You encounter a few rare moments in life when monumental decisions reign, threatening to etch clear divergent paths in your future based on your choice. Points of no return, if you will. It takes years of practice and failure to recognize the purest signs of an impending “moment.” When it happens, you then have to delicately sniff out the potential opportunity or danger. Weigh the risk versus reward, perform due diligence and then ultimately, trust your gut.
I spent nearly a decade working for a Columbus, Ohio-based media buying agency, mostly as an account executive focused on new business development. I worked on behalf of some amazing Fortune 500 brands while managing accounts and gained a deep understanding of the media landscape in the world of advertising. But did I wake up in the morning, thrilled to drive to the office so I could buy a few billboards in Phoenix for JCPenney? Of course not.
The entrepreneurial spirit in me was probably influenced by my mother. As a young kid, maybe 8 or so, I remember her buying plain white Hane’s T-shirts from the store. My younger sister and I would then hang the shirts out on a clothesline in the backyard, while whipping metallic-colored paint on them from a distance. Splatter-painted, Jackson Pollock-style T-shirts became the rage in the neighborhood and we hustled the shirts for a nice amount of coin.
Aside from start-up mentor, my mom is also an art consultant who is fortunate enough to work from home. I grew up in a house filled with constant art projects and framing installation deadlines. I saw a one-woman small business operate right under my nose. So having that kind of learning-through-osmosis type of environment formed me into the “business creative” that I am today. Yes, I am actually a business guy with a creative side. Or better yet, a creative idea guy with an acumen for business.
I’ve always wanted to put a stake out there for myself, create my own way and lead a pioneering vision. Luckily, I’m self-aware enough to realize that I need other people around to hold me accountable and I can’t manage all the tasks of a business by myself. If only I could find some people that were on the same page with aligned goals. But you can’t just put out an ad seeking “Multi-talented individuals with complementary skills for harmonious interaction while working on business projects”. It just doesn’t work that way.
At first through Twitter and then during many lunches, e-mails, beers, coffees, etc. I came to know Matthew Barnes and Jacob Taylor. Matt is the creative intendant in our group. While most people might see everyday objects and scenes through the same drab lenses, Matt views things with a kaleidoscope. His artistic talent is underscored in each CivitasNow project and the ideas he generates are ambitious and inspiring. Jacob is the architect of our team. A whip-smart leader with a poise that belies his age, he engineers the general direction and vision of the company while providing all the operational know-how. A true wunderkind, Jacob is the central nervous system of CivitasNow.
Together, we’ve been able to quickly construct an identifiable project ecosystem that balances art, media, sustainability and goodwill. We believe in the rise of advertising campaigns that are mutually beneficial to both brand and user and we hope to kickstart a wave of social entrepreneurship within the industry. It’s not always simple stuff, some of it is pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but when you have a team that shares a common ethos, any formidable roadblock can be smashed to pieces.
The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a start-up run by two extremely talented, genuine people trumps the decade of job security I enjoyed. It overrules the ridiculous, half-hearted offers that have been tossed my way by media vendors over the years, promising six-figure salaries and blah, blah, blah. That was all talk and false promise and carrot-dangling.
This is exciting stuff. The wake up at 6am ready-to-help-the-world-and-build-a-business-with-great-partners type of stuff. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. The “moment” was put in front of me and I know I made the right choice.
Maybe years from now in retrospect, when I look back and connect the dots, I’ll realize I didn’t really just “join” CivitasNow. It was more of a collective agreement between all of us to work together because we emphatically believed in and trusted one another. And it was one of those moments I thankfully, properly recognized.