The Blog of Kendall

Observations and Interests of Kendall Schoenrock – Web 2.0, Startups, Technology, & Other Fun Stuff

June 5, 2007

Be Careful How You Redline

Written by
Kendall Schoenrock

speedometer.jpgStartups are stressful. By nature, they remove many of the safety nets that larger companies can afford. Distractions are deadly and losing focus for a small amount of time can be devastating. Finding the right people to fill the correct positions while balancing their needs with the companies needs is a difficult task and one that many entrepreneurs and CEOs struggle with, regardless of their history. There will be moments of anger and frustration and it is important to be aware of how you redline, no matter what position you fill.

Let me tell you a personal story of my days at TurnTide, a situation that pushed me to the redline and how I handled it. TurnTide was an anti-spam company that was a spin out of a privacy and consulting firm I was working for right out of college. I knew we had some awesome technology and I was fortunate enough to be included in the initial round of investment that allowed TurnTide to become a stand alone company. I was young, only 22, green beyond belief, but I knew we had something great and my intuition was right on. Only six months after founding TurnTide, Symantec purchased the company for $28,000,000. Here I was, a young buck, thrown into a multi-million dollar deal and it is safe to say I was in over my head. I learned so much from this deal, words cannot describe.logo_turntide.gif

There was a moment before the deal, however, that I was very angry. Very angry is putting it gently. I was a sales guy working hard trying to close deals and sign up internet service providers to adopt our revolutionary technology. At the same time I was an employee, I was also an investor. In my mind, I was a key investor, although I was not, I was just a piece of a much larger puzzle that I was to naive at the time to see. During every company meeting I was focused on this “big deal.” I knew something was brewing and the rumors were flying about who would buy us and for how much. The CEO, who did an amazing job in nearly all aspects, quickly thwarted any questions about the acquisition and at a few points highly stressed her fear of the “distraction factor.” She wanted us to keep running and not worry about a deal that may or may not happen. The more we worried about the deal the worse of we could be in the future if a deal never materialized. She was dead right.

Are you kidding me? I thought to myself that I would be less distracted if someone would just tell me the numbers so I could calculate how rich I would become off of my first rockstar investment! What a foolish boy I was.

During the time of the acquisition, I didn’t really understand why I was unable to get the full scoop on the deal, but it is clear to me now. The moment I lifted my head up out of my cube to find out what was going on in the possible acquisition, I was not doing my job – I was not making sales. Making sales was the exact thing that I should have been focused on in order to increase the value of the company and to allow us more flexibility in the future, in case the deal fell apart. And let us not overlook that so many “big deals” like this do fall apart.

So here I was, totally pissed off, I was in past my redline and it started to show. I was snippy at work, I felt snubbed by the experience investors that had previously pulled together larger deals and it was almost as if I was a freshman again and there was a really cool party in the other room and I was not invited. I was unhappy in my job, frustrated with the investment check I wrote, bloating my own ego about the value of my contribution to the company and nearly in a mode of self destruction. I was totally pissed off and ready to snap. What did I do? I called my dad.

My dad is an amazing businessman. He is very successful in all walks of life and his business intuition is unbelievable. He is a true source of inspiration for me and in this situation he smacked me pretty hard.

He asked me if I trusted the leaders of the company. I did. He asked me if they owned shares of the same company that I did. They did. He asked me why I thought I should be included in the high level talks with the acquiring company and I gave him an excellent canned response about my importance as an early investor and my great job at selling the product. He smacked me right in the face with the cold hard facts that I was not qualified to bring anything to the talks. Yet again, he was dead on. I had less than a year of real work experience and had no clue about large acquisitions. He also pointed out that the beauty of our situation was that all our interests were aligned. If they won, I won. “Stop freaking out,” he advised “if it is meant to be, it will be.”Kendall & Dad skiing

My family was my support. My father eased my pain. I think we all have our counterbalance in this world and it is important to identify it early and embrace it often. Be aware of how you treat your counterbalance as well. If you’ve made it this far in this long post, thank you, but now I want you to do me a personal favor. Think about your support person and recall the last time you bitched to them about a problem at work.Β  Go ahead, do this now. The next time you talk to that person, thank them. Thank them for being there to support you during your moments of crisis. Be conscious of how important they are to keep you from possibly self destructing. We all have them in our worlds, show some appreciation. Do it now. Thank you dad! Happy fathers day, a little early

14 comments for this post.

  1. Comment from Douglas Muth on June 5th, 2007 :

    Ah yes, the good ol days of working at TurnTide.

    I must admit that my experience there was much different. It was not very stressful for me at all. I merely came in and wrote code for several hours at a time.

    I suppose the difference here is the “investment” involved, be it financial, physical, or emotional. While work doesn’t stress me out too much, I’ve found myself “redlining” before in some volunteer groups that I had a significant time commitment to. I never had a term for that before, though. Thanks for coining it. πŸ™‚

    — Doug

  2. Comment from Kendall on June 5th, 2007 :

    Hi Doug! Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚ Yeah, the good ole days. I hope this message finds you doing well. Last I heard you were still rocking it in Philly, is that right? Drop me a personal update sometime, I would enjoy keeping in touch. kendall @ kendallschoenrock.com

    Take care Doug. Thanks for your hard work at TurnTide. πŸ˜‰

    -Kendall

  3. Comment from Anderson on June 5th, 2007 :

    Great post! I think you were the last person I bitched at about something at work…so thanks!

    I think you have some good insights into your experience which will help you greatly in the future!

  4. Comment from Kendall Schoenrock on June 5th, 2007 :

    Thanks Anderson! Speaking of new experiences, may I interview you for my blog regarding you new company ScanDigital?

  5. Comment from Toby DiPasquale on June 5th, 2007 :

    Hey, you weren’t that snippy, at least to me πŸ˜‰ I thought that you handled yourself pretty well all in all, even given that it was obvious that you were upset. In any case, TurnTide was the perfect place to have that experience because it did work out so well and it was a no-loss lesson.

    Redlining is indeed a problem for everyone and something I struggle with a lot of the time. Its hard to feel excluded from something when you put so much time and effort into it, even though you know rationally that you are not the right person to make the big deals or the big calls. I think your dad’s advice was absolutely spot on: trust is key and interests must be aligned. And if they are, everyone will go home a winner.

  6. Comment from Kendall on June 6th, 2007 :

    Toby,

    Thank you for your kind words. I think it’s not only important to place yourself in situations where interest are aligned but to make sure you give the situation the correct analysis both during the event and after it.

    I try to make a conscious effort to revisit past experiences and use the lessons learned to avoid future mistakes. The fact that these lessons were learned at a young age is for me, priceless.

    Thanks for reading (and contributing).

    -Kendall

  7. Comment from Jayme on June 6th, 2007 :

    Kendall,

    Loved your “redlining” article! Sounds like you are already learning some valuable “life” lessons. You have an awesome talent for putting them into words. Thanks for sharing.

    Jayme

  8. Comment from Kendall on June 6th, 2007 :

    Hi Jayme! Thanks for your feedback. I just try to give my outlook on things and it seems as though this post really hits home with people. I am glad to have so many readers interested in these subjects. Thanks for taking the time to tell me how you feel.

    Take care,
    Kendall

  9. Comment from Christopher on June 7th, 2007 :

    Kendall………………………………………………………………………….
    ……………………………… (long Pause maybe even a sigh)
    Well, I must apologize for reading so late, but yet timing is everything. I must admit when I met you back in March right after I got the phone call from Wallhogs. I was so excited. Partly, because I envisioned something like this for my personal business and they found me but, I was also lucky enough to be right up the block from you and got to meet such a dynamic person… in person. I must say I was impressed overall just with the phone conversation, but then I saw your car (lol).I just hope you have furniture now. Honestly though I read your blog and it really hit home, sorry to be cliché. Now I can’t explain it all, but my support system is a little different. It is small…lets just say a grain of sand to most, but to me it provides a beach. My very best friend of about 20yrs. Talk about school of hard knocks. We know the gutter been there done that. He is fast money (but, he will never admit it)big numbers big returns, but it has to be right now. I am slow money. You know start small, mold it and grow it. I grind it out everyday and so does he in hopes one of us will figure it out and fly. We share our ideas, we critique, we argue, we laugh…most of all when it gets crazy we support each other, we balance. BALANCE, such an under appreciated word. You here it all the time and you hear it so much, yet you shrug it off. This may sound gay, but it is like a vitamin to success. If you lack it. No matter how hard you try something just doesn’t feel right. Gears don’t mesh and wheels won’t turn. I guess (in all my gayness)the moral is; get a good dose of what ever vitamin it is to you and take it daily if you must. It will make a big difference in what ever you do.

  10. Comment from Kendall on June 7th, 2007 :

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for reading and it was also a pleasure meeting you as well. We should probably explain your comment a little for those who don’t yet know about Wallhogs. Chris is a photographer who specializes in youth action sport shots. He has partnered with my company Wallhogs.com to sell prints directly to his customer base. As we found out after we signed him up, Chris is my neighbor. I saved him some shipping costs and hand delivered our sports kit directly. I’ve enjoyed meeting great new people like you and am also grateful for the opportunity to support you in your new adventures.

    To your comment, I believe that we all have a support structure that is unique based on our needs and the counter needs of the people who support us. I’m glad you have your balance and I hope this post also made you stop and thank that person as well. Thanks for reading and thanks for such an insightful comment.

    -Kendall

  11. Comment from Scott on June 7th, 2007 :

    Great post, Kendall. This really touches home because I, too, tend to call on my father when I need some advice. He is and has always been there for me and his suggestions/warnings/ideas always seem to hold true and be correct. I guess knowledge does truly come with age.

    Thanks for this post, Kendall, helps me (us all) to slow down for just a bit and focus on the important things in life. We easily get caught up and forget what truly holds us in tact. Time to call back home and send some BIG love. Take care, Kendall, have a good one.

  12. Comment from Kendall on June 7th, 2007 :

    Hey Scott! Thanks for reading. Make sure to give your dad some big props next week! πŸ™‚ Perhaps a wallhog is in order? (Sorry for the shameless plug!)

    -Kendall

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  14. Pingback from Be Careful How You Redline | LTLprints - Larger Than Life Prints Blog on July 21st, 2009 :

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