So close in fact that I can almost taste it. Two startups launching in the next two months. Both of them large projects. Each of them over a year in the making. Neither of them started as my dream – but just like an adopted child, I love them both as if they were my own.
Two large projects, in fact. One a pure social networking play with a fairly unique cultural twist – the other more of a social Enterprise application with an absolute chance to change the way business is conducted. Both designed to… (wait for it!) … MAKE MONEY! Imagine – a startup with a profit plan! Almost unheard of these days! And I’m sitting on two of them.
Both of them are only two person companies (that’s if you count me). Both founded by really interesting people that are about as different from each other as a domino and a Frisbee. But in actuality they are so much alike – both love their ideas. Both have put a ton of their own resources (money, and more importantly passion) into their dreams. Both are absolutely committed to what they are doing. Neither has taken Angel funding, much less considered a VC round.
Both of them found me – in different ways. Both of them brought me onboard after simple phone conversations. Neither of them required me to sign anything. I didn’t ask either of them to sign anything. One of them I have never met. Both of them are now friends. Regardless of how anything works out with the product launches, I expect both of them to remain friends. We are already discussing our next projects.
For those of you that don’t know – when I left Corporate America a couple of years ago, I left with a bad taste in my mouth and about 150K in an IRA. We got a new management team and they basically decimated my group. Once one of the highest regarded groups in the company it suddenly almost didn’t exist anymore. Of course the company that made that decision almost doesn’t exist anymore as well.
I owed over $500K on mortgages in two homes. I was planning on making my Corporate Money for a long time to come. It didn’t work out that way.
I didn’t look for a job – not once. I never even considered it. I started a company with friends. The company still exists, but I am no longer part of it, and haven’t been for a long time. Some of those people are still my friends. Some of them are not. You never really know who a friend is until you go into business with them.
So after that venture I decided to invest my 150K in myself – to live off of it while I tried to build a business as a consultant. I’ve had numerous small jobs and have worked with over two dozen companies. Some of them paid me. Some of them stiffed me. Being a single parent of two teenagers it was a very dangerous time to make such a lifestyle change – especially since I could easily have moved back into a six figure salary as a middle/upper middle manager somewhere.
But I knew what I wanted to do – and I was honestly afraid that I would get trapped by the nice office, large staff, stock options, and steady salary. I though if I didn’t make my move then that I never would.
So here we are, two years later. I still have some of my IRA left (but I did have to sell a few toys). My consulting business is at break-even. I have equity stakes in several companies.
All in all, not a bad result for two years worth of effort. A scary two years, I admit. And I still don’t know for sure how I am paying for my son to go to College this fall. But I feel extremely lucky – I am doing what I want to do. I am doing what I love to do. I know many people can’t say the same. I am very thankful every day for the opportunities I have – and for the people that have helped make this a reality. It took a lot of really good employees and bosses to get me to this point. I thank them all.
It also took a bit of lunacy, I admit. If I were still married I doubt I would have been able to make the same decisions two years ago. It’s funny how life works out.
And in that two years I’ve also done more for other people that ever before in my life – even when I was a middle manager winning the highest award our company offered – and making about $199K in one year alone through salary and bonuses. I didn’t give much then. I can use the excuse that I was too busy – but that’s just not true. I was too conceited. I was too interested in who I was, and where I was going.
This journey hasn’t just changed my financial state – it’s changed who I am, and what I think is important in life. It’s honestly changed what I value. And WHO I value.
It’s affected almost every thing about my life, including my children. Most of all, I think it has affected them. IN a very good way. They enjoyed the wealth, but they also know that I was working damn near every waking minute. They knew I was dealing with a lot of assholes, and that I was often very unhappy. In the last two years I have worked at home. I have shared my work with my kids. I have taught them that job satisfaction is more important that financial reward, and that nothing is more important than sharing.
I think they understand that.
And even if everything else fails – if they learned that lesson then the last two years was well spent. An investment in my own children’s character. In my legacy, even.
So even though I may be a famous consultant one day, a guy who built hugely successful companies even – what I want to remember most are the points I’ve made in this post. And that’s why I wrote this – to remind me of what I consider to be important at this stage of my fledgling consulting career!
And I apologize for the arrogant nature of this – it wasn’t intended that way. I am anything but arrogant. Mostly, I am lucky as heck.