How do you find your personal direction or find focus for your company? Where can you project your personal brand, not limited to 140 character tweets (or tweets spread over multiple tweets – see Donald Trump) or 2 pages like a resume? Need a low cost public forum to test out ideas and generate discussion about your business? I have the answer for you – Blogging. Before you throw up your hands and say, “I could never do that,” listen to my story (I was in your shoes). If you already blog, congratulations. Hopefully, this resonates with you and you can pay it forward and convince others to blog or fully develop your company website’s blog section.
Vikings – the Original Icelandic Bloggers – via Wikmedia Commons
The Awakening of a Blogger
By way of introduction to the Startup Iceland community, I recently took a leap of faith and quit a great job at Ernst & Young as the Director of Finance for the US Central Region audit practice to launch my company, Fearbox Solutions, LLC, focused on providing solutions to scary business side “boxes of fears” small to midsize startups. Part of my journey this past year included taking a view of both a need I saw in growing businesses as well as an introspective view of things that I was passionate about.
- Identifying the Business Need: After spending many years at Accenture and EY running everyone else’s consulting business, I knew all too well that most leaders and business owners would rather spend their time delivering services or goods to customers and usually needed someone to handle the scary business side (admin, filling their sales pipeline, tracking KPI’s).
- Identifying my passions:
- My passion was in building businesses in the area of tech innovation, not in my role dealing with a slow growing audit industry where only 2% of all Fortune 500 companies change auditors. I had my most fun as a professional in one of my last roles at Accenture in their “New Businesses” area, an area of hyper growth and made up off all sorts of small business, where I witnessed epic failures and successes (Accenture Interactive).
- One of my other passions was marathon running. I ran both the 2013 and 2016 Reykjavik Marathons, probably my favorite marathons among the 18 had run, and fell in love with the country and culture of Iceland.
Mark and twin brother, Mike at 2013 Reykjavik Marathon (left); Mark Schumacher – 2016 Reykjavik Marathon (right)
One night in early 2017 while browsing the internet, I thought to myself, what if I could fulfill my passion of working with startup companies – and do it in Iceland? I ran across an article in Forbes about Startup Iceland’s founder, Bala Kamallakharan, and tried to connect with him via LinkedIn. Amazingly, he accepted and I responded with an awkward, long winded LinkedIn message (not exactly the forum for long notes). Even more amazing, he asked me to take it offline via email with him.
One thing Bala suggested was that I start blogging. He said that blogging would help me look internally and what I was truly passionate about doing and clarify my direction and focus. Still amazed that someone in Iceland actually took the time to talk to me, I decided to consider this blogging idea.
It’s Not That Hard to Set Up a Blog
If I can do it, you can. Just search “how to set up a blog” and you will soon realize that there is more than enough help available to learn how to set up a blog and many of you are likely to be technically savvy.
I used this article by Amy Lynn Andrews to set up my blog and found it to be very comprehensive: Amy Lynn Andrews “How to Start a Blog”
Here’s what resulted: My Blog – “Schuguy’s Journey: My Professional and Personal Journey” https://www.markschumacheronline.com/
There are 3 main things to consider:
- Hosting Service: A hosting service with good help desk support can ensure that your blog is setup appropriate to your purposes. I have been very happy with Bluehost and I have also heard good things about GoDaddy.
- Security: As with any website, the main thing is to prevent your site from being hacked. There are all sorts of cynics who will recommend not purchasing security, but I would follow the recommendations of Bluehost.
- Platform: Two of the most common choices are Google Blogger and WordPress. Google Blogger is the easiest to use, but features are limited. WordPress is less intuitive and there are both free templates and templates that come with a cost. I would not spend more than $50-$60USD for a template, as you can purchase some full featured templates for that price.
- Cost: I’m a finance person by background, so I’m always concerned about budgets. Below is the cost of maintaining my personal blog. If you are considering building out your company website blog, the incremental cost is probably minimal.
So, What’s the Payback? Why Blog?
For me, blogging has done several things for me:
- Blogging helped clarify my direction: Before I made the leap to leave my position at Ernst & Young and launch my LLC, I wrote my first couple of blogs. The blogs not only stated that I was going to make the move but also detailed the type of positions I would consider (I had not yet decided to go out on my own). Blogging solidified my decision – I had to make the move. Actually seeing my decision in writing made me more confident of my choice and the reasons behind it. This could also work for a company blog where the company might be considering investing in a new product or direction.
- Blogging helped me determine what I am truly passionate about. One of my early blogs was about the mentoring I had been doing at 1871, our Chicago Center for Entrepreneurship. One of my main objectives as a consultant is to help companies and people become forces of good and become better versions of themselves. Another post was about the B Corp movement, a certification done by B Labs (a non-profit) that certifies companies as being socially and environmentally responsible, essentially, forces of good.
- Blogging is a way to build content: This is true in both personal and company websites. I did some considerable research on fintech and the challenges of the 1.1 billion people in this world who do not have identification. My blog gave me place to memorialize my research.
- Blogging helps build and communicate brand: More than a resume, a blog will provide your contacts with a deep perspective on your personal brand and what motivates you. Attention spans nowadays are short. Whether it be at networking events or in emails, people don’t have time to listen to you drone on about yourself. You can mention that you write a blog, send the link and let them read at their leisure.
- Blogging improves your self-confidence: It involves taking the risk that others (friends as well as people you don’t know) may not agree with you or may discredit the information you put in your blog. My experience so far has been that the world is “kinder” than I anticipated and people have truly appreciated the effort it took for me to post.
- Blogging may help you discover or re-discover things about yourself. I re-discovered my love for writing. Perhaps this was something passed down in our family – my grandfather maintained a diary when he immigrated from Switzerland through Ellis Island in New York in the early 1900’s, my twin brother was the editor of our high school newspaper and I now have a son majoring in journalism at Northwestern University near Chicago.
I hope you consider diving into the world of blogging. I would still consider myself a blogging “rookie” and I don’t publish as frequently as I would like. However, my return has been much greater than my cost of $13/month. My blog played a key role in determining my path and my passions. Take the advice from Bala Kamallakharan and from me, a blogging novice, and dive in!