JUNE 16, 2005

By Christopher Kenton

An End, and a New Start

Leaving the firm I helped build from the ground up is tough, but at my new job I'll be even more connected to the issues I'm so drawn to

Entrepreneurship, as many of you know firsthand, is full of big changes. And I've experienced some of my own over the past few months.

Cymbic, the marketing firm that I helped found, will be winding down operations, pending the exploration of a sale to another agency. The change comes after partner Kenichi Nishiwaki was tapped to become the creative director of Landor Asia in Japan, an opportunity to return home that he couldn't refuse.

After seven years navigating the highs and lows of building a small business, it's a bittersweet moment for me. Bitter because I'll be moving on from many of the exciting engagements with employees, partners, vendors, and clients that have made this one of the most enjoyable periods of my life.

ACTIVE AGENDA.  Sweet because I'm joining a company that is at least three years ahead of the curve I was entering with Cymbic. It's an opportunity that will put me even deeper into the mix of issues reshaping the practice of marketing. And these are issues I look forward to sharing with you.

I have joined Global Fluency, an international network of marketing and public-relations companies, as senior vice-president for strategic planning, with responsibility for planning the continuing growth of the affiliated CMO Council. I'll be working directly with a rapidly growing membership of top marketing executives - currently 1,500 members from Europe and North America.

The council has a very active agenda running forums on critical trends, directing primary research, developing surveys and white papers, and facilitating professional peer-to-peer dialogs.

HOT TOPICS.  Many of the issues I've discussed in this space - from offshoring to sales and marketing integration - are all hot topics in the CMO Council. I'll have frontline access to the dialog, which I'll tap for ongoing commentary here.

I'll also continue to provide strategic marketing services to large and small businesses through the Global Fluency agency. So, in addition to covering the larger trends that are shaping marketing, I'll have plenty of opportunity to test theories in the crucible of real-world marketing and sales execution.

One of my first clients is a startup that has just landed funding for a software venture. I'll be working with it to define its market strategy while running tactical programs. That should keep me well outside the ivory tower.

TESTING PERSEVERANCE.  The decision to finally move on from Cymbic was an interesting one. There's so much freedom in running your business that is hard to walk away from. You set your agenda - not to mention your own hours - and despite the pressures of constantly having the bottom line in the back of your mind, your destiny is as much in your own hands as it can ever be.

I had a vision for my company that I was passionate about. I worked endlessly toward fulfilling it and got deep satisfaction with every step we made toward that goal.

There are times in a business when you push forward without questioning - even when the world around you constantly tests your perseverance. If small-business owners were to cut and run every time they got into a rough patch, there would be no innovation and no economy.

SAME APPROACH.  But at other times you have to fold your cards, even when you think you have a pretty strong hand, and those are the times that truly try your resolve.

The decision for me was especially hard because I hold very strong opinions about the practice of marketing and its future and bringing those ideas into my engagements with clients. In some ways, walking away from my company might feel like walking away from those ideals.

But I took a step back from my business to look carefully at the market and see if there wasn't someone else out there with a better angle on the same approach. There were a few candidates I found interesting enough to talk with and explore the possibility of working together, but when I looked closely at the CMO Council, it was like a light coming on in a dark tunnel.

AGAINST THE TIDE.  What I discovered is that, as much as I had poured myself into my business, as much as I was in touch with my market, as valuable as the lessons were that shaped my business, I was too close to my own vision of the road ahead.

At that moment, I realized that I had reached a critical crossroads. Was perseverance enough of a reason to push ahead on my own path? Or was it smarter to give up my attachment to my own point of view and join another team?

I expected the decision to be wrenching, but it wasn't. The easy justification was to focus on a break from the pressure of pushing so hard against the tide with a small team. But there was something deeper.

DOWN A BETTER PATH.  After having given every ounce of commitment to my business for years, I discovered another group pursuing a better path. In a strange way, that left me free to move on with no regrets. Everything I learned, I'll be able to carry with me, and my new team will teach me things I never would have learned on my own.

To everyone who made Cymbic such an incredible experience - my partners, employees, clients, and vendors - thank you.