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

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5 Ways to Step Up Your Game

I always enjoy sitting back and observing people, thinking about what they choose to do and what they choose not to do.  Here’s an amazing reality – there are waaaay to many distractions today.  And I think most people are actually too distracted to even notice they are being distracted.  Let me put it this way:  If you don’t put in effort to get better every day, you are going to get passed by others who are putting in this effort.  You will lose the race.

Turn off the TV

Watching TV is one of my peeves.  I just think it’s plain dumb.  There really is nothing on that is worth your time, unless you think your time is best spent voyeuring on idiots who complain about their reality/celebrity lives or just argue and swear all the time. Does watching this make you a better person?

I will just say it:  If you find yourself laying in front of the TV each night, you are getting dumber.

Television watching is a passive activity.  It has been proven watching TV does not use enough mental capacity to gain intelligence.   Honestly, I am actually scared we are getting less intelligent as a society, and a lot of it has to do with how we are spending the majority of our time each day.   If you feel you must watch (cause you are addicted) limit yourself to 30 minutes a day and then get on with doing something productive with your life.   Just turn the dang thing off.

Read

I am a voracious reader and it has flat out changed my life.  It will help you learn new things, help with word comprehension, help with writing (more on that below) make you sound smarter than you are, impress the ladies (or men) and get you hired.  Seriously, when you can answer the “what book are you currently reading” interview question with a unique and intelligent response, you will win them over.  Interestingly, the web has made this easier with all the blogs and articles you can read now, even when using your mobile device.  This has been one of my favorite innovations that have come along with the spread of the internet – information proliferation.  It is just everywhere.  And I take advantage of that to get smarter anywhere I can.

Exercise

I get my best ideas when I am exercising.  When I run, I allow my mind to run free as well, spinning ideas and thoughts out at a frantic pace.  This helps me evaluate an idea and determine if it is valid enough to take further.  I can only do this when I have 45 to an hour of “free” time to just allow the thoughts to flow in and out of consciousness.

Exercise is good for your health, but you probably know that so I am not going down that road.  Get out, get some exercise and let your mind run free as well.  It is one of the best ways to have a natural brainstorm session each day.

Be Social

Interacting with others and meeting new people is a great way to raise your stock.  How easy is it to stick to the same comfortable group of friends?  I actually think  most of us are wired that way – staying in comfort zone and only communicate with ones we are familiar with.  Well, if you are looking to progress socially as well as professionally, you need to get uncomfortable and get in front of new people.  Before you know it, they will be your new friends and you will grow your circle of influence.  And you know what, they usually know people who you need to know.

Write/Blog

I couldn’t have told you this a month ago but writing is one of the best ways to step up your game and expand your influence.  Since I have started SoEntrepreneurial and started blogging, I have connected with many different people around the world in the technology industry.   In fact, I just got off the phone with someone in Helsinki, Finland.  We had a great conversation about startups and his new venture I wrote about previously – Founder2be.

Writing and reading go hand in hand.  The more you read, the better you will become as a writer.  This is natural and will take time to come together, but here’s my advice:  get started.  And keep going.  It will open doors you never even knew existed.

It’s time to step up your game.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Roger Smith.