As this Friday, Feb 1, is the 5th anniversary of the founding of Bromberg LLC, I thought I’d reflect upon my somewhat surreal experience.
Going out on my own was never part of the master plan. Now that’s either because I never had a master plan, or I had already accomplished what I set out to do. Somehow, early in my career I felt my pinnacle would be as the #2 in an organization. I believed I wasn’t the one to be the face and voice of an organization, but instead would be best standing next to the leader, the person to whom the leader would turn and whisper things like, “Do we do this? How do we do this? Make sure we do this.”
Now I’m the chief cook and bottle washer. I’m the leader of an organization (even if it is just a one-man band), and the #2 to multiple leaders. And I’m having a blast.
The first and longest-lasting challenge I faced in building this practice was in describing what I do. Contract Chief Operating Officer (COO) is, um, a less common offering. I know of two other people in the Boston area doing it. A frequent response to my introduction was, “Oh, you do finance?” No. I’m great with Excel, and I can spell “GAAP,” but I’m not a CFO.
As a contract COO, I work with businesses to achieve steadily growing revenues and strong profitability by helping clarify the vision, getting the best from employees, improving internal processes, and protecting the entrepreneur from feeling overwhelmed and alone.
This ongoing search for the compelling elevator pitch was just the tip of the sales and marketing iceberg. As a long-time ops guy, I was never directly responsible for those two disciplines. I’ve had a lot to learn.
I give a ton of credit to John Doerr and RAIN Group for teaching me that sales means being myself, promoting an aspirational viewpoint to the people I talk to, and simply delivering my service (i.e., value) in all communications. I’ve learned to emphasize what clients get over what I do, how marketing really is the new sales (owing to online tools and practices, and our reliance on computer-based interaction), and what Woody Allen meant when he said, “90% of life is just showing up.”
I think Woody was talking about networking.
Back in early 2008 I had 30-40 contacts on LinkedIn. Today I’m in the 500+ club, every one of whom I’ve talked with long enough to be able to tell you something about them. And let me tell you, there are a lot of really impressive and committed professionals out there. Through the ongoing (and sometimes pervasive) networking efforts, I’ve built some great relationships with clients and potential clients, advisors, other service providers, and generally cool people.
It’s also enabled me to do a lot of connecting.
Where has this all led me? Here’s what clients are asking of me today:
- Help a foreign manufacturer of technology-based equipment define and execute, in their words, “how to do business in the US,” by advising them on the requirements and process for building a company, presence, and market share.
- Work with the owner of a fast-growing construction-related business to figure out “how to run his business smarter,” by helping extricate him from all the detail work and instead focus on the big picture and leadership.
- Support a start-up that is developing very promising products for medical diagnostic equipment and hospitals.
- Collaborate with a biotech service provider on how to evaluate and develop commercial partnerships.
The above projects, like the others I’ve worked on over the past 5 years, are fun, exciting, and challenging. I get to work with really smart, nice people, and love it when they tell me how they appreciate my commitment to their success. I believe my responsibility is to maintain an unwavering focus on my clients’ goals and getting results because that’s what a great COO brings to any organization.
The readers of this post have all made meaningful contributions to my education and success. Thank you very much – it is well noted and appreciated. I hope I’ve done the same for you, or will be given the opportunity to do so. That’s what’ll make the next five years even better.
Thanks for reading, and for your continued support.