As I updated both my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, expecting the inevitable cascade of well-wishing messages encouraging me on my new role, I couldn’t help but think back to a time when my career change was not so enticing. I remember a time not that many years ago when I transitioned my career in a different direction and it did not work out so well, as a matter of fact, I chalk that time up as my $250,000 MBA in business.
I had been in the wireless industry for over 10 years and I had seen many capable entrepreneurs venture out and start their own business with remarkable success. I on the other hand, had been earning a relatively good salary and had the confidence of a “Safe and Secure” job. HA, what a laugh. The first company I worked with in the wireless industry employed 2,500 people and had over 325 retail locations on a national level. They went belly up on December 4th, 2000. My current company of 5 years, started with 1 store in the mid-1990’s and had grown to 38 by the time I joined. During my 5 years, we grew to 169 stores and over $100 million in revenues, and yet, we were on the verge of insolvency.
I really struggled with that one because I felt like we could have done more to rectify the situation. However, my inexperience at an Executive level, blinded me from the mistakes being made by the organization until it was too late. I left before the impending disaster, but it really made me think, “did I really have a safe, secure job?” This pushed me into a contract employment role that did not play out too well, and then into relying on my 1-store wireless business venture to support my family. This forced me to try and grow that business too quickly and that too, did not work out so well. Despite trying relatively hard, I could not pull it all together and regardless of my experience and expertise, that business too went under.
All of this led to a litany of job opportunities that were far below my skill set, but because I didn’t have experience in those industries, this was what I was relinquished to. And I wasn’t willing to consider going back to wireless at this point. So here I was, in my late thirties, trying to make a career change and making about $35K annually. Mind you, just 18 months prior, I was tracking to make north of $175K. But the transition, the economy bust, and my lack of experience in relatable businesses had me poorly positioned. I felt banished from my level of executive leadership, and I had over $250K in debt from the failed business venture. Talk about humbling experiences!
Fast forward about 12 years later, I just finished a successful run with an amazing company where I was able to grow and develop my skills during that time, while working with some amazing people. My best skills were honed to almost perfection and my more lacking skills were brought along and were no longer glaring shortcomings. Even after the sale of the business, I was retained by the new company to transition my team into the new culture. Consequently, that was short-lived and after 7 weeks, I found myself on the other side of the table in a conversation that started with “The company has decided to make a change.”
In a moment, I was swept back to those days from 2005, however, I was well composed, almost confident, as we finished that conversation and by the time I was in my car driving home, I was already planning the next moves. Relying on the severance package and some money put away for such considerations, I was able to begin to research potential business opportunities. In the meantime, I tried to negotiate out of a non-compete clause that would keep me from taking a job that had already been offered to me and was commensurate with my talent and experience. Either way, I wasn’t going to end up like I did last time.
Within a few weeks, I ironed out my plans, including some contingency plans to back up those plans. I passed on some opportunities that I didn’t really see as fulfilling, and ultimately settled on betting on myself this time by starting a new company. I was able to leverage some resources and contacts that I had made in a completely different field than I had been in for the last 20 plus years, but I did have experience in, albeit 25 years earlier. With that, we started Coordinated Logistics Transportation, LLC, a trucking company that hauls over the road loads on semi-trucks throughout the western United States. We now have 15 trucks and 26 trailers and in just 4 months are trending to annualize at around $3 million in revenues by year end.
If you are thinking, “Wow, that is bold!”, well, you ain’t kidding brother! But the reality is, I saw first-hand what happened to my father in his early 50’s when the industry he knew, transitioned on him. It was ugly and reminded me all too well of my previous experience. Despite all our experience and skills, you are only as valuable to your employer as your last success. If they think they can save $50K to $100K per year by hiring someone 20 years younger and coaching them up, well then, you probably shouldn’t get too comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certain there are great companies out there that will take care of their people, heck, I worked for one, however, in the end the business will always need to do what is right for the business. Whether that is to shut an operation or region down, down-size leadership levels, reduce expansion, or simply cut some fat, good people can still get caught in the middle. And at this point in my career, I wasn’t going to leave that in someone else's hands. Besides, this business might be a big leap, but it is nothing compared to starting all over from scratch, again.
I’m excited about my new opportunities, because in EW fashion, I didn’t start just one business. I had already started my consulting and coaching business, which I added a marketing service to offer to my clients now. I am preparing to re-launch my first book with a new publisher, and my second book is on deck for later this summer. I have partnered up with a few people to help grow that business, while I throw myself into the trucking business full-time over the next couple of years. I am very excited about the next 10 years and where this will all lead, most importantly, I am excited about what most people would consider the twilight of their careers. I am not going quietly into the night, I will go kicking and screaming and I will bring the house down!!!
Thanks for listening, and if you are someone in a comparable situation to what I described above, I encourage you to reach out and and see how we can help you through a similar transition. Just visit us at www.EricWhitmoyer.com/Store and look for our Career Coaching options.