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2010 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: 2010 in Retrospective: Mike Cottmeyer Edition

2010… the year LeadingAgile the blog became LeadingAgile the company.

You know guys… 2010 has been a hell of a year. Twelve months ago I had left my job at VersionOne and joined Pillar Technology. I was brimming with excitement about my new opportunity. A few months ago, I left Pillar and ventured out on my own… still brimming with excitement, but now the context is totally different. It’s amazing what can change over the course of just a few months.

As I look back over the course of my career, the most difficult times were the one where I learned the most. This year was no exception. I knew when I joined Pillar that I was venturing into uncharted new territory… I knew that I was going to have to learn a ton to be successful. If I had that deal to do over, I think I’d set more reasonable expectations from both of our perspectives. We set ourselves up for failure… and a lot of unnecessary heartburn.

I know I learned a lot working with the guys at Pillar… and I bet that the guys at Pillar learned a lot too trying to work with me. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to figure out how to work together better. With all due respect to the sales guys out there… it is a tough thing to sell with integrity. You have to truly believe the customer has a need… and you have believe you are the guy to fill that need.

If either side of the sales equation is off, the process can feel pretty queasy. It took me a while to figure out what I could sell with integrity… and by that time, things had gone far enough South that both of us were done with each other. In all honesty… five or six months later… I’m still not really settled about how things turned out. It’s a shame on many levels and I wish it would have turned out differently.

But anyway… I tell you guys this to set the context for my lessons learned for 2010 and to share with you some of what I’d like to accomplish for 2011.

Kind of like last year… this year is all about building business and working with Dennis to finish the book. The trick is to do all of that while spending time with Kimi and the kids and managing to take care of myself. I turned 40 this year and realized that I’ve got to take better care of myself if I want to be able to run at this pace for any length of time.

To that end I’ve got a list of things that I plan to do less of this year:

I’m going to do my best to eliminate unnecessary travel. That means that I’m going to show up at less conferences and community events. It also means that I am going to moderate back the amount of travel I do for face to face meetings, and do as much as I can remote. I want to be involved with Agile2011 and maybe one of the PMI events, but past that, I plan to stay in Atlanta.

Also in the ‘less of’ category, I’ve decided that I’m done working for other people. I knew after just a few months of working for VersionOne, I was ruined on Corporate America. I think that being an independent has ruined me for working for anyone other than myself. You can never say never, at the end of the day I’m pretty pragmatic, and I do value paying my bills. That said, working for yourself is the way to go if you can make it happen.

That brings me to the things I want to make sure keep working well:

I’ve been very fortunate that most of my client work as been in Atlanta. Working in Atlanta keeps me off the road and less guilty leaving Kimi and the kids when I do travel. I want to keep doing work in Atlanta and that means continuing to stay invested in Scrum Atlanta and Agile Atlanta, and also in the PMI community here in town. I plan to continue investing in my existing clients and hopefully maintain an ongoing relationship with the folks that already know and trust me.

The other thing that’s been working well is the amount I’ve been billing. The last few months I have not had any unplanned bench time. That’s not going to be sustainable over the long haul, but for now… being busy is good. All the stuff I am working on is pretty high leverage. The client work is contributing the getting the book written and the book is helping me support my clients. If I can stay working 5 days a week… that is good for me right now.

Which brings me to the list of stuff I need to do more of:

I’ve mentioned that I plan to start taking better care of myself. That means eating better and drinking less (he says sipping on his glass of merlot). It also means going to the gym more and actually doing some serious exercise. I hired a personal trainer to work out with me once a week for the next year. Hopefully that will give me the motivation I need to really lean into staying fit.

For the past few years, my life as been mostly work and family. On the surface that is a good thing, but I’ve got a few hobbies that never seem to get much attention. I am passionate about playing guitar and I plan to refocus on learning some new stuff. I’m also passionate about the outdoors and plan to sleep outdoors much more often over the next 12 months. Finally, my son and I started learning German last year but abandoned it after a few months. I think we are going to restart.

Finally, I am going to focus more effort this year on writing. I’ve always written to explore and share what I am learning… the problem is that the stuff I was learning was more about the sales process, and how sell with integrity, and I just didn’t want to write about it here. It’s also tough writing about things I experience with my clients because some of them read this blog… and you have to work really hard to be respectful of their specific situations. As I refocus on the book, I think that is going to help me generate more content overall.

I’ve got the next few months booked up and am pretty sure Q2 will fill up based on the stuff I’ve got in the pipe. I plan to go all-out until the fall and then try to moderate back a bit. One of the things I am really looking forward to about being an independent is working with some of the great talent out there making stuff happen. I want find opportunities to work with other folks in the Agile community and learn from their experiences. That is going to require some space on the calendar.

In closing… I just want to say how thankful I am for this community and the opportunities it has afforded me any my family. I am thankful for the opportunity I had with Pillar and thankful for the success I’ve had since leaving. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m looking forward to see what emerges in 2011. It’s exciting to think about all the change that came in 2010… it will be fun to see what unexpected changes 2011 has in store.

Next My, How the Times Are a Changin'

Comments (8)

  1. Agile Scout

    Fantastic post. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go from here. The sky is the limit my friend!

  2. Chris Williams

    Nice insight on going it alone. I hope to attend
    Agile 2011 or LSSC this year. If you are ever in
    FL, let me know.

  3. Jorgen Hesselberg

    Great post, Mike – and very inspiring. I went through a similar situation with an employer a few years back and I’m a much better person for having gone through it. Ultimately, we put so much of ourselves into our job so it’s essential that you can do your work with integrity. If this becomes a problem you have no choice but to do what you did – leave. I have no doubt you’ll be happier, more successful and in the end a more effective agile professional in your new venture.
    Here’s to an awesome 2011!

  4. Mike Cottmeyer

    If I am every down your way, I will definitely give you a call. Hopefully we can have a beer in Dallas… I am not going to the LeanSSC event… it’s that staying home thing I talked about ;-)

  5. Joe Astolfi

    Hey Mike,
    Best wishes to you in the New Year! I respect that you are limiting your travel, but I really hope you make it to Columbus for “The Path to a·gil·i·ty” Conference on May 26, 2011. We would love to have you back, and I’m sure the agilists and aspiring agilists here would benefit from your insights. Can I sway you with the promise of an ice cold Columbus microbrew???
    All the best,

  6. Daniel Davis

    Good stuff Mike! Although I am sad you left Pillar (mostly for my own personal reasons), I wish you the best and look forward to the day our paths cross again.

  7. Mike Cottmeyer

    Joe… contact me offline for details mike [at] cottmeyer [dot] com. I’m open to talking about it… and a cold Columbus microbrew is very tempting ;-)


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