In 1999, there came a time when Tim Mushen, then a business student at Seattle University, didn’t have enough money to cover his tuition for the next semester. Instead of making a down payment on a student loan, he took the $1,000 he did have and used it for another purpose.
“I decided to start a business instead of going to school,” he said, “which is the worst blend of ignorant and arrogant.”
For the next 17 years, Mushen grew that business, Kirkland-based Clocktower Media, into a million-dollar web-design and marketing company with 25 employees and a who’s-who client list. But in April, Clocktower Media was acquired by Metova, a mobile-app and cybersecurity company with offices across the country.
“We figured stuff out, and we were really lucky,” Mushen said of his days as CEO of Clocktower. “We stayed debt-free for a good 11 years.”
Mushen now serves as executive vice president of sales and marketing at Metova, and he’s enjoying being part of an executive board. He took some time to share a few lessons about his transition from CEO to employee.
Entrepreneurship sticks with you. It’s something that I love. As an entrepreneur, you see things differently, and for me, that desire to go after those opportunities is strong. I love to create and build, and I think at some point I probably will again, but not any time soon.
There’s always something you could have done differently, but running a business is more about doing the best you can with what you have. As an executive, you’re weighing all the possibilities. As you grow, the decisions are bigger and things become less black and white. With the gray area, you need to trust your gut and instinct and kind of just go with it and make the best of the decision.
Being a CEO is truly lonely at the top. There are things you can’t share with your staff, so if you’re feeling pressure, and there’s always pressure, you can’t share that. It’s nice to be in a spot now, at Metova, where there’s a team of executives who can share the burden together. I feel like I’m a different employee because I’ve been a CEO.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of “425 Business.”