Rewind time machine to 18 months ago.... As VP of Marketing for Business.com, I looked for ways to get entrepreneurs in touch with the resources they need everyday to get their job done. I started each day with coffee first...followed by a relentless focus on helping entrepreneurs connect with the 65,000+ business resources and vendors featured at our site.
As fate would have it, a fairly routine marketing exercise would prove to be a life-altering event. To better understand our customer, the entrepreneur, we fielded a survey across the millions of entrepreneurs that visited our site to learn their motivations.
We learned an interesting fact...a large percentage of our entrepreneurs were dads (and moms) that left the "rat race" in favor of a smaller business work environment where control over schedule and ability to balance work/life schedules reigned supreme. This often meant less pay and perks, but our audience found the improvement to quality of life more than worth the sacrifice.
The term we coined for these people? "Fatherpreneurs." And as a father of two sons, 6 and 2, this survey got me more than thinking: Was there a "Fatherpreneur" in me itching to get out?
I noticed it most at dinner time conversations with my 6-year-old.
"Dad, what kind of work do you do?" he'd ask.
"Well, son...we've found over 65,000 different business topics that business owners want and need, and by aggregating them all in one easy-to-find place they can come to us instead of filter through all kinds of irrelevant search results."
I could tell by the look on my son's face that he only heard the words that once appeared in a Gary Larson Far Side comic strip about what a cat hears when you're talking to it.
"Blah, blah, blah, son...blah, blah, blah, blah, son..."
It's in those moments that you quickly get a different perspective on just what you're adding (or taking) from the world and society in the daily routine of your job. A magnified look in the mirror, through the eyes of a 6-year-old, where the only things that reflect are the true essence of your efforts.
And that's when I knew it was time for a change. Time to be that "Fatherpreneur."
I thought back to the most gratifying work experience I'd had so far - a pro bono effort on behalf of NASA and the University of Illinois to educate kids on why space exploration is important, and how advancements in technology that result from navigating other worlds can benefit us all. Now that's a topic that makes kids light up! And seeing the kids get excited provided me with inspiration like nothing else had.
So, I left Business.com, looking to rekindle that inspiration. Preferably something within walking distance of my house, with incredible people, and an appreciation for audacious goals and thinking beyond the bottom line.
Could such an opportunity exist?
That's when fate conveniently stepped in... in the form of an email forwarded from a friend about how the X PRIZE Foundation was looking for an entrepreneurial person to join the ranks and help expand the brand on a global level.
The X PRIZE Foundation. That radical combination of promotion, capitalism, and daring scientific breakthroughs like the first private, manned space flight? With plans to launch more X PRIZEs in medicine, energy, education, and something as audacious as a private moon landing? With a desire to translate their competitions into things the mainstream public would enjoy as entertaining and intriguing online experiences? All within a non-profit organization with an educational mission to inspire the minds of our youth?
And right down the street from my house?
Sign me up.
So now here I am - in an organization founded by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. It's easy to be inspired in this environment, where out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged and our efforts are based on a desire to improve the world. X PRIZEs rely on the entrepreneurialism and good, old-fashioned gumption of competing teams to do things better, cheaper and faster. Plus, when I talk to my son at the dinner table about the X PRIZEs I'm trying to promote - starting a private race to return to the Moon, creating the cars of the future (yes, Hot Wheels are also hot with my 6-year-old) - it's something he can actually get excited about. My home life and my work life have reached a healthy balance, and that Fatherpreneur inside of me has been set free.