Catching Up With Christopher Doran - Entrepreneur & CEO
I recently caught up with my good friend and long-time colleague Christopher Doran, CEO of Invado Solutions to ask him about his journey and the ups and down's of his entrepreneurial ventures.
CH: Your company, Invado Solutions was literally started in a day, what events led to that?
CD: I had one hell of a day in early 2010. I went to the doctor in October and was re-diagnosed with a brain tumor for which I thought I had beat years before. Treatment this time would require brain surgery and significant radiation. If that wasn’t enough, I was driving home from the doctor and I received a call from my employer to let me know they were laying me off.
It was a surreal day - I actually laughed for a bit as I figured someone had to be playing a cruel joke on me!
The next day I wasn’t laughing.
I had a mortgage, 3 children, a wife and lots of other obligations. I was facing extensive medical treatment for a period of time, so I wasn’t really hirable. I didn’t know what to do, so I took stock of what I had.
I was a darn good tech marketer. I knew marketing automation and demand generation extremely well as I was an early player in that space dating back to 2003. I was also pretty darn good at Pardot and Salesforce.
I had always wanted to start a company. Necessity forced my hand to jump in. Terrified, I embraced the uncertainty and started my Pardot consulting company, Invado Solutions, the next day.
Today the firm is a consultancy that works with marketing executives to drive business value out of Salesforce and Pardot. We’ve grown triple digits every year since then.
CH: Given the health challenges you have had, how has that shaped your thinking about business success?
CD: I’ve had brain surgery five times now and through that journey my thoughts on success have evolved immensely.
Prior to facing my health challenges, I was fixated purely on the financial success associated with Silicon Valley and the start-up culture. Success was defined by money and prestige. I was focused on the VC scene and who was getting money. It was “The Hustle” as you discuss in The UnAmerican Dream.
Today my definition of success is much richer. I still enjoy technology and obviously financial success and security are important, but success has a much broader definition . I think about living a rich life - spending time with my kids, spending my money on experiences with them, and building our Pardot consulting services at Invado in a way that’s challenging and enjoyable. To summarize, I think a lot about the journey now.
Due to another round of brain surgery in 2018 I’ve been learning to walk again over the past year - difficult stuff. I finally reached the point several weeks ago when I could go bowling with my kids and our Boy Scout Troop. You’ve probably never seen anyone bowl a 33 and have the biggest smile on their face. I was spending time with my kids. I could play the game - barely, but I could. That’s success!
Prior to my health condition my definition of success was narrow. I tended to “sweat the small stuff”. While my mind still has a tendency to go in that direction, I’m much more mindful to not let my mind go there whenever possible.
CH: What would you tell other founders who buy into the idea of the hustle?
CD: Honestly Carlos, when I was part of the Hustle, I don’t think there was anything anyone could say to me that would change my mind about what success was. I was myopically focused on success = hustle, so I’m not sure they would listen to me! That’s part of the reason I really appreciate the message and goal of The UnAmerican Dream. You’re out there to change minds.
That being said, if I tried, I would urge other founders to look beyond prestige and fame. Success is defined by the many facets of life. I would also argue that you can do well enough financially without the hustle!
CH: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in your career?
CD: For the first part of my career, deep in my heart I knew that success was more than just money and prestige. There was a richness I craved, but I didn’t know how to get there. All I saw were tech role models in a silicon valley culture that equated success with hustle. I followed the herd.
I would have listened to that inner voice and then found a mentor to help me forge my own path with success as I defined it as the guiding light. This would include a rich personal life with a successful life as an entrepreneur. But life as an entrepreneur would include enjoying the journey of starting the business with balance - not going all-in.
CH: What are some things you can share from your journey that can help others as they seek professional success?
CD: Through each chapter of my journey there have been challenges - some really scary. There’s nothing more humbling and terrifying then sitting down with a neurosurgeon and having a candid conversation about the risks you’re about to subject yourself to in order to address your disease. Stroke, paralysis, death - then you sign a piece of paper for them to cut your head open.
After starting our Pardot consulting company, I worked to document the vision and values of the company. One of our core values is “perseverance.'' I wanted every team member to know that there was no situation that we could not work through. We’ll figure it out. There’s nothing we can’t work through. There’s no problem we can’t solve.
I’ve learned that each challenge is surmountable. You get through it and move forward with life. This is true whether it’s a personal challenge or a business challenge. Just breath and ride the uncertainty. You get through it and be stronger for it.
You can follow Christopher on Twitter @cdoran