As I referenced briefly in a recent post about reflections on turning 50, my role at Lunapads has changed (to put it very simply, I have left my day job there) and I wanted to share about that decision at greater length.
As a brief recap, I started making Lunapads in 1993, wrote the first business plan to commercialize them in 1994 and have basically been working in some way, shape or form to support the company’s growth ever since. Given that I’ve just turned 50, you won’t need a calculator to reckon that it’s pretty much how I’ve spent half my life.
I love everything about Lunapads, from the pads and underwear themselves (still use ‘em, in fact!) to the company, its proudly feminist values and culture, and brilliant team. I could not be prouder of what we have created and want nothing more to see its potential fully expressed.
Given this, I get that it may seem counterintuitive to be choosing to help less, especially at such a pivotal time in the company’s history. There is no doubt that I still have a great deal to offer and I fully intend to continue to bring value as an Advisor and Shareholder/Director.
The company is on the threshold of incredible growth, however rather than feeling like I need to “dig in”, I have the clearest feeling that what I actually need to do is let go. The company’s future is about a different perspective than what it has been in the past. What that vision needs in order to emerge is a blank slate, fresh eyes and creative breathing space for the team.
This change has been coming for several years, since 2013, as a matter of fact. It was at that time that Suzanne and I decided to change the company’s senior leadership from a shared model to one where she became the CEO with all staff reporting to her, and I stepped into the more amorphous role of Creative Director.
To be honest, it was a relief. I don’t love managing people – especially a double-digit team – and a large part of Lunapads operations had become about things about which I am either unskilled or uninterested (namely digital marketing, ecommerce and their associated processes and analytics).
At the time, even though I supported the decision 100%, I still struggled with some feelings of personal inadequacy. Should I have tried harder, even when it didn’t feel like I had the mojo? I remember working so hard to get the hang of social media with the help of tutors and consultants, however the more I tried, the more my disaffection for it grew (the day I finally closed my Twitter account was truly liberating).
There is of course also the fact that Suzanne is so awesome: it’s not like I have any worries about leadership at Lunapads ;-). And – to give myself some credit – it has often struck me as superfluous for us both to be putting our time and energy into the same thing. It’s time for her vision to emerge even more fully: get ready!
Speaking of Suzanne, the one thing that I always loved and felt great about as a leader at Lunapads (and is hands down the thing that I will miss the most) were our almost-daily conversations, which can essentially be summed up as ongoing strategic planning sessions, typically over lunch (it is strangely meaningful to me that I have had lunch with her more than anyone in my life).
Creative decisions, HR issues, media, events, key relationships, cash flow, random new ideas and opportunities: you name it. Personal stuff for sure as well: we are, after all, very close and part of our magic is seeing one another in a very holistic way, not just as business partners.
I have seldom enjoyed such a perfect mind-meld with anyone. The way that we work together has an almost physical sensation to it, a feeling of figuratively building ideas with different pieces or ingredients, stacking or modifying them as we go. The outcome was almost never the same as the original idea that one of us may have started with: it was better, more well-rounded and there was often some sort of unique twist or unexpected outcome.
I believe that this type of interaction is commonly known as creative friction which – with a solid base of trust, transparency and consciously keeping one’s ego in check – is one of the most enjoyable feelings I have had the good fortune to experience, in business or otherwise.
So why let it go, especially with this type of amazing relationship thrown into the bargain?
There are several reasons, however I’ll start with one of my favourite life adages: leave the party while you’re still having a good time. I will always share a profound bond with Suzanne and the company: plus who knows what other adventures the future may hold for us together? As this post’s title suggest, this is just a new chapter, not the end of the story.
I also want to see what happens when I’m not there all the time anymore: what and who will be drawn into the space? What new conversations, ideas and relationships will come of it? My belief is that it is exactly this space that will yield the different results that we seek. I’d wager that things will likely be even bigger, better and brighter than they are now.
I also strongly feel like it’s time for me to redefine myself. I love the idea that we all latently possess potent skills that we are simply not aware of yet due to the simple fact that we haven’t tried whatever it is yet. Being a Founder is a funny thing: it’s not just a job that you can take or leave, it’s not a transferable skill per se, and it only really happens once (in Lunapads case, twice) per company story. It can become very tied to one’s personal identity, something that I have definitely struggled with.
Until G Day came along, I never thought that I would found anything else: I actually used to joke that I was a “monogamous” (as opposed to serial) entrepreneur! In fact, G Day is the fruit of the “crisis” of self-doubt in 2013 that I referred to earlier in the post. This beautiful thing, an idea that had literally been resident in me since I was a child, is what wanted to happen while I was trying to convince myself that I should be doing a better job at Twitter: argh!
What starting G Day showed me was that being a founder is actually a legitimate skill, a thing that I “do”, not just something that randomly happened once upon a time. But there needed to be space for that to emerge and I also needed to be willing to step into a new self-definition outside of Lunapads. Which – as I noted earlier – was scary and fraught with self-doubt and uncertainty.
So in a way the changes that I’m making now started a long time ago. Another aspect to the shift definitely has to do with age. Turning 50 is inspiring me far more deeply than I would have imagined, and I am keenly aware of – on the basest level – how lucky I am to be alive, let alone having the resources and imagination to see what else might be possible.
What else could I do with my experience and knowledge? Probably lots of things, but if I keep hanging onto the “tried and true” then I will never find out.
Last but not least, I have a new vision that – in addition to G Day – I want to pursue. Again, it’s another “old” idea: in this case observing that most people throughout history have always done two things: worked and had babies. Given their universality, you would think that we would have come up with more ways to facilitate, or even combine those activities. What I’m curious about now are the possibilities for reimagining work-life balance in the form of a new workplace concept called Nestworks.
Stay tuned and watch Lunapads – and everyone – rock.