I’ve seen it happen all around me recently. This hysterically orgasmic feeling that leaves you in a state of panic, but with a promise of release so worth it.
Last month I saw it happen in North Carolina. I’m walking in downtown Raleigh, trying to pay my meter (they have one of those pay-at-one-meter-in-the-middle-of-the-block- setups) and I see a retail business with these words: “search engine optimization, website design, social media marketing” across the floor to ceiling windows. Inside, people at computers and laptops, working feverishly.
So being the person that I am–my mom calls this “nosy”–I go in. I start to make small talk with the folks (because another little annoying habit I have is sparking conversation with total strangers. I talk to people at public bathroom sinks. Hey if she has a cute necklace or an accent…I’m a curious being. What can I say?)
We find out we have entrepreneurship in common and pretty soon, I’m being introduced to the founder.
“Man I thought I was going totally nuts,” he tells me. I’ve asked about his decision to cater to walk-in traffic and offline businesses. It’s unusual that I see a business like his within a retail location.
He’s not shy about talking about it either. “I had to change direction..but still do what I do with online marketing you know? It was crazy doing all this, ” he gestures to the office space, “but these people come in with really simple questions and they just want help. Sometimes they pay me more than I’m worth I think.” He says this with a shrug.
And I get it. When you deal with inventory, employees, walk-in customers, server issues, customer management, opening and closing hours and procedures, equipment, customer service issues…you don’t want to hear about online management. You just want a nudge in the right direction and someone you can turn to for advice.
His Direction: Taking the conversation about online marketing offline.
His Constant: Online and new media marketing.
I’m reminded about this while talking to one of the members of my new advisory board. I too am changing directions while keeping my constant.
My love affair with startups and small businesses started when I was nineteen years old; an investment advisor trainee, working with my investment advisor mentor. A millionaire investment banker, this guy had tons of experience. After trailing him for a week, he tells me, “you know I’m closing small business deals because of you right?” I look at him confused. Yeah right. “You have a way with business owners, not sure what it is, ” he tells me, “but I would look into it if I were you.”
I think of this as I tell my advisor how I’m feeling a bit hysterical. I’ve decided to concentrate on a global start-up: a business center for teenage girls. The beta starts in America during the Fall, and Liberia, West Africa in 2012. The rest…big ideas that I can’t even verbalize here. It just feels authentic. Just right. A little orgasmic.
The idea? To create innovative, and global-thinking, young female entrepreneurs and executive leaders, by focusing on technology and product advances, with service at the core.
“You’re not changing Cheryl, ” my advisor gives me this disapproving look, “you’re evolving. The successes and disappointments you had in your business was the leverage you needed for this start-up. You’re continuing with your passion for startups. Just that now, you’ve found your engine. Hear it purring?” This from a woman who has built two million-dollar empires. A woman who at one point, graced me with the task of being her business planner.
My Direction: Startup development (with global appeal) for teenage girls
My Constant: Startups. I’ve been in love with startups for a while now and it’s one constant that hasn’t changed.
How About These Inspiring Examples:
Jeff Lewis on Bravo’s Flipping Out. For years, Jeff flipped houses. With the economy gone bad, he had to change directions. If you watch Bravo, you’ll see a frequent commercial that goes something like this…”Jeff may not be flipping houses anymore…but he’s still designing.” (not a direct quote).
His constant: Real estate design. He may not flip anymore, but he designs the socks off a house and he’s kept that constant.
PayPal. The company started up trying to help people exchange money via Palm Pilots. Reading their story and seeing how Levchin struggled to program a hack-free service, it’s so inspiring. Yet, the site is now known for the online ability to transfer money.
Their direction: Moving to a web format. Partnering up with eBay.
Their constant: Money Transfer.
Yelp. They received $1 million in funding and still fell flat. Their original idea was to have people email recommendations to each other. In the end, they had to change directions.
Their direction: Online reviews.
Their constant: Reviews.
As I said, a slight change in direction change is hysterically orgasmic because in the beginning, it may all start with the hysterics. But at the end, who knows, you may learn something that brings great release.
I think what we just have to keep our ‘constant’ in mind. And it could be as simple as: exercise, or writing, or photography, or service. Whatever works.
Your thoughts: What do you think about this? Does this strike your ‘constant’ conscience? Or do you have a completely different view? This could make for an interesting dialogue…