It’s an honor to be sitting here, writing a column for a magazine I’ve appreciated over the years, filling the shoes of an individual I have known and respected for two decades. And they’re big shoes to fill—literally, as Jay Novak’s feet are much larger than mine.
Seriously, Jay did an excellent job as editor and publisher, growing Twin Cities Business into one of the nation’s best regional business publications. I have my work cut out for me as editor in chief, making improvements where possible and keeping the momentum going.
It’s also a privilege to be here because it allows me to return to a profession I’ve been passionate about since I was in my teens, but abandoned in my late 30s as local career opportunities in journalism had all but evaporated, and my attempt at starting my own publication didn’t stick.
Losing a business and leaving a profession I loved was tough, but as I return to journalism I can see that stepping out of the field for a while provided experiences that now help me to better understand the people and businesses we cover.
For starters, I can relate to those of you who have switched or who are switching careers. It’s hard! It can feel like giving up one’s identity, and there’s the anxiety that comes with taking on responsibilities in areas where you haven’t really worked before. But there’s also a flood of learning and an invaluable broadening of experiences.
I went on to lead employee communications at Lawson Software as it switched CEOs and doubled in size through the purchase of a company based in Sweden. Most recently, I led corporate communications for UnitedHealth Group’s $5 billion, 11,000-employee OptumHealth business—a start-up of sorts, as it was created in 2007 by combining what had been four business units.
These positions gave me a chance to work on situations that other companies—perhaps even yours—are facing or will likely soon face. They included “assimilating” employees after a merger; keeping employees motivated and retention up during times of change; improving what’s said to investors; and dispelling rumors and managing crisis situations. And they provided insight into how much goes on behind the stories that show up in the press, and how much good intention there can be within a business.
My path toward corporate communications began with the closing of Profits Journal, a business I started and ran for nearly seven years. Profits was an investment research, publishing, and events company focused on emerging growth companies, venture capital, and the investment industry in the Upper Midwest (mainly the Twin Cities). We ran our own stock screens, dug up private placement opportunities, analyzed early-stage businesses, and wrote about them in a monthly magazine, a weekly newsletter, and a Web site.
What a rush that was! If you’re an entrepreneur, you know how awesome the feeling is to bring an idea to life and have others believe in it as much as you do. There’s nothing else like it.
For me, Profits began to feel like a living thing, one I had to keep alive at almost any cost. And running it was like taking a crash-learning course while riding the Renegade roller coaster at Valleyfair. Editing and publishing was something I knew and could tackle; it was the rest that surprised me. I had to market the product, raise capital, and push every way possible to continue producing a publication and events while providing salaries and health care coverage for the staff. There were more than 200 meetings with investors; the sale of the company and subsequent repurchase; a near merger with a local securities brokerage; and four expansion deals that collapsed at the last minute due to circumstances including the indictment of my lead investor, the bursting of the tech bubble, and 9/11. All the while, venture capital and the small-cap stock market were drying up, and publishing was losing ground to the Internet.
Someday, I may write a book about it all and title it The Nine Lives of Profits Journal, or perhaps something that would resonate more with the masses, such as Eat, Pray, Die. Whether I do or not, I better understand and have the utmost respect for those of you who are running a business, especially during such tough and uncertain economic times.
In the months ahead, I’ll tap these and other experiences—including those from our outstanding editorial staff—for perspective as we tweak the already fine content in Twin Cities Business and deepen the publication’s affinity with local business.
While I have some pretty clear ideas on what those tweaks will be, I’m writing this column during my third day on the job, and I have more to do to get up to speed. I’m talking with the rest of the team here at the magazine and with area business leaders, while deep-diving into back issues and doing additional research. And I’d like to hear from you as well.
If you have a moment, let me know what we can do to make this magazine, our e-newsletters, and tcbmag.com even more relevant to you. You can reach me at email@example.com; Twin Cities Business, 220 South Sixth Street, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55402; or 612-336-9299.