How my Executive MBA recharged my career

The past 28 months have been the most stressful and exhilarating period of my professional and personal life. In that time, we sold Enguage to Publicis Group, I embarked on an Executive MBA (at Georgia State University), while also merging Engauge and Moxie, and then became the CEO of BLiNQ Media (formally part of Gannett Ventures), and finally, took an extended sabbatical with my family. Yes that’s a boat load over a short period of time.

Looking back, the decisions to take so much on (i.e. new roles while doing an EMBA) prepared me for a C-level role more than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to think I did pretty well as an entrepreneur and team player with my first company, Spunlogic, and then later with Enguage, but in fairness I was extremely lucky to also have some tremendous partners to share the risk, rewards, hardship, and decisions with. I didn’t lead on my own, but rather as part of a tight group of friends that worked extremely well together for the most part of 15 years until I went out on my own in August 2013 when we sold Enguage to Publicis Groupe.

Ironically, my plan after Enguage was to take some time off (18 months), embark on my Executive MBA and welcome our second child to the world (plenty of time to study and help with Family, so I thought). That all turned up-side-down when I decided to stay on with Publicis and help with the merger of Engauge and Moxie. This was also the same day I started my domestic residency (School puts you up at the Intercontinental Hotel for 4 days of intense sessions to see who can survive) for my EMBA.

I can honestly say at that moment (Aug 2013) I had doubts on what type of leader I might be without my old co-founder and partners to support me and whether I could survive grad school in-general. My domestic residency was nothing short of a wake up call to my hunger to lead, inspire, and motivate a team. I can’t stress the confidence I gained on my domestic EMBA residency to do this on my own; it truly opened my eyes to what more I could do and how I could confidently stand on my own as a leader.

I found that leadership comes very naturally to me, as did confidence in laying-out a plan-of-attack for a team and seeing it through with conviction. But most importantly, I could bring a team together with different strengths/weaknesses and get the most out of them as a collective. This is what you’d expect from a leader, but along the way of Spunlogic and Engauge, I forgot what this felt like to do on my own and the excitement of leading the troops from the front.

In truth I was also hesitant to work for someone I didn’t know or hadn’t co-founded a business with, but thanks to the show of confidence from my then CEO, Suzy Deering at Moxie (Publicis Groupe), I was empowered to assemble a team and lead the charge for the merger of Enguage and Moxie (over 600+ people). It felt good to head-up that team as well as work with a largely new leadership team I was unfamiliar with. This further gave me confidence that I could do more and for the first time I wanted the #1 seat, CEO. Several months later I become the CEO of BLiNQ Media and absolutely loved every moment of the experience even though it was short lived due to a corporate spin-off of the publicly held holding company a year later. However, in that time, my initial experience at my EMBA residency of leadership aspirations and ability were reenforced. I thrived in the role, learnt how to assemble a new team from the ground up and provide a clear vision/plan to attack and win, and had an extremely positive experience working for Vikram Sharma who oversaw my business unit within Gannett Ventures and whom, like Suzy, gave me the freedom to lead and inspire a team on my own.

So 28 months since I started this transformation in my career from co-founder/partner to a C-level executive within a publicly traded company, I can truly say my EMBA experience helped me realize and awaken my leadership aspirations and confidence to tackle any C-level role within a public or private company. I’m a better executive and leader from it, and the experience with Publicis Group and Gannett Ventures have only strengthened my abilities to work with a new and much larger team than I originally co-founded. On to the next adventure, whatever that might be!

Bittersweet goodbye – Spunlogic – Engauge – Moxie

Today (May 9th 2014) was my last day at the agency I co-founded nearly 16 years ago (November 1998); it was bittersweet and difficult to leave my work-home.

After 15 years and 6 months with the “same” agency (Spunlogic, Engauge, Moxie), it’s time for me to explore a new chapter in my life/career.  I’ve loved the agency from the day I co-founded Spunlogic (from a backpackers hostel in Toronto, Canada) with my college roommate, Jeff Hilimire. It’s part of who I am, in my DNA, and it will always be in my heart.

On May 12th 2014 (this coming Monday), I embark upon my new adventure as CEO of BLiNQ Media in Atlanta. I’m truly excited for this next chapter and will continue to write of my experiences. Nonetheless, for tonight, nostalgia compels me to formally bid farewell and share some of my favorite memories from a wonderful career in an agency I created.

In no particular order, I’d like to say goodbye to the following.

  • Goodbye “Beer cart Fridays,”-  probably my biggest contribution to the agency :-). I may need to implement this in my new space.
  • RIP Netsuite, OpenAir, and Central Desktop – The almost perfect agency systems I put in place with the hard work of some amazing folks at the agency (Dave Burke, Mark Unrein, Jenn Leahy, Jenni McDonough, Victor Wise, John McElroy) and our vendors (especially Mark Fordham from Central Desktop, Carolyn Turley and David Sussa from Netsuite Openair).
  • Adios Suite 2200 at Promenade, the crown of my career, and a space I hope inspired our people to thrive and enjoy the work space. Special thanks to Gensler (Erin Greer ), HITT (Erik Kandler), and JLL (Mike Dolan) and Collier (Brenden Welch) for making the space speak for itself.
  • My red chair and desk that I’ve had for 10 years, I know Kelly Ruggles (best Office Manager ever) will find a good home for them (and not throw them away!).
  • Fun crazy trips like the Spun Cruises (the entire agency on a ship together, you can only imagine…), Tennessee leadership trip (moon bow experience and everyone getting drunk on the bus), and some of the more interesting executive retreats (I’ll say no more).
  • I think I was good at was throwing parties and the more control I had of the budget the bigger the party:-) Halloween parties, Casio/Speak easy holiday parties, Paris on Ponce, etc.

Above all, the hardest goodbye was to the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I wish all my friends success in their careers and personal lives and hope we cross professional paths again. Thank you for teaching me, evolving with me, laughing with me, and forgiving my bad spelling and grammar. By being the best you can be, you’ve brought out the best in me.