CEO Sunday: The Value of X

By December 18, 2011

The 2008-2009 global financial crisis was another wakeup call in the evolution of our society, with the catastrophic meltdown in confidence, general despair, and malaise that not only lingers, but has become the way of life for many.

I’m pleased to report, as many here already know that the free enterprise system and capitalism are indeed, alive and well.

We must embrace the leaders, dreamers, and doers who are called to action by an internal desire to chart their own future, define their own destiny and create a legacy for future generations, notwithstanding the challenges at hand. Without regard to religion, color, education, capital or place; we stand united behind the belief that equal opportunity is there for all who choose to take action. Steve Jobs called us the “crazy ones”, and we proudly fall-in and stand at attention.

Our belief system shapes the citizens we become.

My belief universe is that every experience in life, every adversity and opportunity, success and failure, the interaction of every person we meet is a valuable moment in time that adds to our growth, contributing to building our own bank of personal “assets”. We draw on this bank continuously throughout life and it continues to grow exponentially with each new day.

There will never be a perfect time to start a new journey, only the ability to seize on the confidence in knowing that you’re wise enough to know how and young enough to endure a new set of challenges in life, wherever they may take you.
After numerous ventures and a 24 year executive career, my internal call came in mid-2008, with a desire to walk away from professional life at the Merchandise Mart and build my own future. Following two stalled start-ups, the growing lack of capital and resources and entrepreneurial support, I set out to invest my time and capital in personal talent. I have no regret for my decision, although I’m the first to admit (as were many friends & family) that I must be “nuts” and even thought this might be a mid-life crisis.

I ventured internationally into design, film & music production, show production and after partnership adversity, founded an “atypical” incubator co-working space coined Opus Environments, recognizing that every venture is an individual masterpiece in its’ own right, here in the River North area of Chicago.

Selfishly, my early vision focused my own need for being around like-minded people and the help they might lend in growing my own ventures. I needed help, understood the growing pains of fellow entrepreneurs and thought I might have experiences that could help them in their own growth as well. I set out with this clear message, inviting passionate folks to join me with the opportunity to “grow together” in a cool environment.
In just 15 short months, the message has resonated well and has created the platform and demand for dynamic expansion, including reaching into underserved communities with neighborhood-based centers. Opus Environments has became the sandbox in which passionate entrepreneurs with diverse ventures come together, explore, create, play and soar. We leverage our talent, opportunity, personality and resources, united in a common goal of realizing our passion.
I continue to be humbled daily by the talent, passion and focus of our community in pursuing their individual dreams, while unselfishly giving to others, and remain an active player in development; experiencing models and strategy pivot, then pivot again, often spawning entirely new direction and even new ventures.

Today, Opus includes a dozen dynamic success stories (plus six alumnus) such as: Spontaneus, a mobile game app that is played at local businesses and enables people to share winnings with friends, whose cofounder Julian Erikson credits the support of the Opus community and in particular the teams at HuliHealth, where you can search an international list of doctors and dentists, contact your selected doctors, and schedule your appointment and Shinobi Content, a creative service provider for web design and development for contributing to his successful experience at Y Combinator recently. Many more champions, including my own ventures make up this thriving community that is quickly becoming the model for incubation and collaboration.
Today, I’ve discovered that not all is tied to a financial statement, or something’s greatest and best use, but rather the value in outcomes derived from building relationships and alliances that today, cannot be quantified. Herein is the unknown value of x.