katie’s last day at schipul

[This post was written on December 16 and I never hit publish. I removed some of the mushy stuff. And as I have said many times “bad news fast” so let me say first that I regret the chaos of Katie’s last day. I’ll make it up to you Katie.]

Some people are just more difficult than others. And some people are REALLY more difficult than others.

Shut up. I’m not talking about myself.

I’m talking about Katie. Katie Laird. And I’m writing this on the last day she works for me. And that is sad for me as a person who will miss walking in to her office and rambling on about everything from Edward Bernays, to the latest Dan Keeney email that even we think is perhaps too full of candor, to our PR efforts to help April and the Silicon Valley office, or to discuss our latest ideas to save the cheerleader or at least save the world through Netsquared.

It is also a happy time for me because I love Katie in one of the 10,000 ways a person can love. And “love” isn’t a word I use without thought. Nope, this lady is unique. She is taking the next step in her mission and vision and I respect that. Even if I did manage to get us locked out on the 15th floor roof of our building on her last day because I wanted to say goodbye without 1000 interruptions that go with running a growing business.

Aaron hired Katie as a graphic artist ‘back in the day’. Kelly was our Communications Director at the time. Kelly was amazing of course, as she still is and I think she is even teaching the APR courses at PRSA Houston. When Kelly left, Katie proactively observed the (numerous) balls I was dropping and, well, I’m not even sure if she asked. She just did. She picked up the reins and was doing our PR in addition to her responsibilities as a designer. I’m not sure how it happened. That’s what happens with high performance individuals I have learned. Sometimes they run over you to achieve what is ultimately in your best interest as a leader and what is in the best interest of the company and the tribe. Katie did.

And Katie, or @happykatie as so many call her, did that. She just DID. I’m not even sure that I, as the CEO, had a vote in it. She is a force of nature.

Keep in mind this is a woman is a cupcake expert, a Nintendo gamer, a pilot (yes, like real airplanes), a Mom to an amazing little girl named Ella, a philanthropist who gives of her time and money to so many different causes. It’s kind of like shaking hands with a beautiful tornado. But not to worry, Katie is almost always in a great mood. (A desirable characteristic when it comes to tornados from Kansas.)

I have given so many talks over the last 6 years where not only the slide deck, but the research behind the slide deck, was done by Katie. She can meet with me for 10 minutes, ask a few questions, and two days later I have a presentation deck that makes me look like a hero presenting to a national section of PRSA in New York. She is that good. That and Katie herself is an accomplished and sought after public speaker in her own right. Check out Katie’s slideshare here. I have no doubt her public speaking requests will continue and surpass mine in the near future. She rocks as a speaker.

And OK, I admit it. It doesn’t hurt that Katie is the founder of Houston Dr. Sketchy’s. Always a great excuse to spend a Sunday afternoon at AvantGarden drinking wine and photographing models and friends. (Unless she revokes my “archivist” privileges, I know I’ll get to see her and Adam, and sometimes Ella, at least once a month.)

There is great joy in seeing people like Katie grow. Visiting her in the hospital when Ella was born. Jumping on an airplane to San Francisco for a one day trip with little notice to find out about this TechSoup Netsquared thing. Taking photos on the roof to show off the latest hand crafted scarf she made. Trying different advertising and acknowledging what fails, and trying again, and celebrating what succeeds knowing it is bringing in leads that become clients. To not get her a band aid, but instead say “wait, let me take a photo” when she skinned her knee riding a plasma car down the top of the parking garage. To enjoy those experiences with a co-worker you have to care. And I do. I care very much and to care it becomes personal. And Katie is leaving after over six years. And that brings a sense of loss.

Did I mention she planned and ran SchipulCon 2011 this year? Without Katie we would not have seen Dries and Matt on the stage together. It was a team effort, but she was the team leader for the whole event. (and a shout out to David and Al for the idea and the vid of course.)

And then Katie had me roasted. Very funny. Very Katie.

I know I am missing a ton of Katie’s accomplishments. And memories she created. She has been the driving force for the Schipul and Tendenci brands for years. So much so that she rejected a blog post I wanted to put on the Schipul blog because it wasn’t “on message.” (Her rejection notice/email said something about “snarky” but I’m not sure what her point was #heh). In fact I’m posting this on my personal blog and linking to it because I know Katie wouldn’t think this blog post was “on message with the brand” either. She is a true brand steward. She cares about her work.

I’m proud of Katie in that she is following her passion and going after what, after much introspection, she feels is the best next step for her.

As a CEO, you always feel a bit like a failure when you lose a top performer. It means that you didn’t grow the company fast enough to keep them challenged. Or you didn’t increase profits enough to increase their compensation commensurate with their new skills, abilities, knowledge and mostly the RESULTS they produce for the company. And the next person who tells me “don’t take it personal” gets bonked on the head by Ded Bob from the RenFest because it means they have never walked a mile in the shoes of a company founder. I’m not sure I would even want to be a person who didn’t feel the human loss as well as the professional loss when a high performer leaves the company.

Make no mistake, this is a loss for Schipul Technologies Inc. And a huge gain for my friend Jay Steinfeld, the CEO of Blinds.com where Katie is going. Jay, you don’t just owe me a beer. No sir. This calls for something more like a bottle of Opus One. But I can’t fault your choice of talent. You have excellent taste indeed.

Take care of Katie for me please. She rocks.