I wish I could write about how I capitalized on a once-in-a-lifetime moment, using it to find some way to save my team and this company. I wish I could tell you about how I begged and pleaded my way to a soft landing, allowing my team to bring their awesome talent at building and creating to a company that would really be able to make these talents shine.
Instead, I’m writing about the latest in my personal stream of fuck ups. As much as I’ve written about accepting the 30-day prognosis, I really don’t want to. My desire to find a safe landing is offset by the desire to stay true to who I am and what we were out to solve. We made some bad decisions along the way but there is something here, I just wish we had the time to figure out what it would be. I also wish I could tell how much time I’d need, how much it would cost, and how I’d make it work. If I knew, then I’d have a real plan.
How do you fail with dignity when people depend on you?
For the past 2 years, it seems that all i’ve been doing is selling dreams. Sometimes, the hunt felt incredible, other times it left me drained and beaten. Nothing was more thrilling than selling my dream to myself to build up the courage to look my boss in the eye and tell him that I’m leaving (and stare back as he threatened to ensure that I’ll never work in the industry again if I needed to), or selling our product to early clients and the press that gave us the liquidity and reputation we needed to get noticed. Every time I heard “No”, I tried twice as hard and it usually resulted in a close.
When we raised our seed round, I spent months pitching, pitching and pitching again. We played along through coy games over email and LinkedIn as investors tried to establish negotiating leverage for themselves through their communication patterns. Intros, recon, sizing up and an over abundance of assholes were my day to day. At night, my wife would tell me how this was changing me, we were fighting more then, a lot more. Despite having lived through and participated in M&A and financings before as an employee of a BigCo., I had begun to think that this is how the world really worked. That it was normal to be strung along with smiles and to string others along the same way. These were some of the darkest times for me and the ones that created the greatest rift in my marraige. Thus, when we closed our round I was elated and ready to do what I do best.
Same shit, just more shares on the table
That darkness I felt then is back now as I work towards this acquihire. Once again, we’re being courted by men who use an abundance of designer hair products. Men who’ve seemingly forgotten the struggle and are intent on toying with their prey. Both those that have approached us and those who we’ve approached have acted similarly, circling our bleeding body in the water, perhaps to sadistically toy with us. Though likely, they’re doing what I did when I last was involved in an M&A - waiting until the lights go out before looting.
In the meantime, we are plugging away and keeping the ship afloat. Making ridiculous sacrifices as we try to play a game of chicken with a much larger and apparently much meaner adversary.
So, how do you fail with dignity when you’re responsible for a team of talented, educated, and accomplished builders?
You sell them to whoever is kind enough to be the first who takes your company out back and shoots it.
Dignified, isn’t it?
Yet these days, it’s what I pray for.