Christina and Grandfather

I idolized my grandfather. He was a brilliant man.

He was a World War II veteran, a rule-breaker who enlisted in the U.S. Army prior to finishing his high school education requirements.

He was a musician, waking me up during summer mornings on the farm with classical music. This inspired me to become a violinist at just 7 years old.

He was a small-town mayor, respecting, representing, and fighting for Lovettsville, a town full of people that he loved, even though its future was blurry.

He was a pioneering electrical engineer, creating custom control panels for complex electrical grids in a world without computer technology.

This led him to become a successful entrepreneur, turning his passion into profit to create a better life for his family. He even changed his company logo from a green line to a black one, because he could finally afford the black-label Jack Daniels.

"There is only one way to do things, and that's Hummer's way."

Christina as a Child

He received no new business when he "invested" in revenue operations, but this mindset cost him.

While my grandfather was well-liked with a great sense of humor and an inventive mind, he didn't have a finesse for business development or operations. He opted to work long hours instead of investing in systems and processes to move tasks to others within the company. This business miscalculation became fatal due to his serious health complications later in life.

His business faltered when word-of-mouth referrals and loyal customers slimmed over the years. Then, as if a lack of pipeline wasn't enough, he could not keep up the work on the books as health problems set in. Without any operational plan, his business permanently closed while he fought for his health. I watched the rise and fall of his company, and when I was 20 years old, he passed away.

Fast forward to a 30-year-old me. I was crushing my career in the building industry. Still, between an economic downturn and a male-dominated work environment, I didn't receive the respect, responsibilities, or acknowledgment I deserved for the results created.

I felt like I had checked all of life's boxes. I had a high-profile career, house, and master's degree. I'd always been able to visualize what I wanted, but was this it? I felt stuck and unhappy. Working for someone else, I wasn't being true to my roots.

I pondered how my grandfather mustered up the courage to do what he did. How did he start his own company? I wanted to do the same, but I sat on the idea for three years. He quit his job on the spot.

Above all, I wanted to help honest, hardworking entrepreneurs like my grandfather align the systems and processes that allow their businesses to thrive. I wanted to help companies succeed through what I knew how to do best, revenue operations.

"Above all, I wanted to help honest, hardworking entrepreneurs like my grandfather align the systems and processes that allow their businesses to thrive."

Grandfather Farm

That's why I founded Illumine8, to ensure companies in the building industry like my grandfathers are not met with a similar fate because they didn't align their marketing, sales, and operational processes.

Even though my grandfather passed away about ten years before starting my own company, he's in every client we partner with today.

Every day I pay it forward to my grandfather for how he inspired me, for everything he taught me. Lead by listening. Be humble. Laugh a lot along the way. And when in doubt, take a deep breath, and jump.

Christina May

About The Author

Christina May is passionate about creating revenue systems that scale businesses. CEO and Founder of Illumine8, a digital marketing company, she is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, a DMN Top 40UNDER40 honoree, and is a recipient of the Mount Saint Mary’s President’s Medal for leadership and service to the business community.

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