On April 14, 1996, I attended a country music concert in Carbondale, Illinois that would shape the way I view my business.
Carbondale is the home of Southern Illinois University, an institution typically not known for its MBA programs. Back in the ’90s, SIU was rated (on an annual basis) as one of the top party schools, and often shut down in the fall due to its notorious Halloween riots.
In other words, the small town of 25,899 nestled between the Mighty Mississippi and Shawnee National Forest was hardly considered a breeding ground for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Back in the day, I spent my days as a Saluki sleeping in and frequenting whichever-bar-had-line-dancing-that-night with my friends. Yes, I admit that country music and bull riding defined much of who I was—which explains why on April 14, 1996, I attended a country music concert.
The concert featured Audrey Faith Perry, who was opening for headlining act, Samuel Timothy McGraw. For those of you mainstream folks, that’s Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Their tour, Spontaneous Combustion, personified the very definition: a type of combustion which occurs by self-heating (increase in temperature due to exothermic internal reactions), followed by thermal runaway (self-heating which rapidly accelerates to high temperatures).
Just take one look at the photo above, and you’ll see what I mean.
You would think they were married with the way they gazed into each others eyes while onstage. They looked like a couple madly in love. And they were, even though—at the time— Faith was engaged to another man.
I took the photo from the front row, and knew something was going on between the two of them. It was obvious. Their chemistry was special, in an undeniable kind of way.
It also explains why they married six months later and have been together ever since. (Yay for longstanding celebrity marriages!)
. . .
Self-employment is a bittersweet thing. With responsibility comes freedom, and with freedom comes responsibility.
There is no getting around it, and quite honestly, I don’t want to. I much prefer to spend my days the way that I want, and working as much (or as little) as I choose.
The phrase “married to my job” often describes the status of any entrepreneur. I lump myself into this group, at times, because I spend a lot of time working. That’s what happens when you have a 14-year-old who wants nothing more than to come home from school, do his homework, and spend the rest of the evening gaming with his friends.
Fortunately, my wife Shelly also has an “Internet” job and spends just about as much time online as I do. Good thing our offices are next to one another because we still get ample time throughout the day to interact.
The Passion Play
As I look back over the years, I realize that every project I have started has been the result of passion—deep, mad, wrap-your-heart-around-it passion.
StudioPress was my first entrepreneurial project and consisted of two things that I love: design and community. It may have been accidental, but it was a pretty epic journey—and well worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
I created No Sidebar as a result of needing space in my life. StudioPress became big (ahem, more than 250,000 customers) and I realized that I had put things of priority on the backburner. I needed an outlet that I could share and be encouraged by a lifestyle of intention.
Last year I sold No Sidebar, which was followed by me selling StudioPress to WP Engine just three months later. These two events paved the way to where I am at now—Authentik.
I feel like I have an open road ahead of me, and trust me when I say that is not by mistake. I desperately needed something new.
Erin has woven her “real” life and “business” life in a way that makes me quite envious. With her, I find it hard to identify where one stops and where the other begins. To me, that’s a great indicator that she and her brand are spontaneously combusting.
When I decided to spend a whopping $10,000 on the Authentik domain, I knew that I wanted to do the same thing: create a brand that showcased my passion, and was also driven by it.
I wanted everyone to see how much fire was (and still is) behind the project. I wanted the perception from the outside to be this: Authentik and I are madly in love with each other—in a Tim-and-Faith kind of way.
Friendship in Business
While passion is essential to building a successful business, another element is “friendship.” This is something Friedrich Nietzsche refers to in a quote about marriage and also something I consider paramount to the growth and sustainability of a brand.
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
This begs the question: Are you and your business friends?
What does “everyday” look like in your business? What happens when times are tough? What happens with the passion burns out, even if temporarily? Is there enough of a foundation to weather the storm?
Do you and your business spontaneously combust?
If not, what stands in the way of a remarkable togetherness?