Fog of Discernment

Earlier this week, I took this photo of a spider web through a fogged up window. This image reminded me of the decision-making process over the past three years which brought me to this new season of my career.  Foggy, unclear, with a web of potential pitfalls. This journey began with an overwhelming feeling of restlessness in the summer of 2012. It was at a networking event almost three years ago where I first had the vision of becoming a business owner. I wanted to own Upic. Deep down, I believe that I have always been an entrepreneur. As a kid, we lived on a gravel country road with four houses surrounded by farms. Seeing a need to give us something to do when school was out for summer, I collected all of the children’s books from the neighborhood kids.  I opened “Peace Library” (yes, I’m a child of the 60’s) out of our backyard shed,  charging a nickel to check out any book, including ones you had previously owned. I leveraged profits from the library to purchase 6.5 ounce Coca-Colas that may dad brought home from work, selling them with a 100% markup for a dime each.  And later I took those profits to purchase penny candy from the country store which I sold for a nickel each.  By the end of that summer, I had amassed $60 from the neighborhood kids and was the proud owner of a new digital clock with AM/FM radio—my very first technology purchase. I was in business! That experience taught me to find a need, take action and use my powers of...

Congrats on your retirement! Really?

Shortly after posting my decision to leave Upic in April, I attended the national United Way conference in Dallas.  At that point, the focus was on reassuring everyone that the organization so many trust for cloud services and application expertise was strong and growing.  (And believe me, the best is yet to come–you will be amazed what Upic reveals in a few months). What I did not anticipate was how many people would greet me with a version of “congrats on your retirement”.  My first reaction was, wow–do I look THAT old?  Quickly followed by: they must really think I’ve socked away lots of cash to retire at my age. Upon reflection, I realize the question was very natural.  Normally, when announcing your departure the focus is on the new pathway, the new opportunity.  My career at Upic has been anything but normal and the same is true for this transition period. As background, the Upic board and I began this dialogue in June 2014.  By that time, I had been working at Upic for 14 years–exactly 2x my tenure at any other position during my career.  I had an intuitive sense that United Way was facing a new season of challenge/opportunity.  And I felt “called” to leverage my experiences both inside United Ways and in co-founding Upic for a greater good.  Most career coaches advise against having these kinds of discussions without a clear exit strategy.  To their credit, our Board has been wonderful to work with as I explored several options. Last February, it was clear I had to take a “leap of faith”.  I didn’t think...

A New Generation of Leadership

Fifteen years ago, I formally joined the Upic Solutions team as the first consultant/employee of an emerging technology collaboration between several regional United Ways. Our goal was to see if we could expand the successful back-office project between two United Way organizations into a regional one. United Ways were then ill prepared to provide electronic pledge processing with new commercial providers beginning to enter the market, backed by millions of dollars of venture capital. Today, Upic provides information/technology services on a national scale to over 20% of United Way team members coast to coast. We provide a wide variety of both transactional and strategic technology services, pioneering innovation across United Ways large and small. I am proud to have contributed to the formation and building of Upic into the United Way’s largest and most trusted technology partner over the past fifteen years. Last summer, I began to engage the Upic board in a discussion about CEO succession, with a goal of reaching a decision by my 55th birthday in March 2015. As a career United Way team member since 1982, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our movement. And while we are doing essential IT services here at Upic, I have felt compelled to explore new ways to help address structural and systemic challenges facing both our United Way network and individual United Ways. As one stark example, in just the past six years United Ways have lost 30% of our national donor base (12.2M US donors in 2006 to 8.7M in 2013). I believe I have a unique set of experiences as a former United...