Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Full of Life, Zoetica Launches

Posted on: January 12th, 2010 by Geoff Livingston 34 Comments

Sunset on the Potomac

And so Zoetica begins. Together with top-ranked nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter and PR maven Kami Huyse, I am proud to launch Zoetica. Zoetica, a social enterprise, provides superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change. As part of our mission, the consultancy will allocate 10 percent of our annual profits to organizations selected by Zoetica’s three founders.

What a crazy, yet fitting name! A mouthful of four syllables, yet only seven characters starting with a unique Z, a state of almost Internet nirvana. We got it from the biological term zoetic, which means pertaining to life. And that’s fitting as the company aspires to achieve social impact and make our lives better through communications.

zoeticalogocolor.jpg

I’ve been through my fair share of communications start-ups, so I’d like to tell you some of the things that are different about our team going out the door.

1) The social mission is important to us. Beth’s entire career is nonprofit focused, and Kami and I have reached a point in our careers where we want to have real, meaningful impact. Whether it’s a nonprofit or a company with a strong social responsibility or environmental program, given our collective skill set this seems like the best way to affect social change.

2) While not an agency, the consultancy is communications focused. In the words of Edward Moore, “Shoemaker, stick to thy last.” And so, we stick to our core competency.

3) We each have strengths and weaknesses, which combined as an entity provide a balanced team. While we’re all strategists who have been in the marketplace on our own, there are certain natural roles: Beth’s the best blogger, and should be the frontperson. Kami is the best manager, and should run teams and projects. I’m the best marketer of the group, and will be on the frontline with clients. The roles are essential: As someone who ran a company solo, the big danger for an entrepreneur is trying to do everything her/himself. No one is the master of all.

4) All three of us have worked together. In an era where superstar blogger teams come together and break apart at the first twinge of ego-stress, this cannot be underestimated. I’ve worked with Kami for three years and Beth for two. Together, we’ve been working on Zoetica for five months. Further, we’ve all been through hard times on our own. It’s easier to trust known elements when push comes to shove.

5) The corporate structure allows for consensus and movement. While we each have our accepted roles, we also are equal partners. Our structure enables us to move through internal challenges using a majority rule, yet at the same time honors the voice of the minority. Private companies are just that, but this factor makes our collective future direction easier.

6) The national footprint adds strength! One city alone is a regional entity, but with Houston, San Francisco and Washington covered, we’re truly a national entity.

7) I mentioned strengths and weaknesses as they relate to a team versus a sole proprietor. There’s another aspect to this. It’s lonely running a company by yourself. Frankly, the Livingston Communications experience made me realize that I need peers in my work life. What better people than Beth and Kami? Two great people that I enjoy working with, that have similar values, and who are masters in their own right.

So in the words of John Lennon, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” It’s time for Zoetica.

You can check out both Beth and Kami’s take on the new company, You can also check out the official press release.

Confessions of a Start-Up Junky

Posted on: January 7th, 2010 by Geoff Livingston 22 Comments

Geoff Livingston in Palermo

Confession: Giddy joy pervades my fingertips these days. The reason? The challenge of starting anew.

See, I’m a start-up junky. And next week my two partners and I are launching our newco. I can’t wait!

I’ve been engaged in start-ups since 1996, when I joined CommunicationsNow as an editor to successfully launch several publications serving the wireless industry. Then I did a stint as media relations manager for a dot-bomb in Southern California called IPNet Solutions.

This past decade saw the successful launch of Widmeyer‘s Design & Advertising practice. After that I helped get Sage Communications‘ PR practice off the ground. And most recently, I started, built and sold Livingston Communications, a social media boutique.

The Next Venture

So with my sixth venture (second as owner), what have I learned? What five suggestions will I bring to the table that will benefit my partners and clients?

1) Do what you love! Most people hate their jobs, but if you own your own company, then that’s your fault. In fact, it’s all your fault. There’s no one to blame, so make it worth loving!

2) Love your critics/enemies, too. Plenty of naysayers out there will tell you that it will be hard, that most newcos fail, etc. This time, it’s “Well, the economy is not that great,” or “Your focus won’t yield the most cash.” These people should be seen as a) sources of information about possible weaknesses that you can address, and b) points of inspiration.

Listen to criticism even if it burns. They may be right about your offering, and don’t you want to address that?

Conversely, I always love winning when I’ve been told it’s unlikely or impossible. When I receive resistance from naysayers, it only fuels me. To me, success comes from personal commitment to achieving a goal as opposed to what other people tell me I should be or can achieve. Many times the reasons find basis in their own fears.

3) Play to your weaknesses. If you’re not good at something, own it. Then outsource it or hire people to fill that role. In this new entity, my partners’ strengths play to my weaknesses and vice versa. I am very grateful for that. Now I can focus on areas that I truly excel in.

4) Embrace failure. Most of the companies I’ve been involved with sustained themselves or were sold, so ultimate failure is not my experience. Failing is. Failure in ventures always happens, but serves as the experience necessary for improvement and excellence. The question isn’t whether you will fail or have disappointments. It’s how fast can you get up, and evolve.

5) Don’t get set on facts. Markets change, people change, situations change, everything changes. The only thing in life and business that you can be certain of is change. Be ready to handle the comings and goings of relationships and situations. Impermanence is the rule of thumb.

That’s my big five, the rest stay in my head for now. But if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, please read Pam Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation. It’s the best book I’ve read on the topic.