About Getting Let Go

In March, I had to overcome one of the most painful struggles I’ve ever experienced – Getting laid off from a company where I loved working with all my friends. I had known for a few weeks before it happened that things were not going well for me, and just like a bad relationship I kept telling myself that I would pull through the difficult times. I didn’t, and a week later I was at home wondering what had exactly happened in the last four months.

It was incredibly hard for a few reasons – I had invested a lot of my energy in the last five years into either HubSpot directly, or the mission of inbound marketing. I hadn’t worked there for most of the last two years, but had been an advocate for the company and it’s mission. I had always planned for the chance that I would go back someday, if the right role for someone like me came around.

I was fortunate enough that the opportunity did come to me, starting the marketing programs for Signals, HubSpot’s new organization and product. Launching the marketing for a new product requires a mix of skills, a desire to be intellectually tested at every moment in your day, and being resolute in the face of uncertainty. You’ll have to come in every day with a plan about how you will keep inching the ball forward.

Every organization’s leader has an image in their head of what their marketing will look like, and what their product will look like, and how it will be sold. While you’re expected to bring your own creativity and expertise in, you will also need to be able to answer to that mental image. They might not be able to explain it to you, but just like Potter Stewart, they’ll know what it is or isn’t when they see it. Work to create an image that reflects the one in their mind.

You’ll also want to know that a lot of organizations fire their first marketing leader, and it may or may not be your fault. Like most things, truth comes to rest in the middle, not at either extreme.

A few other tips that I learned that might help you too:

  • Take time off. You will need a break. Make sure you go outside. Get coffee. Walk around. It’ll be quiet during the day outside.
  • Don’t grow too distant. See your friends,
  • Your friends will reveal themselves. They are the people who get closer to you when things go wrong. Acquaintances will back away when that kind of emotional and professional matter comes into play. Unwind and talk about what happened. It’ll give you clarity, and help you see the steps that led there. I only came to understand what had gone wrong after talking through it for two weeks. Maybe I’m slow, but I don’t think so.
  • Process what happened, but don’t obsess over it. Distract yourself every day with activities, whether they’re productive or not. Get drunk or high (in moderation) and play video games. Watch South Park marathons. Write half a dozen blog posts and throw them out unpublished.
  • Don’t wait more than 3 weeks to start looking if you can help it. The break is important, but so is your attitude. Get back into it sooner than you might want to, even if just for practice on how to handle interviews and networking.
  • When you find your next great thing, don’t start immediately. Finish winding down and then come back up. This may not always be possible depending on your financial situation and how long it’s been, but even one more week can be very valuable in helping you reset your sleep schedule. Unless you chose to start your own company, in which case you need some advice that I can’t give you.
  • Keep taking risks, or you’ll never move yourself forward. Two years later, you’ll find out that opportunity has passed you by. Seize opportunities.

“A Hose Full Of Light”, Or, How I Suddenly Have Perfect Vision

I’ve wanted to get LASIK done for about a year now. I’ve never particularly minded wearing glasses, but I was always interested in what the world really looked like. There’s also the annoying drawbacks of glasses (sunglasses are expensive, sucks in the cold/rain, bad peripheral vision, etc.) I’ve worn contact lenses at times but never particularly enjoyed them either, between the high cost, upkeep, and constant dry eyes sensation. Also, my vision was never particularly good even with glasses or contact lenses, still less than 20/20 and so I knew I was always missing something in my visual experience. Before the surgery, my vision was about 20/400 in my left eye and 20/100 in my right eye, which made my vision really miserable and difficult to focus at any distance.

About a month ago I finally got up and did something about it though. After scheduling a consult at Boston Laser, I found out that I was an excellent candidate for the surgery and scheduled it in for a few weeks later, February 22nd.

The procedure itself is very surreal, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with high-end medical technology. Between the valium that they give you and the confining space, you’re forced into a real weird state of mind. You can’t really hear anything but a loud whirring noise and possibly some background talking by the staff, and you can’t see anything at all except an incredibly bright white light being shown directly onto your eye, and possibly a blinking red dot behind it. There’s no pain at all, just this incredibly strong feeling of pressure on and around your eye. During the procedure, your entire awareness becomes focused on a hose full of light that is pressed against your eye. I know that this sounds bizarre. It is a bizarre situation, and there’s no other way to describe it. The visual experience is so overwhelming and strong, that all of my senses were overwhelmed by this incredibly bright light in my vision.

brian-bug-face

Now seeing 20/20 *and* I get to wear a sweet face protector.

Afterwards, my recovery was extremely fast – you go back to a ready room to rest for 30 minutes and then they check your vision. When I reached that ready room, I could tell the surgery had done something wild, because I could already see around the room and read things at a distance that would have been impossible before. After that, you’re home to rest for the rest of the day and sleep.

At my follow up the next morning to check on how they are healing, I now see perfectly in both eyes. I don’t have the awesome goggles on now (just while sleeping for a few more days), and I’m settling in to my new face.

The vision benefit is just incredible, my vision is now better than it’s been at any time in my life. I can see details, especially at distance, that would have been completely lost on me before, and I can see from the moment that I wake up in the morning. Dr Melki and the staff at Boston Laser have been great as well, they do a very good job of taking care of you and making sure you’re comfortable at every stage of consultation & surgery.

I know this is a little abrupt and an oddly written post, but I’m not sure what the most interesting parts are to other people reading this, whether my strange descriptions of the procedure or the pre/post op experience. If you have any questions or anything please let me know. It’s been a great experience already, and I’m really excited about my new vision now. Please feel free to ask any questions too.

The Only Thing I’m Going To Say About The Election

I’m voting for Barack Obama, and I have two reasons for that decision:

1) Justices Scalia and Kennedy are both 76 years old, and will be 80 by 2016. It’s possible that one or both of them will want to retire in the next four years. I trust Obama with the authority to nominate Supreme Court justices a lot more than I trust Mitt Romney to nominate reasonable people. (Even though Mitt will need to get them past an almost assuredly Democratic-led Senate)

2) Mitt wants to keep the capital gains tax low (at 15%) and pay for that continued low tax by killing Obamacare. This might personally cost me quite a bit of money – But I like what Obamacare does for our nation so much that I’m willing to take the hit. Obama wants to pay for the act by restoring the capital gains taxes to the levels (20%) they were at during the Clinton administration, before Bush cut them to 15%. Even though I don’t personally benefit directly from Obamacare right now, I want our whole society to do see those benefits, and the danger of Mitt trying to end Obamacare won’t fly with me. The Mitt that was proud of his health care act in Massachusetts is clearly dead and gone, and that’s really unfortunate.

I’m not a big fan of Obama this year, between continued foreign wars, assassinations of our own citizens, a struggling economy, and more. Unfortunately he’s the only real option for America this year.

Doing It Right: Reading Into The SEOmoz Acquisition Of FollowerWonk

Most acquisitions fail. That’s a fact. You don’t have to look very hard to find both big and small acquisitions that have blown up or failed spectacularly: Skype’s first buyout by eBay is one of the most obvious ones from the last decade. The merger between the two companies left out key patents, cost eBay over a billion dollars, and in the end they spun it off and wound up taking a huge hit in the wallet. Microsoft just took an enormous writedown that put the company into the red for the quarter for the first time in years. It’s common outside of tech, too: Quaker Oats managed to lose over $1.4 billion dollars in 27 months in their disaster takeover of Snapple before they sold off the unit – That’s a loss of over 1.5 million dollars a day that they owned the company! There’s still room to see it done properly though, like this week when SEOmoz announced their acquisition of Twitter people search engine FollowerWonk.

SEOmoz Beat The Odds And Had A Home-Run Acquisition

I’d been an avid user and advocate of FollowerWonk for a couple of years since Will Critchlow told me about the site, and taught many of the folks at HubSpot about how to use it for a variety of things, for things ranging from SEO to finding who the online influencers were in new fields for our customers. Three weeks ago, I introduced it to a VC I was meeting with to help him find all kinds of things in the Twitter world.

When I saw the read the announcement this week from Rand, I was blown away by a few key things:

Why This Has Me So Excited That I Actually Blogged

1) SEOmoz identified and acquired one of the companies that was really aligned with helping Inbound Marketers (like me!) do their jobs. SEOmoz has been branching more and more into awesome-grade Inbound Marketing TOFU software for the last couple years, instead of just straight SEO. (TOFU stands for Top of Funnel, if you’re not familiar with it.) I love that – It’s something that some other internet marketing software packages have not paid much attention to over the last couple of years, while they’ve broken into other segments. Since I’m a huge top of funnel marketing geek, it’s quickly become my favorite software for helping me do my job better. Instead of trying to break into something totally new, they’re improving on their original strengths and product direction.

2) SEOmoz pulled off the acquisition in such a way that it dramatically increased the value that their customers get out of their SEOmoz subscriptions, immediately! That’s really remarkable where even in a fast-moving tech industry, acquisitions are usually followed by months of botched tech integrations, vague promises, and lots of handwaving by all of the parties involved. And customers can’t always see directly how the acquisition benefits them sometimes afterwards, which makes them feel like they’re paying money into an organization that isn’t using that money to improve their products. In a world of SaaS-delivered products, customers demand that a company’s revenues be reinvested in the product, because those product updates directly impact the customers right away.

This can’t really be overstated I think – From the day of the announcement, all of SEOmoz’s customers enjoyed instant, single-sign-on access to an awesome tool that they didn’t have access to yet. The value generated for those customers takes effect right away and makes it completely transparent to moz’s customers exactly what their dollars are being spent on. While this transparency is common to SEOmoz and something that people expect, doing it in such a quick and efficient fashion is really admirable. They delighted all of their customers with what would have otherwise been a meaningless acquisition announcement that didn’t impact their customers at all. That’s a huge benefit, in a place where people rarely expect to receive value.

3) Finally, nobody took credit publicly for anything until the acquisition was at least, technically, a success. That kind of humility is really rare – With the reflection of time now, it’s easy to see a world where the acquisition went poorly or some roadblock came up afterwards that created a situation where there wasn’t a successful outcome. In the case, it’s not a tremendous embarrassment and public loss to SEOmoz – They can set the messaging that they want to. Given how they handle communication, it seems likely that Rand would have held the bad news until he did a yearly report on the state of the company, like he has over the last couple years, and explained it in such a way that reasoned out what happened and why.

Delighting Your Customers

While I don’t know the FollowerWonk team personally, it sounds like they’re pretty happy to be in the SEOmoz family now and that they get to continue to invest in their awesome product that’s saved me so much work in the past, and will continue to now. Watching a company that is relentlessly obsessed with delighting their customers and users is so much fun, and they make it a pleasure to be their customer.

Are Lizard People Secretly Scheming To Take Over The Earth?

The answer, most likely, is yes.

 

If you weren’t aware, I maintain a second (more active) blog, linked above. I attempt to reveal the identities of secret lizard people scheming to take over the earth and eat us.

 

It does very well for keywords like “was richard nixon a lizard person?” or “hillary clinton reptile”. I wish I was kidding. It’s a decent stream of traffic.

I Am The World’s Newest Bad iOS Developer

You heard it here first – I am, officially, the world’s newest bad iOS developer. I haven’t published anything to the App Store yet, and haven’t made anything that doesn’t look completely atrocious. But, I made a screen that accepts text and has buttons on it, so that’s something.

It’s been a very long time since I wrote anything on my blog – Basically, not since I left HubSpot in March 2012. So, everyone who’s reading this: Welcome back to my blog.

Here’s a picture of Lucy to make you go awww:

Our Lab/Shepherd (Shepherdor?) mix, Lucy, getting introduced to the ocean for her first time, at Castle Island, Boston. July 2012.

Until next time!