1 year ago

The Equity of Influence



INTRODUCTION The Equity of InfluenceThere is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” –Nelson Mandela I used to be a big shot. Before my days as a scrambling entrepreneur, I was a jetsetting executive and among the top 1 percent on the company organizational chart. I’m not telling you this to brag. I’m setting the stage for the drama that came next! In my corporate career with this Fortune 100 titan, I had been awarded seven patents and two master’s degrees. I managed a highly-visible global team of all-stars. I had earned two Chairman’s Awards for outstanding achievement, a stock award that was the highest recognition in my company. As far as I know, I was the only employee who had earned this award twice. In my position as Global Director of eBusiness, I was the company’s go-to guy for anything internet. My business life was a frenzy of activity. I received hun- 7

8 | MARK W. SCHAEFER dreds of emails each day, conference calls from every corner of the world, and a jet stream of opportunity and recognition. But I was also dabbling in some entrepreneurial side businesses, and once I was assured that my children’s college tuition was paid for, I decided it was time to reinvent myself and venture out on my own as a consultant, writer, and college educator. I’ll never forget the eerie thing that happened the morning of my first day on my own. The frenzy was over. No emails. No calls. No meetings in Paris. No communication of any kind. I was facing the Veil of Silence! In my company, I was well-known and respected. But now that I was starting over, nobody knew me. Nobody in this world knew or cared that I had been a big deal just 24 hours ago. On my first day as an entrepreneur, I was the go-to guy for nothing. My friend Cesar Paz, a leading digital innovator and entrepreneur in Brazil, has a similar story. “I used to work for a huge company, Embraer,” he told me. “When I left to start out on my own, it was as if I had lost my last name. I used to be Cesar from Embraer. Now nobody knew who I was, or cared. I had to build my brand all over again!” Like Cesar, in one day it seemed like my hard-built reputation had been swept away. Talk about a humbling experience! I was back at the starting line. For my brand-new consulting business, my first two customers were a college kid trying to start a catering business and a local real estate agent. My first professional speaking engagement was in front of the Lions Club in Farragut, Tennessee. (The fried chicken served at lunch was delicious, by the way.) But in less than five years, I built up my own brand reputation that unlocked consulting assignments with some of the biggest companies in the world, including Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, and Adidas. I was in a position to give speeches at con-

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