What Are You Going To Do Next?

On December 31st at 1pm, I packed 15-years of my professional life into three white cardboard file boxes and turned out my office lights at Sagient Research for the last time.  My departure had been in the works for almost 18-months, but right then in the finality of the moment, it seemed all too sudden and way too fast.  But with the flip of the light switch it was over, just like that. The number one question I’ve fielded over the past few months as I’ve told people of my decision to leave the day-to-day management of the company I started so long ago is, “what are you going to do next?”  The measurable shock (and mostly disbelief) on people’s faces when I tell them, “I have absolutely no idea,” has been priceless.  As someone who has always been a meticulous planner, to have no plan at all has seemed unnatural.  But, it’s been a great few months – to be rudderless, boundless, and listless all at the same time.

The second question that inevitably comes is, “does this mean you’re going to focus on wine full time?” or the variant, “when are you moving to Healdsburg to work on the wine full time.”  Sadly, the answers have been “no” and “not yet”, respectively.  We’ve been overjoyed at the quality of our first pinot noir (and your reactions to it so far) and we ramped up considerably for the 2009 harvest, but the reality is that we still have a long way to go before Bruliam Wines is a self-supporting, profitable venture.  And even when that happens, we don’t intend for Bruliam Wines to be a source of income for us – all profits are designated for charity.  Our reward is pursuing a shared passion, meeting and working with some really amazing people, writing off some of our wine purchases as “due diligence expenses”, and using this blog as an outlet for our pent up need to over-share.

That said, there has been one additional (and completely unintended) benefit I’ve received from Bruliam Wines.  Working with Kerith to create Bruliam Wines reminded me of just how much I enjoy starting new ventures.  So while I can’t fairly pin my decision to leave Sagient on Bruliam, there is no question that starting a wine company from scratch (while knowing absolutely nothing about starting a wine company) sparked the epiphany that I am much more energized, passionate, and focused at the start-up phase than managing the growth and operations phase of the corporate lifecycle. 

As we embark on 2010, my answer to the “what are you going to do next” question has shifted from “I have absolutely no idea” to “I’m going to start something new”.  That something new is only beginning to take shape and will probably change 50 times before there is anything of substance to write about. 

But, the most important parts - the passion and drive – are already there.  As Kerith will confirm, I was already busy by 10am on January 1st researching ideas and shooting off e-mails.

So much for retirement…