Introspection

I think most people stop around New Years and assess where they are in their live’s.  I normally do this at Income Tax time.

That’s April 15th, here in the States, just over a week away.

Part of the reason I decided to become a consultant was so that I would have more flexibility with my "children".  That might have been necessary three years ago, but not today.  My kids are 19 and 17, both can drive, and one has their own vehicle.  Plus, my ex-wife moved back into the area, and she is always available and willing to help with "kid stuff".  There isn’t a lot of "kid stuff" to manage anymore.  They are damned near grown. 🙁

So one of the major considerations that drove me to consulting is no longer an issue – my kids just don’t need me that much anymore.

Certainly, there were other things that drove me to consulting – I love working at home, and I work long hours.  It is not unusual for me to work for 20 hours a day.  It just doesn’t feel as much like work when I can do it at home.

I also don’t have a healthy respect for big business.  To me, big business means, slow, blind, and deaf.  Customers are "things" not people.  I don’t like that.

I take issue with the way US corporations grow and shrink their workforce on a cyclical basis – when the stock is rising, they hire. Stock prices fall and they have huge layoffs. This is extremely disruptive to the workforce and the harm is costs companies overall has not been adequately studied, I don’t think.  If every year you are spending months training new people, then how can you ever get better? 

I think businesses should pay a hell of a lot less attention to their shareholders, and a hell of a lot more attention to their customers.  In the long run, I think shareholders would be better served.

Back to consulting – the reason I think I am pretty good at what I do is simple – I pay attention to what my clients want – and I am very good (IMHO) at explaining to them the costs associated with the desire. Basically I spend my time re-negotiating human contracts.  Not legal ones. I try to make sure that development and my clients both understand what they are building together – and that everyone has the same set of expectations. It sounds really simple to do, but it isn’t, and I often don’t fully succeed.

But now I find myself wondering if it is time to do something else.

Is it time to go back to work for a big company, and if so, can I find one that I think is willing to listen to me, and hopefully learn a little from me?

Or do I look for a small local company where I can have a more significant impact?

Perhaps I continue along my current path – consulting for startups, taking a piece of equity and a smaller amount of real money?

I’m just not sure.  The American tax system does not favor a consultant like me though.  Equity that I get in companies often has no immediate value, but it usually has an immediate tax consequence.  Taking the tax burden into consideration I am living almost at the poverty level 🙂

The other thing I need to reconsider and think about is my charitable practices.  I gave over 19% of my income to some charity, or to help someone who is less fortunate than I am.  I can’t sustain that and put two kids through college.

So it is my time of year to really think about what I want to do, and find a way to measure myself – to see if I am achieving my goals.

And that’s what I will be doing over the next several weeks.  It’s not an easy task – health insurance and a 401K are very inviting.  Selling myself to another large company is not appealing.

But these things deserve a lot of thought. 

Comments

  1. I’ve always worked for myself (and my kids, I guess :)), and have considered similar factors, although primarily as a principal rather than consultant. Even on an independent path, there are big differences between working with teams of substantial size and working on small projects with a small group.

    Have you thought about what your needs for variety are? The more intimate startup route can be more challenging and exciting in many ways, but it can also be more confining. There is, in my experience, a level of personal intimacy, trust, and shared creative energy in a start up which isn’t matched by even the most demanding problem-solving type projects, but it is also somewhat more akin to a marriage commitment than to a range of relationships. Most of us are better suited to one or the other.

    Sounds like an exciting time for you. Looking for change and new challenges. May you discover that which suits and rewards you best!

    Vera Bass’s last blog post..Remembering a Friend