Why I Founded Vivisum


Why I Founded Vivisum


Myth is much more important and true than history. – Joseph Campbell


And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

– The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, TS Eliot


When I interview job candidates, I always leave a few minutes for them to ask questions. Almost inevitably, candidates ask, ‘Why did you found Vivisum?’


I know the question is coming. I know that founders are supposed to have an inspirational answer. I’ve answered this question dozens of times. And yet, that question, tumbling innocently from inquisitive lips . . . fills me with inconceivable panic.


Let’s be honest: the literal, historical answer about why I founded Vivsium is mind-numbingly mundane. It has something to do with a rainy day at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. It’s boring. Trust me. So, I can’t tell that story because I’ll put the candidate to sleep.


But . . . the truth? The deep-down, core-of-my-being, honest-to-God, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, existential TRUTH? Well, the truth is crazy. Because the truth of why I founded Vivisum has something to do with the meaning of life, and the pursuit of meaning at work, and creation of meaning through career. So, I can’t tell that story either because I’ll sound like a raving lunatic.

Thus, inconceivable panic. Historical truth and spiritual truth grapple, sweat, and sputter. The Prufrockian moment builds, crests, and breaks. My answer is imperfect. The story is untrue. The interview ends.


At times like these, I find myself turning to the Vivisum creation myth. This myth was once on our website, and it was a proud part of how we presented ourselves to the world. But today, it lives in the dusty crease of a virtual folder buried in the deepest, darkest corner of our file system. Alas, poor myth!


Looking at it today, I see that the Vivisum creation myth is woefully outdated. It is simultaneously pompous and silly. It is acutely obtuse. But it is still my favorite answer to the question, ‘Why did you found Vivisum.’ Here it is:


In the beginning, Vivisum was a question – What is the meaning of work? In the beginning, the question was formless and vague, and its spirit sought expression in the world.


And on the first day, we founded Vivisum. Our mission was to explore the role of career in self-actualization and the role of business in social progress. We saw our mission, and it was good.


And on the second day, we built a website. The website was not so good. But we eventually built another one. You are looking at it now. We hope you think it’s good.


And on the third day, we did our first project. The client was big and we were small. But the client looked at the result and thought it was good. The client asked for another project. And we smiled because having clients who ask for more is very good.


And on the fourth day, we founded Research (R)evolutions. Our goal was to identify was what was good and share it would our clients so that they could advance in their marketing careers. Do you want to know what’s good? Join the (R)evolution.


And on the fifth day, we moved to North Carolina. We moved here because we believe that the Research Triangle Park is a hub of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit (and because being a Tarheel is damn good).


And on the sixth day, we met you. We believe deeply in relationships, and we hope that our relationship with you continues to strengthen over the years. By the way, give us a call. We’d love to hear how you’re been doing and what we can do to help you out in the future.


And on the seventh day, we rested. Some of us played sports, some of us did crafts. Some of us read books, some of us watched TV. Some of us drank beer, some of us drank wine. All of us knew it was good, and we looked forward to returning to work on Monday.


Be brilliant. Be fearless. Be kind.


Dan Callahan is the Founder and President of Vivisum Partners. He specializes in creating multi-phase research programs that combine quantitative, qualitative and strategic facilitation methodologies. Email Dan at dan.callahan@vivisumpartners.com