A strange thing happens when you decide to sell the brand you spent the last eleven years building. One day you wake up the owner of that brand, and then the next day, you don’t.
In case you haven’t heard, two weeks ago I sold StudioPress to WP Engine. To qualify things a bit, when I say “I,” I mean “we,” Rainmaker Digital—but my partners ultimately left the final decision, as founder, up to me.
Making a decision that not only affects your livelihood, the livelihood of your partners and employees, and the livelihood of an entire community isn’t for the faint of heart. It certainly wasn’t a responsibility I took lightly and spent quite a bit of time wrestling with.
The fact of the matter is this: When you make a decision that affects thousands of people, you have to wrestle with it. And then wrestle with it some more.
It might be easy for those on the outside looking in to pass judgment and develop opinions on why I chose the sell. There are plenty of reasons for anyone to sell a business, but analyzing that seems somewhat boring and—well, to be honest—a little too passé.
Why I Didn’t Want to Sell
I thought it would be more helpful (and interesting) to share the reasons why I didn’t want to sell. After all, that tells a broader story and shows the human side of things. Because we’re all human, right?
1. I didn’t want to let go.
I think it’s natural that we want to cling to things which hold sentimental value. The idea of parting with something I created and spent the last eleven years developing a community around was difficult. Quite difficult, in fact.
But, I realized that taking StudioPress to the next level required me to put it in the hands of an entity that could do just that. In fact, WP Engine has committed to invest in the Genesis community on many levels—which is something that made the decision to sell much more comfortable.
One thing I learned early on, though, is that letting go isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, sometimes holding on is the worst thing you can do when running a company.
2. I was afraid of what the future holds.
Other than death, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty that life holds. The weather can change in an instant, Facebook algorithms come and go, and the world of web design also goes through phases.
As a partner in the company that owned StudioPress, I felt as though I had control over the direction of the brand. Not total control, mind you, but enough that brought some comfort.
While I am still on the StudioPress leadership team at WP Engine, I no longer have the same level of control. Of course, I will forever love what I created, and I will continue to oversee product development and foster the Genesis community.
Will that last forever? Probably not.
And that’s because in today’s world, nothing lasts forever on the Internet. I guess it’s safe to say there is a little more uncertainty in the future for me, and that’s what happens when you sell a company.
3. I didn’t want to start over.
As I mentioned earlier, I am still part of StudioPress—that has not changed. But, my journey as an entrepreneur as it pertains to StudioPress did come to an end when WP Engine acquired us.
With that said, I am currently in entrepreneur never-never land. (Except for what I’m doing here at Authentik, which quite honestly, is a work in progress.)
The idea of starting over—going all the way back to the bottom of the mountain—is something that feels unsettling.
My tenure at StudioPress lasted eleven years. That is a whole lot of altitude I climbed, and the thought of ascending another mountain is quite tiring. Thankfully, right now, it’s not something I have to worry about.
But more than likely there will come a day when I am back at square one and will have to start over. The good thing, however, is that I’ll have a trail map (of sorts) that will help me along the way: experience.
Over the past six months, I have learned something about myself and being an entrepreneur: Sometimes you have to let go to grow.
For as many reasons as there were not to sell StudioPress, there were plenty more to sell StudioPress.
StudioPress is bigger than me—and it needs to be. There are thousands of customers and hundreds of designers and developers who depend on our products to make a living.
It would have been incredibly short-sighted of me—and entirely selfish, to be honest—if I held on when it wasn’t in the best interest of the community.
Entertainment legend Sammy Davis Jr. says it best:
“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
I’ll choose the former. Every time.
. . .