A New Year – A New Chapter In My Life

Today is a pretty monumental day in my life. As of today I’m officially no loner an employee of Protos Marketing; a company I started in my basement back in January 2004. It wasn’t called Protos Marketing back then, but rather it was just a single website under a handshake partnership called Poker Source Online. It was a combination of being at the right place at the right time and a lot of hard work that made us unbelievably successful. Over the past 7 years our success allowed us to grow and make acquisitions. The company that resulted is now known as Protos Marketing.

I’m still a significant shareholder in Protos Marketing and will be involved as Chairman of the Board for the foreseeable future, but the reigns of the company have been turned over to our new CEO, Adam Small. I’m still very emotionally invested in the company, so today is a bitter sweet day in a lot of ways. It’s hard to turn your “baby” over to someone else. However, I feel really good about this because I think the company will be better off without me at the helm in a lot of ways. I also think we got really lucky to find Adam, someone I’m confident will do a great job running things.

I give advice, to my employees and friends, that you should “always be training your replacement” at any job. Some people are scared to lose their job and hold on as tightly as they can to it. Successful people are always training someone else on how to do their job, so they can be replaced and move onward and upward. That is the situation I found myself in towards the end of last year, when I realized it was best for me to gracefully step aside. I’ve never been a greedy person and feel that it’s in the other shareholders and employees best interest not to have my salary hitting the company any longer. It’s not because the company can’t afford to pay the salary, but an inherent trait to want to feel good about any job I’m doing – even if it’s for my own company. The bottom line is I didn’t feel like I could do enough to contribute on a day to day basis to justify what I was being paid. I don’t believe in doing to others what I don’t want done to myself. So, when I could no longer say in good faith that I would pay someone else the same amount of money to do what I was doing, that was the end of the road for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I found myself in this position. I think it boils down to two things:

1. The core of the company is located in Costa Rica and I’ve been based in the Cayman Islands or Las Vegas the past two years. It’s resulted in me feeling very disconnected from the business. I’ve discovered that no matter how many phone calls, AIM conversations, video chats, or periodic visits you have it doesn’t come close to actually being there. I think that it’s vitally important for the CEO to be interacting with as many employees as possible on a continuous basis. I was only able to interact with 5 or 6 people on a continuous basis in a remote location. I seriously considered moving back to Costa Rica to rectify the situation, but I didn’t think that was a good option for my family or my personal / mental well-being.

2. I’ve honestly lost my passion for the online poker industry. It’s not because I don’t have a personal interest in poker any longer; I still find myself watching Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker all the time. I also enjoy heading to the casino from time to time to play some cash games or even a tournament. It has more to do with how the industry has evolved and the type of people in this industry. While there are good people in this industry, they are few an far between. I’ve met over 1,000 industry people over the past 7 years and I can hardly think of 10 I want to continue a relationship with. I should have realized what we were getting into when someone copied our idea and content word for word in the first month of business, then told the poker rooms we were stealing it from them. This is the kind of people you are dealing with in the online gaming industry. It’s just total sleaze and it’s ramped. I’m not naive enough to think this stuff doesn’t happen in other industries, it just happens more in online gaming.

Since I’m officially moving on and starting a new company, Terran Marketing, I think it’s important to reflect on the past several years and learn from any mistakes I’ve made. I’ve always said there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, just as long as you don’t make them more than once. People who never make mistakes are simply not taking chances; people who don’t take chances simply can’t be successful.

1. Surround yourself with good people – This has to be the most important thing I’ve learned. You can’t tackle a problem, project, or build a company without top talent and passion. Simply hiring more people (quantity vs quality) won’t solve anything either. Top talent demands top dollars and it’s worth it in the end! Having someone who does such a good job that you simply don’t have to think about that particular aspect of the business any loner is worth their weight in gold. At Terran Marketing I’m going to do my best to grow things at a rate that allows me to evaluate many people on a contract basis before adding them to payroll on an ongoing basis.

2. Keep overhead to a minimum – It’s really easy to let spending get out of control. A pet project here, a pet project there, and next thing you know it’s a major drain on the balance sheet. We were horrible about this at Protos for years and I’m happy to say the problem has almost totally been rectified at this point. It’s something I’ve learned from and will do a much better job of keeping track of at Terran Marketing.

3. Don’t start too many projects – This was a major problem at Protos. It was never a lack of ideas that got us in trouble. It was a combination of not having enough of item number 1 above, not staying focused on the project until it was done, and having too many projects to be able to keep track of the details. As I embark on this new era, I already find myself with more ideas than resources to tackle them. I’m going to do my best to ensure that each project I start is completed 100% and has the necessary ongoing resources before starting anything new.

I’m excited and optimistic to see how Protos Marketing evolves in this new era. I’m also excited to see what progress Terran Marketing makes. I definitely plan on taking things very slow to start with because I need somewhat of a break. However, I’m not wired to just do nothing. Over time I hope to prove to my wife, my parents, my critics, and myself that Protos wasn’t just a fluke. I’m looking forward to documenting the trails and tribulations of Terran Marketing via this blog. Hopefully it will allow others to learn from my mistakes and from my wins.

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and successful, 2011.

3 Comments

  1. I have known Mike since before he started Pokersource (Protos). Always innovative, always visionary. I think telling people the story of his company and its very humble beginnings is one of my favorite entrepreneur stories to tell.

    I have met other people at Protos and I am sure the company is in great hands. I am also sure that Mike will be successful in his next endeavors.
    Mike you are truly an inspiration to entrepreneurs and I am proud of everything you accomplished and of the lessons you have learned.

    Good luck with your next move!
    Michael Kupfer
    CEO
    Black Diamond Technologies

    Reply
  2. Always a source of sound advice.

    Good luck to you Mike.

    Reply

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