Three weeks ago, I decided to leave my job managing the marketing investment team at 2U to fulfill a life-long dream of running my own company.
I spent six months debating if it was a good idea or not to venture out on my own. 2U is an incredible company with a rock-solid growth strategy and an even better culture. I led a team of 12, had a clear professional trajectory, but for some reason, it wasn’t enough. I kept thinking that no matter what I achieved internally at 2U, it wouldn’t satisfy me.
It’s tough to explain, but I needed to see what I was able to accomplish independently. I needed to strip away the safety rails, walk away from the surest situation I’ve seen professionally, and jump into the deep end.
Some days I wonder if I did the right thing. 2U just partnered with WeWork in an incredible deal showing how powerful and broad-reaching the brand is becoming. The stock is absolutely crushing it. I miss my mentors daily.
But then there are days like yesterday when I launched my website, met with potential clients, and realized that I’ve been having more fun than ever professionally, and I find that it’s worth it.
Three things have stood out to me so far in my journey:
1. A Deal Isn’t A Deal Until It’s Signed
Two weeks ago, I met with a startup, loved their idea, and believed they would be a perfect fit for my first client. They were still putting together their business model, in the midst of fundraising, and weren’t a fully formed entity; but their potential was awesome.
Four days later, the founder I was working with was pushed out and the company was dead. I was crushed, the founder was shocked, and the dream we had briefly shared together no longer existed. (He’s thankfully going to pursue the idea through a new venture.)
Later that same day I signed my first client, but it taught me a valuable lesson- don’t think a deal is done until it’s in writing.
2. Talk to Everyone
Going into founding Klik Media, I knew zero people personally looking for digital marketing help, and my biggest worry was being able to find clients. I couldn’t sleep at night wondering how I would ever find a deal.
As soon as I started talking to friends and colleagues, however, I quickly found opportunities that I never thought would exist. I was actually shocked.
It made me realize that I needed to be more aggressive about catching up with friends and colleagues, and that I could build a company solely off relationships.
Hustling isn’t about aggressively cold-calling or spamming people- it’s about finding the value you can give to other people to help them solve the issues they face. It’s also about working with people you genuinely like.
3. Stay Balanced
It’s incredibly tough mentally to work solo on a volatile business, and it was a challenging transition for me the first two weeks. In my previous role, I spent easily 6 hours a day in meetings, conversing with people frequently. Starting solo, it’s me and a laptop in my apartment or a coffee shop.
I learned fast that I needed to meet with people daily for coffee, dinner, drinks, etc. in order to stay balanced. By making it a core focus and challenging myself to become more well-rounded, I’ve surprisingly been able to strike a better balance than when I had a true 9-5.
If there is one thing I’ve learned quickly about building a company, it’s that surprises are a necessary element of growth. Some days are going to be better than others, but if you surround yourself with people cheering you on, you are bound to succeed and have fun along the way.
I’m still nervous, I don’t have everything figured out, revenue is unsure- but I’m confident in the choice I made. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.