merge CopyPress into a single vision, the real flaw in the vision of SteelCast reared its head; having support companies reliant on your main companies doesn’t work out when you can’t utilize the support companies.
To put it simply, revenues dried up by April 2012 for a majority of our projects.
To give an idea of how bleak our outlook was in April of 2012, we were essentially running week to week in terms of cash flow and we didn’t know how we were going to manage our existing staff.
Our staff decided to go down to 4 day work weeks.
Why did we do that? Because it was best for the company we were building together.
I say WE, because the executive level of SteelCast actually took a much larger cut than the rest of the company. This was a decision I brought to my beautiful wife Samantha in terms of how it affected our family specifically, and she gave me the go ahead to pull the trigger on essentially putting our family in a position where we would use the rest of our savings to manage our way through 2012.
Why did she do that? Because it was best for the company we were building together.
CopyPress, as a company, grew as close as any community or family. These are more than words, they are truth. Adversity bonds when a group works together to turn back the tides.
During this time I continued to go through personal turmoil however as relationships I had built over the years began to fall away. The hard lesson I learned was that everyone has their own path. I have found a lot of peace with this over the last month of 2012, as I have realized that life is to short to walk down anyone else’s path for too long.
“Each Warrior wants to leave the mark of his will, his signature, on important acts he touches. This is not the voice of ego but of the human spirit, rising up and declaring that it has something to contribute to the solution of the hardest problems, no matter how vexing!” — Pat Riley
We spent Q2 cleaning up CopyPress. We paid debt, fixed production, and planned for the future. In June we also found a great partner in Europe with publication ties, whom wanted to merge our selective products into a major media company.
At the end of Q2 the deal fell through.
I have never experienced a moment such as that. I can only compare it to getting hit while you are just getting up from a previous knock down.
But this ended up being the best thing that has ever happened to CopyPress. The lesson learned from this situation is that we rarely really know what is “good”, and only time can give us the historical context for that judgment.
We were able to rebuild due to some more aid from our investors, amazing people who had already met all of their commitments to us, and more.
Why did they invest more? Because it was best for the company we were building together.
We rebounded and decided to go full steam with a marketing and sales strategy that would show the world what we had been building for the last 12 months and was now living completely in the rebranded CopyPress.
We had some amazing customers, whom also saw our vision and put their faith in where we were going, and not just where we were or had been.
Their faith, my partners’ faith, my wife’s faith, our team’s faith, and Stefan’s faith all were wrapped into this new path we were paving together.
“Man is only great when he acts from passion.” — Benjamin Disraeli
In Q4, I set out on the road with a continually improving CopyPress , thanks to our utilization of the Lean Startup method of company building, and was able to grow the once fledgling company of around 10 people working 4 days a week into a growing healthy project with a staff of 32 full time members and growing.
The sales pitch that allowed this growth was what I call “selling without selling,” CopyPress is such an amazing offering in my eyes that it doesn’t need to be sold. We just need to listen to people, and see how we can help them. We educate rather than sell.
And that is why I am on the road now. I am out training partners on our Content Life Cycle approach to content traffic and conversion generation. I am showing them how our technology can radically alter their approach to content online, making it more conversion focused, and non-channel specific.
The road is always dark for me. I typically hit what I call my “loneliness wall” on day 3 of trips like this, and I can only describe what I feel in terms of someone transitioning from a dream to reality.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” — Dr. Seuss
My wife and sons have made my life into a reality so amazing it more closely emulates fantasy, and so the reality of being without them is hard and cold.
Also, being away from CopyPress, the company and family I have only helped build, I am finding more difficult. I love what we are doing, building, and how we are approaching the growth of this company.
It is truly special.
Up until this very point, it hasn’t been the kind of culture and product set you see us hyping, polishing, and selling the world on why it is so great. That’s because we are too busy making it great. Culture and amazing products don’t exist because the creators want to say, “look how amazing that team is!” Culture and amazing products exist because of the passion of a company; the team working day in and day out on the same vision.
Ego is the great disruptor.
I am looking forward to getting home to my beautiful family in only a few days, and holding them tight. I am learning to appreciate the moment I am in more, and for me every moment must be spent doing something I love.
Life is simply to fragile and short to approach it in any other way when we have options set before us.
I know 2013 is not going to be easy for CopyPress. By most business owners’ standards the road we are embarking on will be unbearable.
We need to grow and train our staff, while continuing to grow and test technology, and processes. We need to do it all without losing the culture and values that got us here.
I am looking forward to more growth personally, and professionally this year. I am looking forward to where this road wanders, the pitfalls, struggles and triumphs. I am enjoying the dream-like place that life full of passion has created for me, and I don’t want to wake up.
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