One Leader Steps Down, This Leader Steps Up

Today I learned the hard news Steve Jobs was stepping down as CEO of Apple, the worlds most valuable company and the envy of any honest person in the business of technology.  Like most people, I looked at Jobs as more a Saint, Monk, or Prophet; less of a businessperson.  Is this fair or even right?  Who knows… but he is truly one of a kind and I really don’t know what to say at this point.  What I do know is he set a damn high bar for me and all other leaders.  Thanks Steve.

So much is being written regarding the amazing performance of Steve Jobs I think I will leave it to them to tell you his story.

Instead, I will tell you mine.

You have no idea how many sleepless nights (in Seattle no less) have been spent tossing and turning, just wishing a great engineering team was standing behind my vision.  I have known for some time now a grand and transformational “something” is stuck deep down in my soul and needs others to help pull it out.  For so long I felt I just needed the right pieces to fall into the right place.  For so long it felt like a hope, a dream or a far off story only found true reading through Inc. magazine or TechCrunch or Silicon Alley Insider.

Well that dream has finally come true.

I have chosen to accept an offer to become CEO and co-founder of a promising startup here in Seattle, one just about to hit the public radar.  It really is like a dream come true and the vision we are setting forth is nothing short of transformational.  Keep an eye on this one.

A little Background – Loyaltize

Years ago something hit me like a ton of bricks and I had a vision:  The local economy was one of the one the last holy grail industries of the internet, not fully transformed by the consumer web as we know it today and ripe for change.  I also realized businesses function by and large through customer loyalty.  Most people intuitively understand 80% (or a majority) of a businesses revenue comes from 20% (or a minority) of their customer base.  This is natural and it will never change, you can ask Vilfredo Pareto on that one.

I also noticed local consumers have distinct relationships with specific businesses, and come-hell-or-high-water they will do business with them.  People have favorite restaurants, coffee shops, wine stores, clothing retailers, gyms, etc…  Why not reorganize the local economy around the consumer and their ability to dictate relationships and interactions with their favorite entities.  Allow them to choose who/what to follow and who/what to stay connected to and receive information from.  Ya know, around the loyal customers and their view of the local economy.   Why not Loyaltize?

Understanding that fact, it baffles me why the hell new “advertising” and “group coupons” and other crazy schemes keep popping up every day claiming to increase revenues, profits, customer bases and all other things push media in an effort to bring MORE customers in the door.  It ain’t about “offers” people.  To me, that is just ass backwards to how it actually works.

Businesses don’t want more flaky one-night stands, they want more long term relationships.

When I looked at the current technologies, business practices and the state of the local economy I saw inefficiency, ineffectiveness and little change from 20 or even 30 years ago.   I am sure I was not the only person who saw an opening, but I am positive no one has my exact vision.

Except This Guy

I was recently approached by a talented local engineer here in Seattle who wondered if I would be willing to talk about my ideas on Loyaltize.  He thought we had the same vision.  What he didn’t know was I had as so much given up on my dream of Loyaltize as the summer had progressed.  You see, I did have a startup at one time – a bootstrapped company we threw together called Loyaltize – but after failed attempt on version 1 we backed off and the team dispersed early this year.  Trying to build a startup while being employed full time is not the path for success (at least not for me).   Trust me, after almost 5 years of blood, sweat and tears, it’s a little tempting to throw in the towel and walk on home.

As some of you may know, in May I said “F-it“, kicked my full time job to the curb and doubled down on myself as an entrepreneur.  I figured one thing out – if I don’t fully believe in myself and do whatever it takes to succeed – why would anyone else believe in me?  Why would they believe enough to join or invest?  I also figured I would rather die knowing I tried everything possible to make my vision come true rather than feel regret as the years went by.

Side note: I also started writing on here, Business Insider and other publications, proving to be the smartest decision of my life.  No joke.

Throughout this summer I entertained different business ideas, different roles, different industries and even different approaches to business.  Nothing felt right.

Well, as we spoke that day something woke up in me and it felt as if an old friend had just come back into my life.  I am sure it was obvious to him as well.   The blood started rushing to my head and the vision started to come back to life.  I said to myself “I am home and it is time“.

Since timing is everything I will refrain from naming the company or any others involved.  But keep your eyes open, you will soon start seeing and hearing about it.  Our vision is eerily similar to what you read above and mark my words: your local consumer experience will drastically change in the next five years. 

Today I enter the next phase of my life.  As CEO of a new company, with a new life and a world of potential in front of it. I am set to make the best of it, whatever that means… be it lessons learned, acquisition, IPO or lifelong employment/retirement.

As I step up to be the leader of this company – and a leader in the technology industry as a whole – I cannot let go of the irony this day holds with the greatest leader the business world has ever witnessed stepping down.  But I must since life always has it’s way of moving forward.

It seems fitting that Steve Jobs said it so eloquently: “We believe that people with passion can change the world… for the better.  And it’s those people who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world, actually do.”  

Will do, Steve.

@jnickhughes

3 thoughts on “One Leader Steps Down, This Leader Steps Up

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