Tanisha Robinson, former CEO of Print Syndicate, talks about her journey towards a profession with passion.
The post-Labor Day departure of Tanisha Robinson from her on-demand startup, Print Syndicate, made me wonder how business leaders decide when to move on. So I asked the popular entrepreneur, and she agreed to share her experience. Maybe it will help others wrestling with questions about their own professional paths.
"I've always tried to be introspective and think about 'am I in the right role, or am I the right person in my role,' even in my own company, to move it to the next level. Up until now I would say I absolutely have been, but I'm a very large shareholder in the company, so it's also about thinking as investor: How do I maximize my returns?"
Robinson's departure was effective as soon as it was announced Sept. 6. The Print Syndicate board, of which she remains a member, named as interim CEO Mark Bouckley, who had been interim chief operating officer and CFO.
Passion is a key metric for Robinson. Earlier this year she started realizing it was lacking in her day-to-day responsibilities.
"The early days were extremely hard and consuming, but in a lot of ways they were a lot more fun for me than in year four of the business. … At this point, I was negotiating ink costs and shipping contracts, and I sort of looked around and realized that maybe my current role is not the best use of all of the experiences I've had and everything I've learned up to this point," she says, adding, "Some people may argue it's irresponsible to be driven by your passions, but in my view, you make money doing anything. … Life is too short to not, at least for me, to not be super intensely passionate and motivated about what I'm working on."
Robinson says realizing her passion was waning first came in conversations with her wife this past spring. "But in that moment I didn't acknowledge what I was saying to myself." Then she began talking with others. "Between my mentors and the great entrepreneurs that I get to hang out with, I was able to filter and reflect and think about 'is this the right thing and is this the right time?' and was able to arrive at great clarity on that answer."
That her spouse, Michelle Heritage, is executive director of the Community Shelter Board, is one factor likely to keep her here, Robinson says. "All of my friends and mentors are here, and I think it is a great place to actually move the needle and have an impact."
And at 35, she expects to build more companies. "I will, because I love the building part, but the operator part is really not what I'm passionate about. … The passionate version of me is when I'm at my best and most productive and really contributing."
For now, Robinson is enjoying a "coffee-and-cocktails tour with my mentors." She expects time this fall to read and think will help her identify new business opportunities that can again ignite her passion. "What I will do next is the thing that I can't not do, and that's usually how I pick my next thing."
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