It’s been so nice hearing from people throughout the community with kind words and congratulations regarding the acquisition. Makes for a very nice weekend (if only Duke – my alma mater – had won in the 2As)!
In my last post, I laid out some of the background to the acquisition, why we went in this direction, and why I think it’s important not just for us but for the entire industry. In this post, I just wanted to lay out some of the immediate implications – especially for folks I think of as “Friends of Semphonic”.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the details:
For those who have been around or followed Semphonic for a while, and particularly for the body of X Change loyalists, one of the first questions I get about the acquisition is “What about X Change?”
Don’t worry. X Change Berlin and X Change Laguna Niguel are on, intact, and unchanged. Let me underline the unchanged part. X Change has obviously been a big part of the Semphonic brand and it’s very unusual format and feel have always been representative of how we like to approach things. Fortunately (and I think this is one of the things that makes me believe we’ve found a great home), the E&Y folks feel very much the same way. I will admit that the craziness attendant on an acquisition have put me a bit behind on X Change here in the U.S. – but I plan to rectify that in the next couple of weeks. Berlin, meanwhile, is humming along. Matthias will continue to be the Conference point person. We’ve got our Huddle Leaders, our Keynote (which should be terrific) and we’re already more than half full with months to go. So if you’re thinking about registering, do it!
As for X Change here in the U.S., not only is it going forward, but we're even considering taking the concept and building it out in some other analytics practice areas. Maybe someday we’ll have multiple analytics X Changes and even an opportunity to cross-pollinate a bit and share some time with colleagues in other disciplines.
Longer term, the story around Europe might be a little different. Our unit is going to be North American focused. I’m hoping to have the European analytics practices of E&Y come out and check-out the Berlin Conference this year – we’ll see how it goes.
Lots of people have also asked about the blog. I understand why. I’ve seen other acquisitions and it often seems like people go dark – especially when they become part of a big organization. I really don’t want that to happen. This blog is one of the many enjoyable aspects of my work – but that probably understates it a bit. Like X Change, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Here too, the news is good. I fully expect to be blogging going forward. So if my productivity flags, it will be on my head alone. I can’t promise to always blog – sometimes the press of work is just too much - but I’m going to do my best to continue the once-a-week pattern with very much the same type of output. I may be moving the blog over to an E&Y location (something I had long planned to do with Semphonic) but that isn’t all worked out yet.
As I mentioned in my first post, virtually the entire Semphonic consulting team is coming over. So for our clients the disruption should be almost nil.
Because we’re U.S. focused, Matthias Bettag will be spinning out but will continue to work with us on X Change. That hurts – I know we’re both disappointed. He has been a pleasure to work with in every respect. I count Matthias not just as a great colleague and analyst but a friend.
For those who know Semphonic as something more than a brand and from our public persona, it’s also the case that there’s a much bigger change that I can't help but touch on. Joel Hadary, co-founder and partner for the last fifteen years is going to retire. Joel has run every aspect of Semphonic’s business for the last umpteenth years – from HR to taxes to IT to contracts to billing to finance. At every step along the way, he’s been the guy keeping Semphonic whole, running smoothly and working well. He’s freed me up to work almost exclusively on the things I really enjoy. I suspect that all my readers (who are all people who do or manage analytics after all) know how much that means.
He’s also a friend who I’ve shared decisions with for so long I can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t that way. Over all those years, we had plenty of disagreements but we never had the least doubt that we could talk them through and jointly decide what to do. It’s been a remarkable partnership and one of the best business experiences of my life. We’ve trusted each other absolutely and never had the slightest reason to regret it. It’s fair to say that we went down this path of seeking an acquisition at least partly to make it possible for Joel to retire (in style). Joel’s kids are all grown up, he’s got grand-kids, he’s got a lovely, lovely place in Sonoma with olive and apple trees, and he wants to be able to relax a little. I get it. Give me ten years, and maybe I’ll be there too. For now, though, you’d have to drag the laptop from my cold, dead hands to get me out of the business!
I’ll miss him.
Hey, I love Semphonic, but the brand is going away and while I will admit to feeling more than a bit sad about that, I don’t think any other decision would be even plausible. Let’s face it, there are better names out there. Even most of our competitors had cooler names, which always bugged me a bit. The story behind the name is a bit odd; and, annoyingly, I have to spell it constantly. Even our client’s struggle with it. And, of course, outside of the digital analytics community Semphonic might as well be "Ziblikgrhven" for all anyone’s ever heard of us. I do hope to continue to build the digital analytics brand for E&Y. While I know that leaving the name behind will be hard for all of us old-line Semphonic folks, a name is what you make of it. The people and work are what drive brand, we plan to continue to excel at both.
The Personal Stuff
Readers of my blog know that I rarely dip into the personal side of things. This space is meant and will likely always be intended as place for professional reflections. But I write so much that at least a little bit of the personal will always leak through and with such a profound change, I think it’s fair to dip briefly into the personal side of things.
As I more than hinted at above, I don’t plan to go anywhere else. Every acquisition carries with it risks. So does stasis. Semphonic as a thing I owned has been a huge part of my life – and the very best, richest part of my working life. I’ve come to love my work rather more than I ever expected to - starting out as someone who never had much career direction and once swore I’d never have a 9-5 job (at least that part’s “literally” true). It’s gratifying to have brought it to this level and to have a clear milemarker of success. But to put this in basketball terms, I’m not one of those teams ready to measure success by making the Sweet 16.
There will be changes of course. Big and small. Everything from having a boss, to giving up my old jeans in the office routine, to commuting into downtown San Francisco instead of Novato, to having people know the name of the company I work for. Does it scare me? Sure it does. It’s the biggest jolt in my professional life since the dot.com bust, maybe even since before that.
There were probably safer choices in the acquisition space; choices that would have involved less change and less risk for me and for all of us. But this felt like the right choice given where I'd like the business to go. Six years ago (or thereabouts), Joel and I made a conscious decision to change our practice from a personal consultancy to a consulting business. To start talking and writing about our work. To engage with the broader community and to try and grow a Web analytics practice that mattered. It worked pretty darn well.
I believe this is the next step in that journey.