Monday, March 30, 2009

On Losing My Job and Starting a New Career

Today I begin my new career as an “independent consultant”.

That’s just a fancy term meaning that the employer with whom I had spent the last twenty years of my life has informed me that my services are no longer needed.

They still need the services of people who had been there half as long as me. As well as people who make half as much money as I made. They even still need the services of people that made twice the money I made. They just don’t need my services any more.

I know. They told me.

I’m in good company. I join the ranks of the unemployed along with 6,000 other people in the largest restructuring and downsizing in the company’s history. I wasn’t singled out — I was just caught up in the cleansing.

I’m not bitter. I’m going to use the opportunity to control my destiny outside the confines of corporate America for the first time in my life.

I have always considered myself as something of an “intrepreneur”. An “intrepreneur” is somebody who has a lot of good ideas, but who implements them within the confines of a corporate setting. That’s how I always saw myself. I was the guy who would get things done inside the company — even if I was just a little bit outside the normal operating process.

That’s how I did things until they didn’t need my services any more.

Recently, I did some research comparing “intrepreneur” and “entrepreneur”. I discovered that the difference is who accepts the risk. Along with that is who reaps the reward.

When I was an “intrepreneur”, I accepted virtually no risk. If I failed a task, I still had my job; I still had my salary. The corporation risked my salary and my resources and was willing to absorb the loss if I was unproductive.

On the other hand, if I was successful with a project, the corporation reaped potentially huge rewards. I usually received an acknowledgement from boss at the next staff meeting. No risk; and not much reward.

Now my role will change from “intrepreneur” to “entrepreneur”. It’s not the course that I chose for myself — I fully intended to retire from my former employer. But it’s a course that I’ll gladly accept with open arms.

The risks will be totally mine from now on. And they will be great risks. I risk losing everything I’ve worked the last 30 years for. I risk losing my life savings, my house, my car — indeed, all my accumulated wealth, such as it is.

But I don’t risk losing the things that are most important to me. I won’t lose my life, my family, my friends. I won’t lose my faith — not in myself nor in my God. No, the things that are the most important to me are at the least risk. And only the things that are least important to me are at the greatest risk.

On the other hand, the potential rewards are great. I can finally be in control of my own time. I can work when and if I want to (subject only to the pressing need to put food on the table). I can set my own rules, establish my own procedures, and choose the guidelines that I want to follow.

Most important, I can treat my customers the way that I want to treat them. I can establish a new standard for customer service. I can set my own prices. I can control my own expenses.

And every post-tax dollar that I earn will be mine to keep — to dispose of or to enjoy or to share in whatever fashion I choose.

It’s a liberating thought. And, frankly, a bit scary. For the first time in my life, I will be in total control of all my risks and rewards.

I can hardly wait to get started.