By Bob Evans
Special to aNewDomain — I’ve had the good fortune to engage with the tech industry and the business world over the years as a reporter, editor, columnist, chief content officer, analyst and, most recently, as a senior vice-president at Oracle.
It’s been a dizzying adventure. And humbling, too.
Four and a half years ago, Oracle founder (then-CEO) Larry Ellison recruited me. He wanted me to help the company transform its communications from a heavy tech and product focus into one more centered on how enterprise IT and the cloud are impacting and transforming customer successes, strategy and innovation.
And, thanks to the leadership team of Alex Wolfe, Karin Kinnear, Ricarda Rodatus, John Foley and Francisco Delgadillo and all 200 remarkable employees that work inside Oracle’s communications group, we did that.
It’s still not perfect, but it is getting there. Fact is, my colleagues were so good and so capable and so valuable that one thing’s become clear to me.
My work at Oracle as a vision-builder and strategic change-agent has peaked.
After nearly four decades of doing what I viewed as fascinating work at companies like Oracle and others, I’ve realized it is high time launch my own company.
It’s time to embark on a life after Oracle.
A new year, a new career, a new adventure.
Who could ask for more than that?
So now what?
I’ve come to realize I’m more of a builder than a maintainer, more of an architect than a landlord.
That’s why, over the last few weeks, I’ve been obsessing over questions that, while fairly new to me, are essential to the entrepreneur.
These are questions like: What’s my unique value proposition? Who will care? Why will they care?
What’s my business model? What do I offer? Who are my targets?Do I have a product, or a business?
And is the value I’m offering short-term or will it endure?
There were other questions, too, ones that are more existentially contorted. Questions like: What if my new boss is a jerk? What if he’s inconsistent, flighty, too tough, too focused on revenue and not enough on product development?
The good news is, for those boss-centric questions, my dear wife jumped in. And thank goodness for that (I think) …
In the course of my career, I’ve learned lots of great lessons. The key one is that life exposes us to a constant series of changes in the world that ultimately end up changing our own perceptions about what we want, what we know, what excites us, what ignites our passion and what we can no longer stomach.
That in turn changes what makes our hearts pound, our brains come alive and our adrenal gland to kick into high gear.
For me, that object of desire lies in helping CEOs and CMOs find a consistent, elegant and powerful way to describe who and what their company is to stakeholders and customers, and why those customers should care. It’s about helping C-level marketing and communications execs figure out the right types of stories to tell and how and where to tell them. It’s about helping them identify and deploy world-class talent.
It’s also about helping media company leaders, ad agencies and communications firms to get ahead of the changes roiling their worlds, and engage with audiences in ways that keep their audiences coming back for more.
In a nutshell, it’s about helping businesses remember that the wonderful stuff they make and sell is not nearly as important or interesting or enduring as are the experiences their customers have with that stuff.
A slip of paper …
So far in my careers I’ve had the extraordinary good fortune of working with people who taught me more than I taught them, who gave me more than I gave them and who inspired me to treasure the journey, to savor the adventure, the battle, the competition and the passion just as much as the ultimate outcome. Thanks to them, I learned that, in this business, the most powerful asset any of us have is trust. Without trust, you’re just going through the motions and nothing important ever really happens.
In the home where I grew up, there was a little slip of paper taped to the window above the kitchen sink with a gorgeous quote from Robert Browning’s poem, “The Faultless Painter.”
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”
That quote was scrawled in my sainted mother’s ugly, arthritic cursive, by a hand that pushed, guided and propelled my siblings and me to fearlessly pursue our dreams.
And that is why this 60-year-old newly-minted entrepreneur has never been more excited, more pumped up and more prepared for adventure.
May 2017 be a year where you all, too, reach beyond your grasp and latch on to what you find along the way. Happy New Year.
p.s. Next time you find yourself at Oracle, head over to Café 400. The hot dogs are world-class!
Cover image credit of Oracle headquarters in Redwood City, CA: Håkan Dahlström [CC BY 2.0], Wikimedia Commons. Inside image: Larry Ellison with hot dog: Associated Press, via I’m Gina Smith on Typepad, 2004, All Rights Reserved. Oracle CMO graphic: Oracle, via Forbes.com, All Rights Reserved.
Disclosure: ANewDomain founder Gina Smith founded New Internet Computer, Inc, an Internet appliance company, with Larry Ellison in 1999. She owns no stake in Oracle or other firms Ellison holds stake in today. She still likes the food at Café 400, though.