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Saddling up to the challenge

Life is about choices. As I have studied the lives of successful leaders and entrepreneurs, I have noticed a common theme of courage as it relates to the difficult choices in life and business. These individuals did not lack fear, but instead they overcame it. As John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death . . . and saddling up anyway.” Similarly, Nelson Mandela noted, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” One of the biggest decisions in life for the entrepreneur is to actually make the leap to pursue that path. Often, this means leaving a stable and secure job for the uncertainty of the life of an entrepreneur. Moving from a steady W-2 paycheck to the financial insecurity of entrepreneurship can be unnerving. I have stood at the ledge with many potential entrepreneurs as they struggled with the doubt and fear that sets in.

I visited recently with Patrick Norman, co-owner of Norman Shull, a digital marketing firm based in Jackson, about this topic. Norman was a co-founder of Bomgar Corporation with Joel Bomgar and Nathan McNeill. Bomgar is a real Mississippi success story as it has grown from a start up to being a multi-million-dollar enterprise with over 5,800 customers in 65-plus countries. Joel, Nathan, and Patrick were all friends and classmates at Belhaven University. Upon graduation, Norman took a job with an insurance company as a claims adjuster. Norman was newly married so this was a safe and secure job for him. However, he was not passionate about his job nor did he see how is career would advance. Like many of us, he was searching for a greater purpose in his work. After Joel launched Bomgar (then called NetworkStreaming), he began to actively recruit Nathan and Patrick to join him in his new company. Norman at first resisted as he felt he needed to stay on the “safe” path as a new husband. However, in 2003, he took a leap of faith and made the bold decision to join this new start-up.

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs stated, “Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Norman had the courage to follow his heart and intuition to pursue his dream. While Norman served in many roles in the company as it grew, he found his niche in digital marketing. Bomgar was an early adopter of the use of Google AdWords and other innovative digital marketing techniques. Norman had several opportunities to go to the Google headquarters and visit with their team about Bomgar’s success using Google technology. His decision to make the career leap was validated as he flourished in his role as vice president of commercial pipeline development for the company.

After working with Bomgar for almost eight years, Norman decided it was time to take on a new challenge. He had a vision to open a digital marketing firm to serve the needs of businesses in his home state of Mississippi. He knew and understood first-hand the potential these marketing techniques had for businesses, and he had a passion to share them with others. However, this career shift would require another leap of faith. This time the stakes were even higher. He has three kids and one on the way. With a growing family, the need for stability and security are obviously present. However, like other successful entrepreneurs, he studied the situation and made a calculated decision to follow his dream. In 2011, he joined forces with Jonathan Shull to form Norman Shull. While it is still early on, he noted that this leap of faith was already paying off as numerous businesses and firms have engaged them to help develop their digital marketing plans.

Obviously, not everyone is meant to pursue the path of entrepreneurship; however, I hope potential entrepreneurs are encouraged to realize that a degree of fear is a natural part of the process. It is what they do with that fear that really matters. For those that feel the calling to pursue this path like Norman, I hope that they will “follow their heart and intuition” to make the leap. Our state and our country need more people with that kind of courage.


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About Martin Willoughby

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