As I look back at the last four years of running my agency I am amazed at all I’ve had the chance to do. I’ve worked on all sorts of interesting projects with fun and engaging clients. I’ve experienced some of the most exciting times of my professional career as well as some of the hardest, frustrating, and depressing. Glean has grown from just me in my garden shed to a team of six. I’ve learned a lot about management, hiring, HR, sales, marketing, and building software.
This time hasn’t been without it’s pain and frustration. Being a startup agency that is focused on nonprofits is a hard place to work. The buying cycle is vastly different than for-profit businesses. The NGO buying cycle is very similar to enterprise sales, without the large payout at the end. But, the work we get to do is life changing. After a lot of time of inward reflection, I’ve decided it’s time I step away for a season of actively managing the business. These are my thoughts as to why I need to take some time away and work on another project.
I’m Burnt Out
If I could pick one reason why I need some time away it’s this. My head has been down and work has been all consuming for the last four years. My wife is amazing, full of grace, and supportive of my entrepreneurial aspirations. But after four years of the grind, I am tired, beat up, and burnt out. Lately, I’ve had days where I dreaded going into the office. I didn’t start my company just to drudge through my work everyday. I created a startup agency so we could help have a big impact on how NGOs were using technology and marketing. Glean is doing that work, and it’s amazing to see it happening. I just need some time away, clear my head, and get re-focused.
Glean is profitable and growing
Glean is finally at place where we’ve hit real market growth. Thanks to a few large name projects we’ve be able to up our level of clients we are working with. With partners like The World Bank and Oxfam, Glean has been has hit a great market segment. Now Glean needs someone to help manage that growth and help push us to new levels. A year ago, I brought on one of the most talented people I’ve met. Someone who’s passion matches mine for nonprofits. Dave Burton started as a freelance copywriter for me, but over the year has grown into an amazing business partner. I’m excited that Dave is going to be taking over the day-to-day at the company and pushing us in new directions!
I don’t know everything
As Glean has changed over time and now focuses 100% of its effort on the nonprofit/NGO space, I’ve realized there is a huge gap in my knowledge. My business partner, Dave, comes from international development, which makes us a great team, as my background is in technology and marketing. We balance each-other out very well. As we continue to move up market, I am finding myself further out from the conversations that are happening. The truth is, I’ve never worked for an International NGO, or an organization like USAID. In this new role, I’ll be program managing part of a USAID project in Cambodia. I’ll have a huge opportunity to connect and learn about how groups like USAID work, and how funding is done in international development.
Freedom for my wife
For the last four years my wife has been by my side in all of this, while also working her ass off. Since she has been able to work, I’ve been able to pour more money into the business. But we’ve never been in a place where she had the choice to not work, or in her case volunteer anywhere she wanted. With this new role, she will be free to do whatever she wants, just as I have been able to do for the last four years. It’s her turn now.
Where I’m Going
As of August 3rd, on a year contract, I’ll be working for Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) as a program manager. My focus is to work on a USAID project and work with local NGOs to help them understand technology solutions and how they can better use technology. I will also be running an innovation lab that provides co-working space, resources for NGOs, training, and capacity building. I’m excited for this change and the opportunity to grow in this new role.
I’ll still be advising Glean and continue to be on the board, as well as a partner in the business.