It’s no secret—being an entrepreneur sucks. It’s not for everyone and that’s OK. Yet, with advancements in technology and the post-recession gig economy, everyone is looking for a side-gig to turn into their full-time career.
Couple this with a sea of crush-it, millionaire mentality, fast cars, jets & mansions type memes that have taken over social media the last few years, and you now have entrepreneurs thinking it’s billion or bust. This is a dangerous combination because it starts to flirt with a ‘by any means necessary attitude’ that coupled with the wrong ethical judgment can lead to your CEO copy/pasting over screenshots of Wells Fargo deposits in an attempt to calm employees demanding answers for overdue payroll—yeah, that actually happened.
Don’t get me wrong, having ambitions is important along with goals that scare you; I’m no different in that regard. However, there’s one question that haunts a lot of us:
What happens if you actually achieve that goal; then what?
Many of us have learned the lesson of ‘beware what you wish for’ the hard way, whether it was with a relationship in our personal lives or that job we lusted after for years only to realize once we get it that we’re unhappy. However, for entrepreneurs that realization can come at a much greater cost.
Earlier this year, I was chosen to write a review of the highly anticipated #AskGaryVee Book which ended up getting the attention of VaynerMedia staff & even Gary himself, which also put me in contact with an amazing, inspiring young group of entrepreneurs from Towson University. They were putting together an event with Gary Vaynerchuk, David Osborn, Ashley Zahabian, & Jacob Garlick. And here’s the kicker: it was their first event and they had less than three months to raise the money and put it all together. Being a sucker for a long-shot I knew I had to help out any way I could, so I decided to help with regards to photo services for the event and ended up writing an article about the night as well.
When RECN was first started by Brentin Hess in the fall of 2014, it was primarily a real estate club for college kids who were interested in the career after graduation or even during school. However, as usually happens when more people come into the fold, talks of the vision widened to bring in a broader focus of entrepreneurship and living a big, purposeful life. As the fall semester rolled around in 2015, eight core people stepped up to help shape the new vision and direction of the company.
As mentioned earlier, the last few years of booming entrepreneurship made this shift a logical one with many Millennials stating they’d gladly take a lower salary for a job that had purpose and meaning. It was around this time that they came up with the idea of putting on the big event with some of the largest names around. Yet, with all the excitement around pulling it off no one thought to ask the most important question:
Is this event even in line with our company’s overall mission?
By the time that crept into people’s heads, Brentin proposed to tackle one thing at a time; this put seeing the event through as the top priority revisiting the big picture vision afterward. The meetings following the event gave way to a myriad of ideas and directions like a talent agency connecting brands with influencers and even an events company. However, after all the dust settled Hess realized the toughest decision he had to make was yet to come.
When it came down to it, Hess realized that the answer was there all along. Even the name RECN stood for ‘Real Estate Club Network’—the biggest industry present at the event and the one Brentin was heavily involved in since Day 1. The point is that there’s always going to be appealing things that may seem like worthy endeavors, but may end up just taking your attention off what’s really important. However, making that choice wasn’t without its lumps—of the core eight people involved, six left to either move on to new endeavors or put their focus back on their 9-5 jobs, leaving only two left: Brentin Hess & Cecil Cummins. With the new direction and refresh on the business model, Millennial to Millionaire was born, realizing it was the right move all along even with the heavy price-tag it came with.
The hardest thing for any leader to do is admit they were wrong and go back to the drawing board, especially when you’ve pulled so many new people into fold through your vision for the company. The very thing you had to now revisit. The story of RECN, their great initial success, followed by some serious gut-checks and soul searching to make a huge pivot is one that many entrepreneurs face. Yet, it’s the often overlooked, not so glamorous side to doing your own thing that more people need to hear about.
So what’s your story of a scary pivot you had to make with your company?