Scaling Back

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I’ve hinted about this on the blog over the past few months.. but the news is that I’ve completed my scaling back/out of the day-to-day operations at ExchangeDefender. I’m still the CEO, still the owner, still here almost every day of the week – but I’m no longer the person that will be here obsessively & compulsively involved in anything and everything you do.

Such a person is necessary in every small business. But once it matures and the foundations of a management team are built, an OCD person at the helm is no longer necessary. The process, operations, documentation and everything that makes that business grow and building & scaling that business is done differently.

In other words – I’m dedicating all my time to what I’m good at and empowering the great people that work for me.

vladceoNow that I have the Dilbert-style bullshit out of the way.. the truth is that we’ve become a big company and that I’m no longer a 20-something that had no problem working 80+ hour weeks to buy a Ferrari. Today I’m the CEO of ExchangeDefender, I’m working on Shockey Monkey and I started a financial business. I’m also a father and I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to be a weekend dad or if I wanted that responsibility 7 days of the week. I had a wonderful summer vacation with my two boys and I made a decision that being involved more in their lives and raising them right was more important than leaving a few more 0’s in their trust fund.

On a mental level, and this is so retarded I feel like bitchslapping myself for writing it, managing a big business is not what drives me. When you luck out and make an obscene amount of money, the tolerance for bullshit that you need to put up with to make just a little bit more feels enormous. And it’s not just the day-to-day stuff, it’s that for the most part things we do take weeks-months-years to play out and I just don’t have that attention span anymore. How do you know you’re no longer fit to be the most important person in the business? When that business serves people and the sound of the phone ringing is seen as an annoyance. I hate to say it but it’s true.

The summer off was a great test run for what this place would look like with me only being a CEO. It passed. The people that surround me are better at the job than I am, the direction we are moving in requires scale and man hours, the opportunity we have now (since most of our competitors are either gone or struggling) is greater than it’s ever been and I look forward to navigating it.

I took a long honest look at what I’ve built, where we are going and whether I had it in me to put in the kind of effort I used to put in. And as I’ve written here countless times, you can’t halfass it. The people that work here and our customers deserve better than what I felt I could deliver… so I’m making it happen – by bringing more aboard and pushing it forward.

What’s this actually mean?

1. I’ve already resigned or pulled out of all the industry/association/peer group/advisory council/feedback monkey/development forum/yadayada.

2. I’ve told my team not to expect me to go to industry events. No, not even the ones that come to Orlando. I know that sounds embarrasing but if someone wants to see me our place is very easy to find, we’re in the tallest building in the city.. Unless it’s a cool vacation spot, visiting Vegas in the summer and Boston in the winter is just not happening.

3. I will not be involved in day-to-day operations. So if you ping me at 4 AM on Facebook asking what’s going on with X, Y and Z I’ll go through the very same process you go through – pick up the phone and give a guy a call #putpagagac

4. I probably won’t be answering the phone. I’m sure lots of people are laughing at this one – but if you need me I’ll still be here send me an appointment request.

5. I will let my monkeys get a lot more social. Up until now people had a bit of freedom but whenever something serious was being discussed they would bring it up to me or get my approval.  So things should move a bit faster now that they aren’t waiting for me.

P.S. Why not just sell? At our size, few places could afford us. And the strategic play for an acquired company with high profits is to cut the expenses (read: shittier service) and either load up with debt or roll up. That’s not what I sold my clients – and I think that strategically underestimates the opportunity that we have with the corporate communications demands. Why are other MSP vendors being acquired left and right for pennies on the dollar and why are MSP geniuses getting jobs left and right? Aside from running their businesses like it’s 1999, it’s because the pool of MSPs is shrinking and the number of opportunities is becoming limited as well. Why is Vlad not spending all his time talking about his migrations service? Well, because we are doing it, and because (if you attended any of those webinars) you’ve already heard me say the following: I don’t need all of you to jump aboard on this. I just need one person per area code. With the ExchangeDefender migrations business we go from desktop to server to mobile and do the hard grunt work for our partners – which gives them speed, scale and growth others have to build organically or overpay through the M&A – and really, to what end? I’ve made my thoughts on VC and industry direction quite clear on this blog for the past decade – and in just about everything I’ve been proven to be right on the money. So why would I want to give that up? What I didn’t count on.. is that one day I’d grow up and that I’d have more passion for different things.

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