Phillip Smith

Good things come in eights

Yep, it’s true, thirty-eight years ago today, I was tossed, kicking and screaming, into this world. I’ve been trying not to screw it up ever since.

Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with birthdays, but this year it’s all love.

Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I feel like I’m in better shape, smarter, and happier than I have ever been, and I have a sense in my gut that it’s only going to get better. That’s a nice place to be when you’re staring straight down the barrel of the big four-oh.

April is also a fun month for celebrating because it’s the month that I officially hung out my shingle as an independent consultant, just over eight years ago.

I once read that less than 50% of new businesses last more than five years, so every year after the fifth has felt like a real victory over the odds.

Thinking back, I like to remember the story of “my first big client,” Grist magazine (now they just call themselves Grist). Grist had published a 50+ page request for proposal for a content-management system, and – in one short week – an ad-hoc team was pulled together and a proposal submitted.

When we heard that we made the short list, we went so far as to send a baby monitor to the Grist office with a note that said “We’ll always be there for you.”

Those were some fun days; it was all raw energy, creativity, and a hefty dose of naiveté.

We got the contract.

We took Grist from a static HTML site that they were updating by hand:


To an industrial-strength CMS that met their needs for the next four and a half years:


It was a challenging project. But it was the important first step on a path that has kept me working closely with online publishers ever since.

Call me crazy, but I can’t wait to get started on the next eight years.

The real work will have to wait until tomorrow, however, because Rule No. 1 in the Phillip Smith ‘Tao of Consulting’ Handbook is “Let go, when your work is done (or when it’s your birthday).”


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.