It’s been 11 years at the helm of SNEWS®. For nearly a fifth of my life, I’ve had the pleasure of guiding this ship with my wife, Therese, every step of the way. On Dec. 31, 2011, she bid adieu (click here to read). Now, it is my turn. On Jan. 31, I will cede control of the wheelhouse at SNEWS to a new captain. As you might imagine, stepping away is, for me, full of mixed emotions.
I had the idea of adopting SNEWS when it was still a child of the print era, then with just 350 loyal subscribers. Somehow, I convinced Therese to join me as a parent, with the idea we could add fitness coverage to our news and information mix, kill the print, go entirely digital … and be successful. With her by my side, we took over full-time parenting from SNEWS founder, Bob Woodward, as of January 2002.
Through the years, I’ve watched SNEWS grow up with fatherly pride. Our first year in 2002, I remember telling Therese that our goal was to achieve 1,000 paid subscribers by the end of the year. She thought I was a bit loony – as did Woodward – but Therese pushed her misgivings aside and knuckled down. I remember leaning back in my chair and victoriously shoving my fists into the air on Dec. 31 when, with just hours to spare, we reached our goal. By then we were a larger team: Joining the business in September 2002 was Gene Treacy, as sales guru; Wendy Geister, as managing editor; and sales rep Daisy LeDuc -- all coming aboard to kick off its transformation to the GearTrends® Network.
That sense of teamwork and togetherness helped us launch the GearTrends® Network of magazines and the GearTrends.com website in January 2003 to accompany SNEWS online news. Humor and a curious nature underscored all that our team did. That attitude came to life in our name for an advertising package that we dubbed a “Monty” – Full Monty, Half Monty or Mini Monty, depending on how much … er … exposure a company desired. Those of you unfortunate enough to remember me dressed in drag for the OIWC Ramp It Up fundraiser in August 2006 (click here to view video, if you dare) know that for me finding the humor in anything was never an issue.
As I look back, I am very proud of the fact our team never lacked new ideas or feared expending the energy necessary to develop them. Choosing which ones to champion and which to let go or put on hold was always the most difficult decision for us. As we grew, I had the privilege of overseeing the launch and development of new products including podcasts (SNEWS® Live), legal coverage with the Law Review, eFitbiz newsletters, wintersports news, SNEWS TV, Retail College, O.R.D. (Outdoor Retailer Daily, powered by SNEWS), the OR Planning Guide powered by SNEWS, and much more. Of course, not every idea survived the test of time or subscriber interest – both the Law Review and SNEWS Live went dark a few years ago. But I also feel a sense of pride that both products helped friends, who took the experience they gained working with us, and launched their own successful ventures – James Mills and the Joy Trip Project (www.joytripproject.com), who headed SNEWS Live; and Jim Moss with Recreation Law (http://recreation-law.com), who led the Law Review.
Overall, I feel very blessed. I have had the rare chance to live a dream, to take a business and build it, alongside my wife and friends, into something good -- something another company, Active Interest Media, saw as valuable enough to acquire, which it did as of Dec 21, 2007. With that, I was afforded another wonderful opportunity -- the chance to work alongside one of my dearest friends, Jon Dorn. I have learned much from his leadership and example. Thankfully, we were friends before, and we will be so for a long time to come.
Which brings me to that bittersweet moment: It is time for me to leave. I have no doubt or a moment’s hesitation about that. When sharing this with close friends, I have been asked what I will miss the most once I close this chapter of my life. I can say that I will most assuredly miss the regular interaction with the team at AIM whose members have become my good friends along the way. Kent Ebersole, I suspect, never really got used to my bounding into his office to give a hug of greeting although he bravely put up with me. My respect for his leadership ability and talents is immense. I will miss our regular calls that always left me with a smile and often feeling I learned something I could use to better myself. I also need to give a shout out to Matt Bates, AIM’s creative director. With his quiet manner, ready ear, a wonderful ability to see an issue from all sides, and his no-nonsense reassurance of “we’ll get it done” no matter how stressful things were, Matt showed me more than he may ever realize about what being a great teammate and friend really means. The Boulder, Colo.-based team at SNEWS I also count as friends, and will miss their energy, inspiration, and our daily interaction – Elizabeth Averbeck, David Clucas, Andrea Neukom and Ana Trujillo.
I wish I could call each and every SNEWS® subscriber, personally reaching out with a thank-you phone call and the chance to speak with each of you. Long ago, SNEWS grew too big for that – regretfully, but also gratefully. So please allow me to take this somewhat impersonal opportunity to let you know that I am forever thankful for each of you, your subscription loyalty, your friendship, your advice, your comments and input, your support, and your willingness to be a sounding board now and then. Without you, this wonderful ride I have been on would not have been possible.
It is my hope that during my time leading SNEWS I have served you well, made a positive difference -- even if only a small one -- in your life or your business. I have no idea what the future holds for me, other than a desire to continue serving and helping those in the outdoor and fitness industries if the opportunity presents itself. Yes, I will miss it. Which is why it is the perfect time to say goodbye. I am excited about the future … for SNEWS and for myself.
If I have but one regret, it is that I won’t get an opportunity to work with the next leader of SNEWS – Megan Mulligan. I suspect we would have become fast friends, and I know I would have learned an enormous amount from her. You’ll all want to buckle up because I know SNEWS 3.0 is going to be one fantastic experience. I look forward to watching the show from a box seat.
For those who wish to stay in touch with me, I would welcome it. My email as of Feb. 1 when I hang out a new business shingle, HI Endeavors Consulting, will be HIEndeavors.M@gmail.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljohnhodgson.
Thank you all for allowing me into your businesses and homes for the last 11 years. It has been the adventure of a lifetime. Now, though, it is time for me to discover that next dream, one that will lead me down a road less traveled and a scenic route full of discovery and wonder. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to share my journey with each of you again along the way.