When I told folks that I was leaving the New England Patriots, many people thought I was crazy. I was Chief Marketing Officer for the three-time World Champions; why would I ever want to leave? I know that my role at the Patriots would be a dream job for most; in fact, when I was in my 30′s, it was a dream job for me as well. But after nine seasons with the team, it was just time to move on. I had new aspirations that fueled my decision, but my biggest reason for hanging up my cleats was my kids. If you are the CMO for an NFL team, it’s a 24/7 gig, which means there are many family sacrifices. I give 200% to everything I do, so something had to give.
I can’t tell you the number of people who have asked me, “Why would you ever leave?” And of course, there were the gossip mongers and folks who exist for the misery of others who were all whispering, “What did he do?” Many of them not understanding why I would ever choose to leave the organization. However, if you truly know me, this move would not have been a surprise. In fact, it was so planned out that I gave the organization a year’s notice. You see, when you truly possess the entrepreneurial spirit, no job, no matter how great it may appear, can chain you down. That, coupled with wanting to spend more time with my family, made leaving very easy.
I was much more fortunate than most – my move was made easy by an angel investor in TrinityOne. The funds that were infused into my start-up company allowed us to have enough runway to operate for two years (even if we never generated a dime). I realize this is not a typical situation, and I am forever grateful that someone would have that faith in me to make my move so seamless. It was so solid, that when the Patriots Organization told me they didn’t want a full year’s notice, and that two months would suffice, I was able to pack up on a Friday and be in the new TrinityOne offices the following Monday – full steam ahead.
Luck is better than skill any day, but you do have to make your own luck. I write this because you may be sitting there, hating your job, unhappy with your situation, and all that you can think about is a change. What are you waiting for? If these feelings are omnipresent, it’s time to begin constructing an exit plan. I began the process two years prior to leaving, and to be quite honest, I had multiple directions mapped out. Jen Ferron, current Pat’s VP of Marketing, who worked for me for the full nine seasons, would disagree with that last statement. She would say I began planning to start my own company the day I began with the Patriots. Let’s just say, she wouldn’t be totally wrong.
So, what are you waiting for? Time to begin setting up the next stage in your life. We are here for just a blink, so you can’t hesitate to make your life go in the direction that is most optimal for you. Don’t buy into the crap your parents told you about getting a solid job and working for a great company. That is only one path in a multitude of possible choices. When I left the team I was also asked, “What if you fail?” My answer was always, “So, I get another job; it’s not like I haven’t worked before.” I’ve been working since I was 12 years old, when I bagged groceries at The White Hen. If you fail at one thing, it doesn’t mean that’s the end. It’s only over when you say it’s over.
I am happy to say that TrinityOne is 7 1/2 years old, and we have been self-sufficient for over five years. It hasn’t been all fun and games; I’ve made more mistakes than I ever thought I could. But, through that time, we have evolved and made changes and adapted to the worse economic climate in my lifetime. We are clearly better and smarter for it, and I am excited and proud of many of the things we have accomplished. This past January, I started another company, The Imbriano Group, a venture firm that provides intellectual capital to start-ups and young companies. Through it all and even after all this time I am still asked, “Do you miss the Patriots?” and “Are you glad you made the move?” I am happy to still answer, “No, I do not miss working for the team,” (although I still have very fond memories of my time there and the people I worked with, especially the Kraft family), and ”Yes, it was the best career move I ever made.”
I work as many hours today as I did when I was with the team; sometimes, maybe more. But it’s on my terms. If my daughter has a Field Hockey game at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, I’m there. If my son has a Lacrosse game at 2pm on a Sunday in the middle of a Patriots game, I’m there. Almost every night we all eat dinner as a family. I may have to work until 2am those nights, or get up a 5am to make sure I get everything done. But it’s worth every minute. We are still getting the work done and are probably more efficient in doing so.
New beginnings are exciting and should be embraced. Don’t let fear make you hesitate to embark on your next journey in life. If you are unhappy with your career and the job you are in, begin your exit strategy. Begin working toward your happiness and the things in life that truly matter. Everyone is different, but don’t let what you are told you should do derail you from what you truly want to do. And even if you still think I am crazy, know that I don’t regret leaving the Patriots for one minute. Don’t fear to make the leap to new beginnings, even if that means leaving one of the most coveted NFL jobs.