Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Flying the Coop: “What, you are leaving Pennebaker?”
That is a question I’ve been hearing quite a lot these days. I have to say that it was a very hard choice to walk away from Pennebaker. It is a great agency, and I thought it would be the last job of my career. After three and a half years, I was the President of the company. We just won agency of the year, and won a major new account. I love the team. I love the clients. I love the work. Sounds like a perfect time to leave, right?
The truth of the matter is that I was planning to buy Pennebaker, and after years of working on the deal, it fell through just days before it was set to close. Lesson learned: it’s hard for founders to sell their baby. I can’t fault anyone for getting cold feet. The truth of the matter is that there was a lot of risk for both parties in the deal, but for me it was too late to turn back. The entrepreneurial itch had been triggered within me. I grew up around entrepreneurs my entire life. My Dad, Uncles, and Grandpa were all serial entrepreneurs. Starting my own business is something I’ve always wanted to do, but honestly, I haven’t been able to work up the guts to attempt it until now.
In short, I saw a need in the market for a new type of marketing company. While running a large in-house creative group at Schlumberger, I felt like we did a great job, but it was really hard to make changes within such a large organization. Sometimes we found ourselves working on projects that were initiated by the squeakiest wheel instead of the projects that would create the most value for the company. Also, we often felt like we were square pegs in round holes from a personnel perspective. There weren’t many opportunities for career progression inside an engineering company for my creative folks. It was a really difficult decision, but I decided to go back to the agency world.
When I went back to the agency side it was a lot of fun, but at agencies, you don’t get the same customer intimacy you do in-house. You can’t be in your client’s office everyday, and every time they call you, they feel like the meter is running. That means that they kick the can down the road as long as they can before they call you.
Mind the Gap.
At Pennebaker, I noticed a gap within our mid-cap clients when I would consult with them. I noticed that the companies were made up of smart, technical people, but they often lacked the internal resources needed to tackle some of the thornier sales and marketing issues they were facing. Quite often they didn’t have any dedicated marketing people on staff. Other times they had one poor overworked person that was stuck in the weeds of making sure trade shows happened and promotional items got ordered. I saw the need for a strategic marketing resource to help them drive top-line growth. But, they didn’t necessarily need a $200,000 per year VP of Marketing. Instead, what if they could get a percentage of my time for a percentage of the cost of a full time employee. Not a consultant that charges by the hour, but someone that becomes an integral part of their team. Someone they can rely on to guide them through the ultra-competitive world we all find ourselves in these days.
Not a creative agency. Not a consultant. A Byrd of a different feather.
When you leave an agency, people assume you are starting an agency. I’m not. Agencies are outside resources that work on a variety of creative projects initiated by their clients. The agency comes up with the creative solution and executes it. I want to be a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. I’m a part of my client’s management team, and help them drive revenue growth by helping them determine how and where the company should be positioned in the future, forming the strategy to drive the organization to that future market position, and helping them execute that strategy. That’s not to say that I don’t work with agencies. When the situation calls for it, I’ll make the introduction and help my client work with the agency that is the perfect fit for them. Think of me as the Uber of Marketing Strategy. Pay for me as you need me.
“Hey that sounds like a consultant.” you are probably saying to yourself. Well, not in the traditional sense of a consultant, because I don’t whirl in charging by the hour, leave them with a fancy proposal, and move on to the next client. I also don’t have a “land and expand” business model that is common with large consulting companies. I won’t come in and then turn the job over to an army of consultants fresh out of business school. Nope, it’s just me for now, and the whole time I’m working with my clients, I’m striving to have them outgrow me. “What? That doesn’t sound like a good business model.” you are probably thinking, but it is true. Once a company gets to a certain scale, they need to hire a full-time VP of Marketing or CMO, and I am driven to help them achieve that growth. If you are one of my new CMO clients, don’t worry, we’ll still be friends, and meet for beers! Only now you’ll be rich, and I’ll make you buy.
Flying into the unknown.
So that’s what I’m up to. I’m not sure what awaits me in the world of entrepreneurship. If nothing else, it’s going to be an adventure for me and my family. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about the future, but I’m also really excited about getting started and serving my clients.
I want to thank all my friends that have given me advice, encouragement, well wishes, prayers, and most importantly business! That’s right. I am fortunate to have a handful of clients already, even before my business officially kicked off. I appreciate their confidence in me, and I’m going to spoil them with attention, and give them my very best.
So, If you know anyone that needs a strategic sales and marketing boost, send them my way. I’m open for business, and here to help.