Transitioning to CEO and sharing as we go

I was a guest speaker for a program that a friend was facilitating last week, and she asked me what motivated me to write the first version of Gather the People (what was it, 5 years ago now?). I started telling the story of getting laid off from &yet and having 60 days until the money ran out, and suddenly it hit me how surreal it is to be CEO of the company I was previously laid off from. Sure, it had occurred to me, but it hadn’t really sunk in until talking about it with someone who was looking at it from the outside.

From the inside, it makes sense. Before &yet, I was founder and CEO of a strategic web firm for over a decade. During my tenure at &yet, we’ve needed a more predictable sustainable pipeline, but it has been so hard to shift a team skilled in solving a variety of hard problems into one committed to solving a more specific one. We’ve tried a few different directions over the years, sometimes giving in to being extremely veteran generalists, other times testing the waters in a specific direction. But it felt impossible to find the one thing that was a common denominator for the whole team.

Last fall, we started doing this magical thing called “annual planning.” (I’m being intentionally facetious because we’ve historically avoided anything that faintly smells of hierarchical management, though good folks like Sally Mohr and Mark Brault have pushed for planning more intentionally in the past.)

Anyway, through that process, we were able to see just how many competing priorities we had as an organization, and that we needed to stop testing the waters and actually commit to one specific direction. We took stock of our resources, including our past wins, our strengths as a team and as individuals, the problems we cared about and were interested in solving, and most especially how we could best help our clients grow and get to where they want to go. We worked with a consultant to add some objectivity to the mix and ultimately decided to focus on building strong customer relationships through creative technology.

Our new direction is based on a framework that, through my past client work and the work we've done at &yet, we’ve used with over 100 clients to help them grow in a more effective, more intentional way. (In fact, if you sign up for our mailing list, we’ll share it with you.)

We announced our new focus early April, and since then have been sharing our philosophies and strategies for growth. But mostly, we’ve been listening and learning, having conversations with folks who are trying to find sincere, creative, sustainable, scalable ways to grow their customer base.

Many of the problems we’ve been talking about are ones businesses never get to stop solving—things change so quickly, especially online, that the need for constant learning and creative adaptability is always there.

One of the ways I’ve historically worked through those challenges for myself is by sharing them openly with others. While our blog feels a little too open for me, I’ve started sharing our experiences and discoveries as we’re solving these problems on our mailing list. You can sign up at the bottom of this post.

Thank you to all the folks who’ve been supportive of us as we’ve made these transitions. We’re really grateful, and we look forward to sharing everything we know to support your continued growth.

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