(Not) Flying Solo

Matt Cheuvront & Sam Davidson

There are no true solo acts. If someone tells you they got where they are all by themselves, they’re lying. Don’t believe them, and don’t buy what they’re selling.

Wise words from my partner Sam Davidson, someone who has inspired me to turn an entrepreneurial dream into a reality. Whereas earlier this year I was simply surviving as an entrepreneur, since September, I’ve been living as an entrepreneur, thriving as a business-owner. Not going at it alone helps, a lot. Having other people who are equally committed to the success of a business is powerful stuff.

There’s power in numbers - smart numbers - not numbers for the sake of numbers. At Proof, we like to keep things close to the chest. We don’t have the desire to be the next mega-agency with a high-rise office – but we’re not (at all) opposed to handing out work to good, talented people. We’ve learned very quickly the importance of collaboration – and that getting the right people on board, paying them what they’re worth, and forming partnerships is invaluable (not to mention, a lot less lonely).

Sam encourages people to form partnerships:

You need to team up with someone, whether it’s a partner, a mentor, an editor, or an equal. Get input.Toss your ideas out into the open, where they can be critiqued and molded into something that’s much closer to perfection than you’re able to create all by yourself. Swallow the pride and stop believing the myths that people are self-made millionaires. There are no overnight successes and there are no true solo acts.

It’s been true as a business owner, and it was true before I took the plunge into this lifestyle.

When I read today’s prompt for #reverb10 – asking to think about a friend who changed my perspective – I immediately thought of one moment – one conversation with a very good friend, Nicole Crimaldi.

This client – turned partner – turned friend gave me a kick in my self-doubting ass when I was wondering if running my own business was even remotely realistic. I vividly remember a conversation in the suburbs of Chicago when she encouraged me, repeatedly, that this could be something that I not only should do, but that I could do very well.

Fate, as it would seem, got me fired from my job only a week or so later – not exactly the exit I had anticipated, but I thought back to Nicole’s o-so-wise words of wisdom, “Don’t waste your time with the things you can’t control”.

We all need someone like Nicole – who – like a personal trainer – pushes you hard, cuts through the bullshit, and gives you a kick in the ass when you need it.

We all need someone like Sam – someone who believes in you and believes not only in your own success, but in the combined success and in the beauty of collaboration.

It’s been one of those years – in a good way – and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the support, love, and motivation from great people.

Who’s inspired you this year? Who pushes you to be at your best? Who have you partnered with?

Check out the full rundown of my #reverb10 posts here

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Farnoosh December 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

First, I love that you are using your own photo and a brilliant choice – and second, what true insights here, Matt. I think flying solo may happen during stages of the journey but from start to finish, we are all likely to ask for help and offer it at the same time…I have really enjoyed watching your evolution as you move on from the day that “they” fired you but you lit a fire inside and started to define your own path!

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Matt Cheuvront December 17, 2010 at 11:09 am

You do usually start “solo” and there’s nothing wrong with that – I think that helps you get your wings and helps you figure out what you ARE good at, and what you should pass along to someone more experienced. Thanks for being a part of this exciting journey with me!

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I Write December 17, 2010 at 11:52 am

Matt, I’m thinking that we don’t really start solo. We usually have a guide, a pilot, a coach, a cheerleader first to help give us our wings and then we fly. And as we fly more complex planes, those individuals are there in the wings to pick up with us again when we need them. Yes-No?

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:33 am

Sometimes – yes. Often times, no. Those who are lucky enough to have a guide or mentor from the onset – that’s a great place to be in – but in my case, there was a LOT of figuring things out on my own on the fly – and I think many others can attest to the same.

Did I have others around me leading by example and indirectly providing inspiration? Of course, we all do – but taking that leap to go out on your own starts and ends with one person: Yourself.

There was plenty of times where I felt incredibly lonely, or didn’t know how I could possibly keep going – especially at the pace I was at. And in all honesty, I couldn’t – in order to scale and grow a business – rather than simply sustaining, it involved a next step, which, in this case, meant joining forces with others who compliment each other extremely well.

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Brett Henley December 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

Amen brother. We need to remove solo from the equation. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting to a place of value and higher quality for me … and there’s no humanly possible means to do so without help, and lots of it.

Good stuff my friend.

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:33 am

Agreed – going at it on your own works, for a while, but forever? It’s going to be tough to sell me that argument, that working alone forever is a good plan…

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phampants December 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

I agree, you can only go solo for so long before you need someone to have your back and vice versa. Even if it’s not a business partner, someone to bounce your ideas off and give you criticism.

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:35 am

Exactly. A “partner” doesn’t have to be someone you split the paycheck with – it can be, as you said, a friend or connection that keeps you focused and to share ideas with. Hope all is well up in Chicago buddy!

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Srinivas December 16, 2010 at 9:19 am

Matt,

As somebody who works very closely with a partner on my biggest blogging project, BlogcastFM, I think you are spot on with this. In fact you’ve inspired me to write a follow up piece on how to find somebody to collaborate with. Collaboration is going to be a big part of the future of of blogging and social media in my opinion. You simply can’t operate in a vacuum and expected to succeed. I think you made a very intelligent point about power in “smart numbers.” I believe that a small group of people with a passion and commitment to a cause have way more power than a large of group of people with a ton of apathy permeating the group. As far as Nicole, I agree that we all need someone like her in our lives.

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:39 am

Nice. Can’t wait to read the post – I have some thoughts on that as well – one of the biggest things when Sam and I decided to join forces? We understood that neither of us NEEDED each other – Sam was doing his own things, as was I – but it made more sense and we’ve (already) found that we’re much more successful when doing things together – it’s important to collaborate with people based on the mutual desire and respect of each other, not based on need. Nobody likes a clingy, needy significant other – the same is true for a business partner.

Looking forward to your post – and – we need to catch up one of these days – been far too long since we’ve chatted – congrats on everything you’re continuing to do with BlogcastFM.

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Doug Shaw December 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

Lovely photo :)

I’m finding this whole reverb10 thang a bit like Christmas Dinner – too many courses. I’m getting full. And then this comes along. Refreshing.

As the late great Joe Strummer said, Without People, You’re Nothing. Yeah – we can and do stuff solo sometimes – but I think we’re better together. The biggest project our business has worked on so far has been a stakeholder engagement review for Guide Dogs for the Blind. It was critical for the charity to choose the right partnership and the feedback they have given shows they feel they made a good choice. And in order to deliver the project to the very best standards we could in turn we partnered with Humap. And in particular with my friend and associate Jonathan Wilson, at Humap.

Jonathan and I together were able to give Guide Dogs so much more than either one of us could have. There’s some useful weird maths in there about the whole and the sum of the parts – or something. Here’s an extract of what the CEO of the charity said after our final report was approved by their council “Their passion and knowledge regarding engagement has meant that Guide Dogs has a real insight into its stakeholders, their views and attitudes” For me this is a great example of client partnering and associate partnering combining to co-create real value.

Keep up the good work Matt, and Sam, and everyone who appreciate the power of partnership.

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:43 am

Cheers to that, Doug. There’s nothing better than a mutually beneficial partnership.

And yes, I know what you mean about #reverb10 – I’m committed to keeping up with it for the remainder of the month, but, I’m starting to feel like I’m repeating myself. How many different ways can you tell people what your favorite memory of the year is? ;) I guess 13 more… :)

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Tanya December 16, 2010 at 9:37 am

Self-motivated stubborn person that I am (*grins*), choosing to not go at it alone is something that’s always been very difficult for me to do. But recently, as I was brainstorming a new project I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while, I thought – what the heck is the point of doing it all by yourself, when there are plenty of creative and talented people you could get on board? It’s taken me a while to realize it, but developing partnerships is definitely the way to go.

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:45 am

Agreed – it’s hard to let go of things – believe me – I know – even letting go of my own solo business and starting Proof was not an easy decision – you develop an ownership with your work and you don’t want to give it up. But, as you said, there’s so much more opportunity when you have other great people on board and you’re all working toward a common goal of success, with multiple different perspectives and talents to get there. Cheers!

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El Edwards December 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Not only would I not be as awesome as I am if I were flying solo, I’d be smiling a lot less too. From writing guest posts on some of my favourite people’s sites to starting the happiness equivalent of Diggnation, none of this would have been possible without my best friend, co-host and dream catcher.

We all need people around us to catch the vision and inspire us forward. Thank you for a lovely post that made me smile. :)

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Nicole Crimaldi December 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm

El,

I LOVE the term dream catcher. I always refer to my little note book as a dream catcher because it’s where I write down ideas. But a HUMAN dream catcher is such a more amazing concept because humans help us put dreams into action, not just write them down in a notebook. We all need this- somewhat of a cheerleader and accoutability partner in one.

Nicole

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:47 am

Agree with both of you here – having someone there to support our good decisions, and shoot down the one’s that maybe aren’t so good – to help us focus – is critical. Not that you always have to listen when someone tells you not to do something – but having a “partner” on your side to help you streamline is something all of us need.

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Nicole Crimaldi December 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Matt,

WOW- I was surprised to be mentioned- let alone given so much undue credit- in this post!

This year really has been one of those “WHOA A LOT CHANGED IN A YEAR” kind of years for both of us.

Literally a year ago EXACTLY- we sat down for the 1st time. Since then, my blog traffic has more than doubled, I’ve decided to make my passion for internet marketing/social media official by taking some classes (never would’ve done this before meeting you), I know a lot more about SEO (thanks to you for starting me on it), I’ve done several speaking engagements thanks to YOUR initial push and partnership, I’ve gone on several interviews for jobs I have no experience for (thanks, in part, for your ridiculous confidence in me)… the list goes on. In other words, the gratitude goes both ways.

I’m reading “The Tipping Point” right now and learning that little things lead to big results. No one should doubt how many of those little encouraging comments, emails, phone calls or coffee meetings can push your life in a whole new direction.

SUPER excited to see what you do in 2011!

AND PS- I’m publicly asking you to give me a swift kick in the #@$ to get Chidogoan off the ground.

Cheers,

Nicole

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Matt Cheuvront December 18, 2010 at 3:51 am

Doesn’t it seem like it was much, much longer ago than that fateful night at a Glenview Caribou one year ago? Crazy how much has changed in such a short period of time. You were the first person I thought of when I wrote this post – it was your “tough love” early on, before I made this leap (not by choice) that really helped clear the self doubt that had me afraid to take the leap on my own (good thing I got fired and the decision was made for me, right?)

Every single one of us has a “tipping point” – many tipping points, at that. It’s been a pleasure working with you and calling you a friend Nicole – and I really appreciate your continued support.

And…yes…we both need to get our shit together with Chidogoan. I’ll be in Chicago again over the holidays if I need to give you an in=person “swift kick in the ass”.

Thanks again, Nicole.

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