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Jeff Gadway: One Blind Date Away from a Decisive Career Path

As Co-founder at Galvanize Worldwide, an organization that brings access to the best talent in marketing and communications, Jeff Gadway approaches marketing as storytelling, where he works with people and companies who are eager to make their mark on the world. Jeff is fueled by a passion and curiosity to understand how all the pieces (product, market, strategy, customer insight) are brought together to tell a story that will have customers take notice and be moved to act.

“You need people in your life who will not only support you, lift you up, and be there for you when you’re struggling, but also call you out on the hard stuff, too. If you can find that balance in the same person, you’ve really won the lottery.”

Jeff Gadway

5 TAKEAWAYS FROM JEFF GADWAY, THE ONE AWAY SHOW EPISODE

1). Sometimes the people standing right besides you are the most influential and you don’t event realize it. Tremendous impact and influence is sometimes found right besides you without having to go look for it

2). Identifying the different criteria and categories of things that you might be looking for in a new career. Measure and gauge both of these opportunities against each other, using different categories.

3). Feel connected to your calling. Not all jobs will leave you feeling passionate and purposefully fulfilled, but it’s important to never settle for those jobs and to find one that allows you to follow your heart.

4). Find people in your lives who can not only support you, but also challenge you. Someone who can be your biggest cheerleader and objectively, realistically guide you… even if it’s difficult to hear

5). Understand the difference between a decision that is reversible or irreversible. Identifying this will save you time, energy and resources. With irreversible decisions, you can always start over

TRANSCRIPT:

BRYAN WISH: Do you mind sharing your One Away moment?

JEFF GADWAY: The story I’m going to share today is about my wife, Liz. She wasn’t my wife at the time. While she didn’t walk into my life for this particular moment, there’s a particular set of circumstances where I can really pinpoint the tremendous impact and influence that she’s had on my professional and personal development. That’s what I want to share about today.

BRYAN WISH:  You mentioned that she’s had a huge impact on your career. You met her through a blind date. Can you talk about where you were in your career when you met her, and how everything has changed over time because of her influence?

JEFF GADWAY: I met my wife, Liz, one summer during my college years. I was working a summer job at a gas company. A person I worked with said that she really needed to introduce me to a friend of hers. The four of us went out and grabbed drinks one night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a set up. It was a blind date.

I was immediately intrigued by this woman. We kind of had a Grease like romance. It was a summer relationship. We both went back to school and finished up our university careers, but then reconnected the summer as we were graduating. 

The weekend after I finished undergrad, fortunate circumstances brought us back into each other’s lives, and we started dating again. That was the beginning of our romance, and our relationship.

Fast forward a number of years, and we’d moved in together. We bought our first house together. I was in a really challenging spot in my career. I’d been very successful and had grown professionally. I was managing and leading a team and was highly respected at work. Despite it all, I was still feeling unfulfilled. I was feeling burnt out and lost, like I was without a rudder.

I’d made the decision to leave Blackberry, the company I was working for at the time. I was entertaining two different job offers. I’d talked to some of the big tech companies like Apple and Google, but I decided that wasn’t the path I wanted to go down. I wanted to work with a startup. I had two different offers in front of me and I was really struggling with which offer I should take.

On the one hand, the offer from an amazing up-and-coming tech company would have advanced my career financially and from a seniority perspective. I would have had a great title and have been leading this big team. It definitely would have padded my ego, not to mention my wallet. 

On the flipside, the other offer was a really great opportunity with a small, fast-growing startup. This position presented numerous other unique opportunities and values. My One Away moment was when I sat down with Liz. 

She asked me, “Why don’t you actually go through the exercise of identifying the different criteria and categories of things that you might be looking for in a new career? Measure and gauge both of these opportunities against each other, using those categories.”

I went through that first step and I wasn’t any closer to making a decision. Both of them presented some really interesting attributes. I said to Liz, “One of these really speaks to my wallet and one of these speaks to my heart.” They couldn’t be more different opportunities. 

Liz, in her endearing wisdom, said, “Jeff Gadway, I think you might have answered your own question right there.” She went on to explain how she heard me talking over the previous weeks and months about how I wasn’t feeling engaged in my current role. 

I wasn’t feeling connected. I wasn’t feeling passionate about what I was doing. She helped me to realize that what I needed to do at this stage of my career is really follow my heart. That was a decision that really changed the course and trajectory of my career for the better from that point on.

BRYAN WISH: It’s amazing how someone so close to us can see things so objectively that we can’t see and really influence and simplify. For people like you and me, who are creative and might have our heads in the clouds sometimes, it can be harder to see things on the ground floor. 

Before the show, you said Liz does a really good job of keeping you grounded, while still enabling you to think big. What does that mean?

JEFF GADWAY:  You need to find people in your lives who can challenge you, support your goals and dreams, and be your biggest cheerleader and supporter, even when you don’t fully believe in yourself. 

Liz is that person for me. She also helps me stay realistic. She isn’t afraid to challenge me and bring my attention to areas where I might have a blind spot.  During a long portion of my 20s, I would put work ahead of everything else:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • My own personal health

It was Liz who really pointed this out to me. She brought this issue to my attention. That kind of thing is always tough to hear, especially from a loved one. 

Even if it’s difficult, you need people in your life who will not only support you, lift you up, and be there for you when you’re struggling, but also call you out on the hard stuff, too. If you can find that balance in the same person, you’ve really won the lottery.

BRYAN WISH: How would you say Liz does that in her life? 

JEFF GADWAY: The interesting thing about Liz is she doesn’t come from a business background. I went to business school and studied marketing. The path I was on was very in sync or aligned with my studies and aspirations.

Liz has taken a very non-traditional path. When she went to school, she studied philosophy and thought she wanted to be an academic. Instead, she went into media and advertising. After pursuing a couple of other careers, she found herself running her own business.

I think what’s been great for her is surrounding herself with other entrepreneurs, particularly many other strong female entrepreneurs. It’s really beneficial for her to connect with other people who have been there. 

Since they’ve experienced many of the same challenges she has, she can use them as a sounding board. That’s a major way that Liz uses to find both grounding and inspiration to help her move her business forward.

Liz also runs a dog business. She’s had the opportunity to train with some of the best dog trainers in the world, including Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer. She’s worked with him a number of times. She volunteered under him at his ranch and took his training programs. 

Through those experiences, Liz has developed and curated a network of some of the best of breed dog trainers that exist in Canada and the U.S. She relies on those people for inspiration and ideas.

Liz always has somebody to go to who will pick up the phone when she’s experiencing a hurdle in her business. I find that very inspirational. Seeing her build this network over the last 4 or 5 years has really inspired me to take a more active and proactive role in curating my own network, too.

BRYAN WISH: She helped make your path more decisive and you ended up going with the decision where you didn’t follow the wallet, but you followed your heart. What experience was that? 

JEFF GADWAY: I ended up joining a company called Vidyard, a SaaS company backed by some heavy hitter VCs like Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures to really build a YouTube for business. 

I joined when the company was about 30 people. I was leading product marketing, but as is the case for a lot of startups, I wore a lot of different hats. That experience gave me not only exposure to SaaS and B2B marketing, but also a front row seat in a high-growth organization and access to the founder of that organization. 

Looking back now, working at that startup was ultimately a stepping-stone to launching my own business. In retrospect, I think my time there was what lit my entrepreneurial spark. I don’t know whether it was already there inside me like a pilot light, or if this experience really was the catalyst. 

Ultimately, it helped me get me comfortable with the entrepreneurial journey and gave me the opportunity to launch my own business. Without that first step into entrepreneurship through Vidyard, I don’t know if I would be where I am today. I’m very grateful for that. 

When I think back to my business school days, I’d always seen my trajectory as joining some kind of CPG company like Proctor & Gamble, rising through the ranks, and aspiring to become a CMO one day. That’s the path I’d always seen for myself because that’s what was modeled in my household. 

I don’t come from a household of entrepreneurs or risk takers. A traditional career path was all I had been exposed to my whole life. The real first experience I had with entrepreneurship was watching Liz dive into her passion and build her business. 

It was amazing to watch somebody with no business school background launching a joint venture. When she quickly realized there wasn’t a strong co-founder fit with her business partner, she ended up buying that person out. I saw her go through the process of enduring countless challenges with staffing and growing pains, and having to remove some people from positions and figure out hiring processes. 

I was so inspired by watching Liz create her company from the ground up, all from a front row seat. It was amazing how passionate and engaged she was with building this business. Combined with my Vidyard experience, seeing her succeed ultimately got me thinking that I could do this, too. 

I’m surrounded by people who have taken the entrepreneurial path and found it very fulfilling. I realized that maybe I should give it a try, as well. 

BRYAN WISH: When you were watching her succeed and it was inspiring you, did you ever feel at competition with the business she was building over the relationship? Or was it just feeling like, “I’m going to support your, Liz, 100%?”

JEFF GADWAY: I don’t think there was a sense of competition. With some entrepreneurial couples, one partner sometimes inherits the other partner’s passion and gets drawn into the business. Then, it kind of becomes a co-partnership in the business. 

We’ve always been very open about saying, Dog Haus is Liz’s thing; Galvanize is my thing. I love supporting her and being an extra set of eyes and sounding board for her, and I love when she does the same for me. We made a very deliberate choice to keep our businesses very separate because they really engage each of our individual passions. I think that’s important. 

That being said, earlier on, after a couple years of the Dog Haus being in existence, probably around when Liz was thinking about buying out her business partner, we did sit down and have a very candid conversation. 

At the time, I was starting to think about what was next for me in my career. This was when I was a Blackberry and had received some engaging offers from some different companies. I was presented with an opportunity to go work for one of the big four tech companies down in California and Liz was deciding what to do with her business.

I remember sitting at Starbucks one day and having a very candid discussion about the Dog Haus. I told her, “There’s really something here with what you’re building. Let’s pursue that together in terms of let’s not move to California. We can only do one or the other. It was either move to California for my career or really double down and plant our roots and Liz invest hard in the Dog Haus.”

I can’t remember how the conversation went, but I think we realized that we’d focused a large number of years on my career up until that point. We had made so many sacrifices so that I could continue to progress at Blackberry. Now, we were going to double down on Dog Haus. 

Even though that didn’t mean me stepping into her business because again, we wanted to keep those things separate. As a couple, as a partnership, we decided to focus on the decisions that would allow her to continue to grow and thrive. That’s a testament to the strong communication in our relationship. You have to be able to be mindful of not only your own priorities, but those of your partner, too. 

BRYAN WISH: Sounds like great give and take. Liz helped you take the harder decision. You didn’t pursue the wallet. You pursued the heart. That led you to Vidyard and that led you to starting Galvanize, the path that you never really envisioned for yourself. I think that’s really cool, and it’s something I never knew about you. 

What has that experience been like? What are you doing now? What have been the biggest personal growth challenges you’ve endured and overcome through this experience?

JEFF GADWAY: When I was at Blackberry, I had this mentor named Heidi Davidson. She was the Senior VP of Corporate Marketing. I really looked up to and respected her. I sought her out deliberately as a mentor. Eventually, that mentor relationship turned into a friendship. 

Sometimes, we’d wrap up our mentor meetings with us kind of “blue sky”-ing, what would we do if we were ever living in a post-Blackberry world? We joked around that maybe we should move both of our families to the Bahamas and our family would together start a Menchie’s Fro Yo franchise. 

After a while, I actually started looking into it. I downloaded the franchise e-kit and I built the business model to figure out how many ice creams I’d have to sell relative to how many cruise ship passengers came into Nassau every year. 

We started kindling this entrepreneurial idea. Fast forward to when I was at Vidyard, Heidi was no longer with Blackberry. One day, over some wine, Liz was with me in New York together with Heidi and her husband. We started brainstorming at her kitchen island. 

BRYAN WISH: What are some of the challenges that we faced working with global agencies?

JEFF GADWAY: At that point, we’d both managed global agencies before; multi-million dollar budgets. Still, there were a lot of things we needed to accomplish that we felt were gaps in our mutual experience.

Agencies don’t necessarily care about your business. They aren’t in it with you. I felt like there was a bit of a bait and switch. The senior people came in and sold the big ideas, After that, you were left with these junior people who really didn’t have the same level of experience.

We started brainstorming, and thought to ourselves, “What if we built an agency and approached it completely differently? What if it wasn’t an agency at all, but rather it was an extension of your team; you felt you had additional bench strength or additional bandwidth but people who weren’t just doers, who had the experience to also be strategists.”

It started as Heidi and I and then like most tribes, you find other tribe’s people who share your values, your vision, your philosophy. We started adding some more people and started going after some business. It seemed like there were a few different groups of customers who really saw eye-to-eye with that vision that we had. Growth stage startups who knew they needed marketing but didn’t want to hire up a full marketing team and wanted the ability to be nimble and agile and flex their marketing staff as well as larger businesses who didn’t want to hire a traditional agency of record but needed help augmenting their existing team members. 

We started building Galvanize under this model and here we are five years later. We’re poised to have our best year ever. Our network of independent contractors is up to about 68 people including people in Sri Lanka and India and Japan and Australia. It’s a really cool journey that we’ve ultimately been on since making that decision.  

BRYAN WISH: If I’m a listener and I want to know from you how to navigate this professional path, what might be one or two pieces of advice that you might leave them with?

JEFF GADWAY: One of the things I was thinking about was some reading that I’ve done on Jeff Gadway Bezos’ decision-making model. Once I figured this out, it liberated me a little bit. He thinks about decisions as falling into one of two categories. He calls them Type 1 and Type 2 decisions. One category are irreversible decisions. Decisions, once you make them and once you embark down that path, there’s no going back. 

The other category are reversible decisions where the implication of making that decision, you can kind of back out of it or double back. Once you start thinking about decisions through that lens, you realize that most decisions in life are probably reversible even if they’re big ticket decisions like choosing between two startup opportunities like I had to in my One Away moment. 

I realized that if I chose the wrong startup, sure, it’d kind of suck, but that’s not an irreversible decision. That’s a reversible decision. You can always go and find a different job. Just like when I decided to jump into Galvanize, even though I’d had the good fortune to be able to de-risk it by doing it as a side hustle for a while; when I decided to give up my full-time job at Vidyard and go both feet into Galvanize, that’s still a reversible decision. If it doesn’t work out, I can go get another corporate job. The overall risk isn’t that high when you start thinking about it in that way. Once you start realizing that, that’s a very liberating feeling because then your fear of failure goes away.

While I didn’t have that decision-making framework at the time, when I think back to supporting Liz with her decision to start her business eight or more years ago, she was faced with a very similar crossroad. 

She was trying to decide, “Should I go back to school for journalism, which is the safe route? Or should I embark on an entrepreneurial venture and start a dog daycare?” I said to her – I had read this somewhere, “If you’re at the foot of two hills and you don’t know which hill to run up, which one do you run up?”

It doesn’t matter. Just start running up one and if you realize it’s the wrong hill, you run down and you run up the other one. She ended up running up the journalism hill and she did one semester of J-School, realized it wasn’t for her. It didn’t fulfill her spiritually and mentally. She ran down that hill and then she ran up the entrepreneurship dog daycare hill and here we are, eight years later, and she’s still running. 

I didn’t have that wisdom in my own life at the time, but it’s something that I’d encourage people to give some thought to and think about is the decision you’re faced with a reversible one or irreversible one? If it’s reversible, then don’t spend too much time on it. Use the data that you have to make the best decision that you can and then go. If it turns out to be the wrong thing, you can always turn around and go up the other hill. 

BRYAN WISH: Where can people find you? How do they connect?

JEFF GADWAY: The best way to get in touch is to hit me up on Twitter @gadway. I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn. Add me. I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like, send me an email. I’m always up for talking to entrepreneurs, founders, or people who are trying to take their path. I love giving people advice or coaching. You can email me at JeffGadway@GalvanizeWorldwide.com

One Away Podcast
Catherine Kushan

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