The ReSET - 2018

1/8/18

Newt Fowler

Reflecting on my 2017 columns, I was often Eeyore. I frequently focused on the Baltimore region’s missed opportunities and unrealized potential; hoping that somehow we could get out of our own way and get our collective act together. Much of what I wrote about was how other regions were figuring out the very challenges we struggled with. I’m taking a different tack for 2018; returning to this column’s roots nearly a decade ago – back to business, so to speak.

For businesses, 2017 was a foundational year; with a stable environment, came growth and renewed opportunity. And as we head into this new year, there are some common themes I’ve heard facing most companies, themes we will explore over the course of this year’s columns. As I did nearly ten years ago, I again ask you to let me know of companies or entrepreneurs that are worth us getting to know, of issues worth exploring, of stories worth telling to other entrepreneurs.

I’m hoping to weave throughout this year’s columns the themes I have already heard of from entrepreneurs as they head into 2018:

  • The perennial challenge for CEOs of managing board of directors and investors (underscoring how lonely, and for some – risky – it is to lead); how to shape and execute a shared vision; how to drive change; how to manage expectations when stakeholders are not aligned…
  • With increasing M&A interest, many desire to find liquidity long overdue – but there are pitfalls that come with selling a business – from hiring the right banker, to handling disclosure of the inevitable cobwebs found in any business, to losing sight of actually running the business during an otherwise consuming process…
  • The challenges around technology are pervasive for every company; for tech companies, there are unending issues to ensure you own what you’re building, that you don’t give away rights to customers or partners as your technology evolves; for users of technology, there are unending concerns around hidden costs, solutions falling short of expectations, dependency and risk that comes with being in the “cloud”, unceasing security threats…

It will be an exciting year for the regions’ entrepreneurs. We’re going to return to what makes these unique folks tick; what keeps them up at night; and if they had a “reset button,” what would they do differently. I suspect other themes will appear as 2018 unfolds; it’s going to be fun to return to business and to relegate Eeyore (hopefully) back to his stall.

With more than 30 years’ experience in law and business, Newt Fowler, a partner in Womble Bond Dickinson’s business practice, advises many investors, entrepreneurs and technology companies, guiding them through all aspects of business planning, financing transactions, technology commercialization and M&A. He’s the pastboard chair of TEDCO and serves on the Board of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Newt can be reached at newt.fowler@wbd-us.com.

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