One Year Into Our Mission
When I left WeWork and started Firneo a bit over a year ago, I had a very clear plan in my mind for how Firneo was going to change the world and the steps to take to get this thing off the ground. That lasted for about a week until shit hit the fan.
Step 1 was to embark on my "coffee chat tour" in my first weeks of entrepreneurial life, and two of my first stops were to Dane Atkinson and Thor Ernstsson -- two friends and mentors who had been through the startup trenches numerous times before. I came to catch up, share more about my vision for Firneo, and perhaps walk away with some "atta boys" and well-wishes.
I'm grateful that they were brutally honest as only true friends would be: my long-term mission of creating a new support structure for the modern workforce was important, but my short-term ideas for making it into a business were kind of terrible. They'd poked so many holes in my "business plan" that I was left reeling for days.
I retreated to the "whiteboard in my head" and spun in circles for a few weeks trying to find my footing. I knew that there was value in creating professional communities for emerging career tracks, but I wasn't sure if BD was the right starting point. I wasn't sure exactly how that 'community' would manifest in real life. I was in an infinite loop of self-doubt and overthinking.
In late February 2018, I was having lunch with Oliver Swan. Having been one of my closest friends for nearly 20 years, he knew me well enough to know that the only way to break free from the funk would be to just buckle down and execute on something.
"Just organize an event," he said. "You'll learn a ton."
That day, I resolved to do something that I'd put off for years: I'd organize a conference about Business Development - a field I'd worked in, studied, written about, and taught classes in for years. It was a perfect MVP: let me see if I can get 100 BD & Partnerships people in a room.
I reached out to three friends that I asked to be the first speakers on the roster: Molly Siems Cavanaugh, Michael McNerney, and Kenny Herman. All three said they'd be happy to speak, and Kenny offered up the beautiful offices of Slice as a venue. It was on. I gave myself 5 weeks to plan the content, book speakers, sell tickets, and figure out all the other million details that go into organizing a conference single-handedly.
Things started coming together. 20+ speakers. An incredible team of volunteers including Lucia Liu, Gui Campellon, Bret Farrer, Michelle Lipchin, Joey Morgan, David Nebinski, and Frank Denbow raised their hands to help. People I didn't even know bought tickets!
One year ago today, March 29th 2018, the "Firneo Forum: Perspectives on Business Development" conference got started on a early spring morning as beautiful as today.
Throughout the day, the energy in the room was incredible. This wasn't just a conference - it was the beginnings of a new community. A group of career "ugly ducklings" in a job no one understood had finally found the people with whom they belonged.
As others found "their people", I'd found the purpose and direction that I was seeking: the very core of Firneo, the most important first steps to achieving our mission of supporting the modern workforce, could be achieved by bringing people together. By creating opportunities to connect, share knowledge, and build strong relationships with professional peers. Build the community, and good things will come.
One year later, we have 438 members who have hosted over 45 events in NYC over the last year. We're opening new chapters in San Francisco and Chicago. We're creating a place for people in emerging careers like Business Development to learn and grow and be understood and belong.
So, happy birthday to the Firneo BD & Partnerships community, and thank you to all of those who have joined me in paving this path. It's never been clearer what we're building, why it matters, and how we're going to get there.