For the last 6.5 years, I’ve had a fairly singular role as CEO of a venture-backed, software startup in Seattle. While that job has brought massive amounts of growth and learning and challenges with it, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to step into someone else’s shoes and live their life for a while. Thanks to my friend, Wil Reynolds (founder and CEO of Philadelphia’s SEER Interactive, a fast-growing, bootstrapped search marketing agency), I’ll soon get to find out.
Rand & Wil in Philadelphia in May 2012
From October 7-11 of this year, Wil and I will be swapping jobs for a week. I’ll take over as CEO at SEER, and Wil will step into my shoes here at Moz. This swap is a chance for each of us to be exposed to something very new and unique, and letting our respective teams and companies benefit (or suffer!) from a fresh perspective.
Naturally, there will be some rules:
Rule #1: We’ll live each other’s lives as much as possible
Wil has to temporarily marry Geraldine and I get to… OK nevermind, I’m being told that’s not part of the deal. But in other aspects, we will try to emulate each other’s daily lives as much as possible. Wil and Nora (his amazing wife) will take up residence in Geraldine and my apartment on Capitol Hill. He’ll walk down the same streets I take each day to the Mozplex near Pike Place Market, while Geraldine and I move into Wil & Nora’s home in Northern Liberties.
We’ll swap calendars – he’ll take the exec team lunch on Monday, the 1:1s with Moz team members, my office hours, the product/marketing/engineering meetings I have, the chats with our investors, and possibly even a call with my CEO coach, Jerry. Meanwhile, I’ll take meetings with the consultants at SEER, client phone calls, pitch meetings, and whatever else Wil & the SEER team line up for that week.
Rule #2: Email accounts and blogs will change hands, too
Wil can answer my email for a week (and leave anything particularly non-answerable-by-not-me alone), while I take over his email. We’ll try to post on each other’s blogs at least a couple times over the course of the week; Wil here and me on Business 1.0.
If there’s anything incredibly pressing that needs the other’s input, we’ll make sure to drop the other a line. Email replies will also include a note about the swap and that it’s being answered by a temporary CEO, so as not to panic our mail receivers.
Rule #3: No holding back on real opinions
If Wil believes something at Moz is being done poorly, he’ll speak his mind. Likewise, if I have critiques for the SEER folks (or some advice like my Social Media for CEOs), I’ll make sure to provide direct feedback. We’re not just there to observe, but to get involved and bring our perspectives with us to our respective companies. I’m hopeful that can mean a great dialogue and exchange of new ideas that might otherwise never come up.
Rule #4: After the swap, we’ll trade advice & insights we have for each other
Either in Philadelphia or Seattle on the weekend after the swap, we’ll get together to go through our experiences and share what we learned and how we’d apply those learnings. We may even try to film this portion for posterity and to share (at least in part) on the web.
Rule #5: No big decisions that can get us in trouble
I won’t be firing anyone from the SEER team, nor will Wil be doing that at Moz. Neither of us will make big-picture-impacting or company-future-affecting decisions during this period (for lots of reasons, including legal ones). We will, however, have the ability to give our $0.02 to our respective team members, and hopefully have some positive influence on tactical decisions.
For example, I’m hoping Wil can give a few product/engineering teams at Moz the benefit of his years in the field knowing exactly what kinds of reporting and investigation tools marketers at a scaling agency need. Likewise, I’m hopeful that some of my experience can be valuable to the SEER team in their day-to-day work.
I expect this to be a fascinating experiment and something that brings a lot of learning and perspective to both of us. It’s an honor and a privelege to have friends like Wil and SEER, who’ll let me try crazy ideas that 99/100 companies would never go in for.
Heck, I might even forgive Wil for that time he took my grandparents to a restaurant in Philly with questionable artwork above our table.
respect to my grandfather, Seymour, and grandmother, Pauline, who were totally cool about the whole thing
See you in October SEER team!