It was bound to happen eventually. You can’t expose someone to the entrepreneurial bug and not expect them to catch it. But before we get into all of that, let’s start with a little background for context. A little over 2 1/2 years ago I was an out-of-work network engineer. A career which, even through my 6 year stent in the military, had been for the most part my sole focus for my entire adult life and heck even some time before that (I’ve been a hardcore computer enthusiast since I was 8 years old). But the economy was bad, I had been without a job for about 7 months and my bank account was running dangerously low. It was time for me to start exploring other opportunities.

I made up my mind pretty quickly that even if I couldn’t get a job as a network admin or engineer I at least needed to still be in front of a computer. I didn’t really care how much I’d be making so long as I was making the rent. “It’s only temporary until the economy picks back up” I told myself. So I started hunting. I applied everywhere. I even applied at a tech support call center (who informed me that I was grossly overqualified, and then proceeded to hire my roommates pot-head boyfriend who lasted all of 2 weeks before being fired). Eventually I stumbled upon a craigslist posting looking for “Google search help”. It sounded simple enough. I figured if I could set up a computer network in Iraq in 125 degree temps under hostile fire, getting someone’s webpage listed in Google had to be a snap in comparison.

I fired off a resume, and when I got the call I rushed down in a suit and did my best to impress. I landed the job before I even knew what the heck the job entailed. I didn’t know it at the time but that interview would change my life, permanently.

Flash forward a year. I’d been conducting hardcore guerilla warfare style reputation management for my employer for some time. I’d completely fallen in love with SEO. What started out as a 35 hour a week job had quickly turned into a 16 hour a day obsession. I had gotten good. Damned good. I’d made friends in the search community. I was ready ditch the in-house job and step up to the big leagues. Agency work. I applied for a job opening at Distilled. I enlisted the help of Rand (using my 2 question credits at SEOmoz) for ANY insider tips to ensure I nailed the interview. It was happening. Not only was I going to get an agency job. I was going to get THE agency job. Working right with the Distilled-SEOmoz tag-team duo. I. Was. Stoked. I walked into my boss’s office fully prepared to tell him I was ready to blow this Popsicle stand.

It’s crazy how fast that plan of action was diverted. By the time I left my bosses office I had received a sizeable raise and an offer to build, direct and have partial ownership in my own agency in exchange for staying. Uh… how exactly does one turn something like that down? Needless to say, I didn’t. And thus Click2Rank was born.

Flash forward another year. Click2Rank spans 2 countries, has more than 20 employees, has gotten contracts with some of the biggest companies in the world, and has become a brand that other SEOs have actually heard about. My big dream for my little agency was starting to take shape. We were getting the culture thing down. We were getting some pretty frickin smart SEOs to come work with us. We were getting speaking engagements at conferences. We even had a new office on the horizon.

In just one short year I had taken both Click2Rank and myself from the realm of unknowns to the company of folks who had been at this biz for a decade. Needless to say, I was proud. REALLY proud. There was just one “small” problem. See my boss wasn’t a lone ranger. He and his wife are a bit of a dynamic duo when it comes to business. She didn’t really like the way our company was shaping up. So she came aboard, and with her change followed soon after. The cheeky t-shirts and designer jeans had to go. Flexible work hours? Gone. Spending money on conferences? Wasteful. Team Building events for the Philippine employees? Unnecessary expenditure. Unlimited Energy drinks for employees? Hell no. Too much fun in the office. It was time to get corporate.

The problem is when you nurse a company from birth and someone else comes in and tries to change it, your first instinct is to resist. To fight for the vision you are working towards. I even tried passing around copies of books like “Delivering Happiness“, “Smart and Gets things Done“, “Rework” and videos like Dan Pink’s “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us“. Let me just say that when you only have a very small stake, this is not that great of an idea.

It wasn’t long before a suitable replacement who found corporate rigidity and the new direction more palatable was brought in to head up the company and I was relegated to directing a department that essentially had no function: Product development. I know what you’re thinking. “Of course product development has a function”, and normally you’d be right except that one of the first decisions made by the new leadership was to let the developers go. It’s rather hard to develop products without developers. And so it went. Clients were turned away. Contracts were canceled. The focus shifted from external to internal. Brick by brick I watched as the company I had built with my own 2 hands was replaced with something entirely different with just enough cadence to keep the logo from falling off the front of the building.

That brings us to today. Jerry Maguire moment ala Kris Roadruck. I’d be hard pressed to say that the owners didn’t have a solid plan that made sense. If I’m putting my pride aside I can totally see their motivations, goals and to an extent understand their method of execution. But what I was completely unable to reconcile with was my new position as a mere placeholder in a company that was literally crafted out of my own blood sweat and tears. Building Click2Rank taught me what it was to be an entrepreneur. It also gave me the opportunity to expose myself to all sorts of information on company culture, leadership styles, and all the excitement that comes with working in a startup environment.

While I know that the “Corporate Culture” of reams of policies, and carrots and sticks, layers of bureaucracy and binding contracts that protect the company while damning the employee does in fact work for many of the largest companies in America, I also know that having been exposed to the alternative, I simply have no desire to take part in that style of company, leadership, or work environment. I had caught the bug. As I contemplated all this in the past week I knew without a doubt what had to be done. It was time for me to throw the dice. Take the big risk. Walk away from the guaranteed high-dollar salary and pursue opportunities that matched my new found set of values. So here I am. Not a CEO or COO. Not a Director. Not an Owner. Just a guy, who walked away from something big to pursue something bigger. Wish Me luck!

Philippine Team Surprises Me With a Parting Photo and Personal Letters

Filed under: Musings

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  1. Yeah, there are some industries where you need a shirt, tie, etc etc and all of the rest of the bullshit. This is not one of them. Bravo to you my friend and do it up well, you've got friends that you can lean on if you need it - and I'm one of them. Do it up big, man.
    • Kris Roadruck:
      Thanks for the support and vote of confidence Rob. As always you are a pretty kick-ass individual.
  2. I didn't know much about your background until reading this Kris, but have been consistently impressed with your passion, knowledge and growth. Looking forward to watching the next step!
    • Kris Roadruck:
      Still being newish to the industry... compliments like that from a guy who was one of the first people I looked up to starting out are worth their weight in gold. Hopefully I can continue to progress in a way that warrants those words!
  3. That's a huge step out into the abyss, Kris. I'm excited to see what's next for you. In only 2.5 years, I can only imagine what you'll accomplish in the next 2.5. Thanks for your continued high quality of content.
  4. Hi Kris, As Rand told, I did not know that much about your personal background, but - flashback - I followed you since your first steps into the SEO scene and admired you deep and fresh intelligence and totally astonished of the level of expertise you have gained so fast. I wish you good luck, you ask for it... But you don't need it, because surely you will build even something bigger of everything you have built until now. Just one thing I do really wish you: to always do what you really love to do. See ya Kris :)
  5. I saw you speak at the link building conference in New Orleans. If you made it that far in SEO in the 2.5 years you spent leading up to that I'm sure you'll have some good opportunities come your way. Good luck.
  6. Go baby go. I suspect you'll be owning the world shortly. Or at the very least, a nice chunk of it.
  7. I've walked away from ownership too, Kris, and I know it's a tough call. Sometimes, it boils down to a realization that "I don't want my name associated with the ownership of a company like this". I have no doubt you'll be successful in whatever your next venture turns out to be. You've got the necessary drive and focus, and I look forward to rooting you on from the sidelines. And the experience you gained will prove invaluable. ;) Break a leg!
  8. Congratulations, it takes balls to wake away from something big. It usually takes an entrepreneur to their third business before they make it big. The wonderful thing about business is that you can always start over and take what you learned to build something better. I started my first business in IT in 2001. Believe me I know how frustrating it can be to start over again but as long as you know where you're going as well as how to get there you'll have no problems crushing it. God Speed!
  9. You see things through. You created something fun, useful, and viable. Most importantly, your company was making money. Having seen a lot of start-ups fold in Silicon Valley, having known people who dedicated years of their lives to something that had pay off of $0, I can tell you - you should be proud of your company. Even though it is sad to leave, you will be the one who is better off in the end. Good luck on your next project.
  10. One of the hardest times in my life was a decision to walk away from a changing job situation that left me in an awkward position. Even though it would have paid great I didn't feel comfortable with my future so I decided to start again from scratch. I was angry at the company & owners. I was angry at the situation. But ultimately, it was the best thing that ever happened. I was able to build something meaningful from the ground up on my own dime with no interference from others. While it took longer to bootstrap, It was worth it in every aspect. You have the skill, you have the drive, I look forward to seeing what you do. *Side Note - I left the company on decent (but not great terms) even though I was very angry. It took a year + but things turned around, and now my crew and I do a ton of work for the owners of the company I left. Always amazed at how things play out.
  11. Kris, without a doubt you are one of the more colorful people I have met in this business. I am AMAZED you did not get shot in Iraq, because you my friend stand out. It's like your painted dayglow. Don't worry. It's a good thing and you use it to your advantage. I would like to impart you with some wisdom etc but you don't seem the type to take it nor need it. I on the other hand should conserve what little I have left. With that, good luck. Please keep us updated.
  12. Sorry to hear about the situation, Chris - I left a company I helped build, too, although it took me 8 years to realize I needed to get out. The good news is that all of what it took to do what you did - the skill, the work ethic, the courage, and the connections - it all goes with you. I guarantee you can make it happen again. Also, just wanted to commend you on the maturity of the post. It's natural to take these things personally, but it's a lot harder to build a bridge than to burn one.
    • ...and I suddenly just realized that I spelled your name "Chris" even though I know it's "Kris" and typed in your domain by hand. Consider this my formal apology for brain-deadness.
  13. Jeremy Bencken:
    I think your former partners are foolhardy to fix what isn't broke. Especially when it sounds like it was about style points. They just lost one of the top 1% of experts in SEO in my opinion, in exchange for control. It would be like letting Wozniak walk out the door because the guy refuses to take off the Hawaiin shirt and Birkenstocks. Bad idea... Best wishes for your next endeavor, I know it will be great.
  14. JadedTLC:
    Congrats on moving forward. For taking a risk, I don't think I could make. For making a name for yourself and then some. Enjoy tomorrow. Your next endeavor. You will make every moment successful; I truly believe that.
  15. Congrats on making the move. Looking forward to hearing what's next.
  16. Their loss. While it must be extremely hard to see something you build get turned upside down, I'm sure she did you a favour. You'll continue rocking, but on your own terms and with the stake you deserve. Godspeed!
  17. WilliamC:
    Kris, it was awesome working with you for the short few months we had. I know you will come out on top and I look forward to seeing it happen. Best of luck and stay the course. :)
  18. Best of luck Kris.
  19. As always there are always two sides of the story and having read both relelvant blog posts, I find yours a bit more honest in my opinion. I have always found your posts and discussion to be real, while others more blowhard. Wish you the best of luck Kris, I know you'll land on your feet, if your at Pubcon this year Ill buy a round or two! Dave
  20. +1 for the honest post, it sounds like you know where you want to be, good luck getting there!
  21. Hey Kris, Thanks for sharing your story. So, now that you're free to pursue the next big thing, what will that be?
  22. I do wish you luck but not in the terms that most people know it as... I call it "Labor Under Correct Know" which it seem you have. So, good L.U.C.K.
  23. [...] just kicking back and having drinks served to us on a private island somewhere. Recently Kris had a wee bit-o drama in his life that brought in to focus for me the need to always be leading and not letting changes [...]
  24. Thanks for sharing this story with us Kris. Nice things happen to nice guys... I know you have an image to protect, but I've met you and I could tell you have drive, passion for what you do and kind eyes. I wish you the best of luck and if I can ever be of any help please don't hesitate to contact me!
  25. Always inspiring to see somebody with enough courage to follow their heart. Best of luck with the next chapter.
  26. Jen Drennon (Miller):
    Didn't know you left them... Good for you... Best of luck in your adventure! You will do big and amazing things! I know this ;) j
  27. Give 'em hell Kris! Best of luck!
  28. just want to say "go blackhat" lol
  29. Thanks for this post. Takes a lot of balls to walk away from a situation like that, especially considering you created the foundation for their future success. One thing I've learned being on my own is that taking the leap is the greatest feeling in the world. "One door opens and another closes. It's the hallway that's scary."
  30. Bob:
    I know the "dynamic duo" you are talking about and they are well known as some of the biggest crooks in the Olympia area. Too bad they had to ruin things and run your company into the ground like they have their other businesses due to their greed and dishonesty.
  31. Caroline Gerardo:
    Being great means getting back up more than they ever dreamed...
  32. Jey:
    Quid pro quo. You paid back more than what you owed and in due time, will earn your recoup.