An annual assessment of my personal and professional journey
For the past seven years (eight when you include this one), I have used the first blog I write of the year to reflect on the previous year – personally and professionally. If you’ve never read this before, I ask myself the same series of questions and answer them as candidly as possible. It’s my attempt to find who I am as an entrepreneur, father, husband, and friend as I strive to become the best version of myself.
While I love writing, publicly sharing my triumphs and struggles is very challenging. I’ve said often – and it’s true – that I’m the same person whether I’m recording a podcast, working with clients, standing on a stage speaking, or sitting at a bar with a friend over a quiet drink. However, opening the vein of true honesty to let everyone judge the blood that flows out scares the absolute hell out of me, which is precisely why I do it.
Fear, while also being an excellent motivator, allows us the opportunity to either push past that fear and grow or cower away and feed the fear. If you know me, I’m a “push past” type of human. So, with all that said, let’s get to it.
Professionally, where was I this time last year?
brandivate was 18 months old and doing well. Hell, any new business enterprise that lasts over a year and can provide the key stakeholders a living is a success in my book. That being said, the cyclical and project-based nature of the work presented its own challenges in terms of budgeting and resources focused on client work vs. developing new business. Those challenges weren’t insurmountable, but they required a pivot or two as neither was in the original business plan. All in all, I was pretty bullish on an exceptional 2022 for brandivate.
Did I accomplish my goals for 2022 – why or why not?
In 2021, I made my goals more definable than in the past in an attempt to hone in on accomplishing each of them:
Goals I accomplished
Add ten new clients, with two coming from outside the promotional products industry – I’m happy and proud to have accomplished this with plenty of time to spare.
Create one new piece of relevant, thoughtful, and consumable content – honestly, this one might be in the “sort of” category. I did create and deliver about 27 weekly two-minute videos called “The Midweek Marketing Moment.” It took a lot of time to write, record, edit, and produce the content, and, much to my disappointment, it never really got any traction. As such, I pulled the plug on the weekly video series in September. While it was difficult to stop producing the videos, it was the right decision as I’m not sure anyone even noticed that I stopped doing them. The lesson here: know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. I’m proud of the episodes I made, but it was time to fold ’em.
Goals I didn’t accomplish
Have brandivate be at a consistent run rate of $400,000.00 by 12/31/22 – came damn close, but the numbers are what they are. Again, part of the challenge is a good portion of the work we do at brandivate is project-based. I plan on getting better at budgeting for that in 2023.
Work out five days a week – nope, not even close. Candidly, I’ve struggled with working out since my hernia surgery in September of 2021. Couple that with a wicked round of Covid over the holidays last year, another round in August, and being busy at work, and what you have is nothing more than a bunch of excuses. I have not prioritized this as I have in previous years, and it shows – both in my physical appearance and how I feel.
Deliver two educational pieces for PromoKitchen – I suppose this is in the “sort of” category. I wrote one article about the need for the industry to take action regarding DEI initiatives. However, the lack of overall support and interest in the blog – despite being extremely challenging to write and post – was disheartening. Perhaps the appetite for the conversation has waned or maybe what I wrote simply wasn’t good. If I’m being 100% honest, after that piece, I was disillusioned to the point that I didn’t want to spend my time or energy on other content for PromoKitchen. I’m not proud of that, but it is accurate.
Take one week off from work, 100% away, even if I stay home – Running my own business, I’ve learned that brandivate isn’t at the level of taking that much time away and having staff simply set controls for the heart of the sun. Looking back, this was a poor choice for a goal as it never had a chance of being achieved.
What are my motivations, and how have they changed in the past year?
Usually, this doesn’t change much from year to year. However, there were a number of both challenges and opportunities that have forced me to rethink this one. To provide a bit of context, the business partner that started brandivate with me, Kelsey Cunningham, decided to leave to return to the supplier side of the industry and something she truly loved and missed. The split was amicable, and I’m honored to call Kelsey my friend as she flourishes at Ben Norris Marketing. However, her departure meant I had to rethink resource allocation for the organization – something I was able to do in short order by sharing back-office support with Vault Promotions and hiring some graphic designers as well as an Executive Administrator to help run things so I could focus on client work and new business.
I also started a company – Promocations – with my close friend Josh Robbins. It’s something he and I have talked about for years and, after the pandemic finally seemed to be less and less of an issue, launched in July of 2022. Our first event is a PromoCruise, and it is almost sold out as of this writing.
So, back to my motivations for this year:
Provide for my family financially and emotionally
Create work for brandivate clients that truly make a positive difference in their businesses
Deliver game-changing networking events through Promocations
What do I need to do more of in 2023?
I need to continue to find ways to simply slow down and enjoy the things that I work so hard for in both brandivate and Promocations: time with my family, friends, and myself. I need to continue to foster the evolving adult relationships I have with my boys by being present for them on their terms, not mine. Things like cooking at tailgates, attending fraternity events (we are all part of Lambda Chi Alpha), and focusing on teaching more and doing less as that will help them in the long run. I need to make more intentional time for Sandy and me to enjoy being empty nesters – I’ve slacked on that one.
I need to be more present in each task and moment than running wildly from one thing to another. Technology has made it possible to be connected ALL the time, and that is both a positive and a negative. On the negative side, it makes it very difficult to be fully present in the moment, which I will focus on in 2023.
As I mentioned above, I need to find a way to work out consistently. I want to and need to – period. For some reason, I have thought more about my mortality than ever this year. Perhaps it’s the fact I’m writing this blog less than a week after my Father-in-Law passed away just days before Christmas, but the fragile nature of life weighs on me a lot. My point in sharing this is that I don’t consistently do the things I need to do, like working out, eating healthier, or getting enough sleep that will keep me around a bit longer. So, a lot more of those things in 2023.
What do I need to do less of in 2023?
More than anything, I need to stop holding onto the past as it relates to people. Let me be clear: this is not a case of holding grudges, as that’s not something I’ve ever done. It’s much more about not letting go of people (and things) that bring negative energy into my life.
What am I grateful for in 2022?
While the end of the year has been nothing short of devastating due to the loss of my Father-in-Law right before Christmas, there has still been much to be grateful for this year. So let’s start with the business stuff:
I’m quite grateful for Kelsey Cunningham and the fact she has genuinely found a spot to pursue her passion. I’m eternally thankful for her contributions to brandivate and fearlessly starting the company with me.
I’m grateful for the friendship, mentorship, and partnership with Josh Robbins. Staring Promocations with him to completely rethink networking events has been exhilarating and a learning experience (in a good way).
I’m extraordinarily thankful for the people who read what I write, listen to me pontificate on podcasts, show up to hear me speak at an event, or simply express support for my vision for brandivate, Promocations, and the industry at large. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: while I have an ego, it’s like everyone else’s: fragile. The kind words, messages, and texts mean a lot when you put candid thoughts for others to judge. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
On the personal side, it’s been an up-and-down year. As a child, I thought being an adult would be much easier than it’s turned out to be. However, the older I get, the more I realize that being an adult is essentially juggling several crises at once while trying to be the best husband, father, and friend I can be. Even so, I have much to the thankful for:
Both Drew and Mitch are excelling at Mississippi State and the University of Alabama, respectively. It’s incredible to watch them develop into passionate and compassionate men.
I’m very thankful for my wife of 28 years, Sandy. She not only indulges me in my bizarre fascinations with Van Halen and smoked meat, she understands and supports and my entrepreneurial spirit. I wouldn’t be half the human I am without her backing.
I’m beyond grateful for friends and extended family that go deeper than simply supporting me – they love and accept me for who I am despite the many times I’ve disappointed them. More than anything, I treasure my relationships with people, which goes even further this year.
How did I serve others in 2022?
I’m honored to be back in PromoKitchen as a chef as the organization redefines what it is today and what it will be for the next ten years. I was recently asked to become a Trustee for the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF). I look forward to sitting on that board to help in any way possible. I also continued volunteering at several regional associations in the promotional products industry, which always brings me tremendous joy.
What are my goals for 2023?
Have brandivate be at a consistent run rate of $400,000.00 by 12/31/23 (yes, it’s a repeat goal, but I didn’t hit it, so it’s back on deck)
Add ten new brandivate clients
Deliver an entire educational program for PromoKitchen
Work out three days a week for the first three months of the year and five days a week for the balance of 2023
Sell out all Promocations events for 2023
Take one day off a month every month for 2023
Am I who I want to be?
It’s times like these I wish I hadn’t included this question, as I’ll never be who I want to be. I’m a work in progress, shaped by my experiences, and complete with battle scars from what life has brought me. However, those are all good things. Today, I’m closer to who I want to be than I ever have been; that, in and of itself, is a victory for 2022. I hope in 365 days I’ll be just a bit closer to being the person I desire to be.
When I sit down to write this every year, it’s incredibly daunting. So, why do I do it? Because when I’m done and schedule the post, I feel thoroughly cleansed for the new year. It’s my way of letting go of the past and focusing on the future. Maybe it encourages others to be intentional about evaluating where they are in life. Maybe not. At the end of the day, this is the one blog a year I do for one person: me. If it helps or inspires others, that’s fabulous. However, this one is for me.
I truly wish each of you the absolute best that 2023 has to offer.