Navigating a Small Business Through a Wild World
Reflections from the front.
My good friend Jeff Saut always told me that the human mind is incapable of focusing on two things at the same time. I challenged him on that when he first mentioned it -- I write and trade seamlessly in sync -- but his wisdom ultimately prevailed, insofar that I'm not actually placing orders at the same time that I'm stroking the keyboard.
When we birthed Minyanville, I resolved that I would always put our community before my personal profitability, with the unspoken hopes that 1) they wouldn't be mutually exclusive and 2) the trades were just that -- trades -- and Minyanville, as a sum of the parts, would evolve as an investment.
While our path has been rife with unforeseen twists and turns, the vision of the company remained laser-focused: create a vertical theme brand that effects positive change through financial understanding, from the ABC's to the 401(k)'s. If you haven't seen the corporate trailer, please click here as it will likely fill in some blanks..
While it was never about the money when I started this company, it quickly became our focus as soon as we took on investors (after I plunked down multiple sevens) and that remains the case to this day. All a man has is his name and his word; these people invested in me as much as they made a bet on Minyanville.
The trick to this trade isn't a function of "if," in my view, it's a function of "how."
If we wanted to "churn 'em and burn 'em" in terms of quickly flipping folks and passing information, we could have done that long ago... but we didn't.
We could have slapped on an execution platform, registered as an RIA, and attempted to monetize our information that way... but we didn't.
We could have gone full tilt towards entertainment and education, using our Emmy Award as an implicit license to open doors... but we didn't. When we won the award in 2008, our efforts were focused on doing what we do best: helping folks navigate the wicked crosscurrents of the financial landscape.
The rest, I assumed, would fall into place. If you do the right thing long enough, someone will eventually take notice.
Nowadays, when folks complain about the auto-play videos on the home page, it eats at my core as I take our user experience to heart. I don't want to force-feed anything to anyone -- that's never been my style -- but we serve up quality content for free on MV Proper and while we're well positioned across three business lines (subscriptions, advertising, and licensing) someone has to feed the ducks.
Heck, we even built an "ad-free" service for pennies a day, but those who are quick to fire off angry emails using words like "immoral" and "intrusive" rarely take the time to explore those types of amicable solutions, even after they're suggested with a smile.
I often tell people that if I stayed where I was, helming a large hedge fund, one of three things would likely have happened by now: I would be a billionaire, I would be dead, or I would be in jail.
While we can assign various odds against outcomes on that probability spectrum -- on my word, I have never done anything illegal in my professional endeavors -- I don't profess to know what temptations might have presented themselves, or how I would have responded in a moment of weakness. At the end of the day, that isn't a three-sided coin that I'm willing to flip.
Why do I share this now? I'm not sure, perhaps I'm being reflective as I balance my fiduciary responsibility as CEO, the efforts of the RP Foundation and the book stuff with the newfound blessing of a growing family as I attempt to find the harmony I had always dreamed of -- one that was always far off in the distance.
This article began as a Buzz post yesterday that detailed how I was stopped out of my latest short-side toe dip -- and I was -- but I've been there and done that, in words and process, over and over and over again. No, there's something more powerful afoot, something in the air. A turning point, perhaps, from the inside-out.
I will say this; there is a slew of news behind the scenes that never make it past our editorial gate. The trials and tribulations of a start-up company in this economic, social, and political environment are not for the faint of heart; there is indeed a difference between a recovery and a rally, and while we've clearly seen an uptick across a few of our business lines, the "every man for himself" mindset is good and thick.
I wish I could talk more about some of those happenings; the true colors of well-known players and personalities, the due diligence efforts that have come and gone, the dichotomy between how publically traded businesses portray themselves and how they operate when nobody is looking, or the frustrations involved in finding young hard-working human capital -- investing time and money to train them only to watch competitors pay up to poach them.
Maybe one day I will. While my grandfather taught me to take the high road -- it's less crowded and has a better view -- there are lessons that can only be learned through experience.
I'm planning to take a couple of days next week -- Baby Ruby is due on Tuesday -- and I will put some thought into pulling back the curtain and offering our community a truer view of what we're seeing behind the scenes. Not in a salacious way -- this isn't an act of desperation -- but in an educational one.
We're all going through it, and it would be very Minyanesque to go through it together.
May peace be with you.
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Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at email@example.com.
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