Thursday, November 24, 2011

What's your passion?

Have you managed to figure out what your passion is in life? That one thing that lights you up inside, puts a grin on your face and makes you go out there and change the world?

If you have, you are very lucky and should be very thankful!

If you haven't, here's an exercise that may help:
Close your eyes, go back in time and ask your little self: What do you want to be when you grow up? Focus on the memory of what it was that you wanted to be. What it was that you wished for...

Does the thought of being what you wanted to be still get you excited? If it does, I wish for you that it comes true.

Happy thanksgiving!


Money is a big issue when it comes to leaving the business. The pay in the family business, including any added benefits (car, house, etc), is usually higher. It is definitely intimidating to step out into the real world in that regard.

The secret: plan for it, get ready for it, because pay will be cut.

If I compare my current and family-business pay, the current is a lot less than the family business. How did I manage? I planned for it, and I stuck with the plan.

Yes, it's hard. But if you ask me, it isn't a reason to not quit the family business.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deciding to leave and what's next

A reader recently wrote me asking if I could answer the following three questions:
1. How I decide to leave?
2. How I found my new job?
3. How do I find working in a place where I am not my own boss?

I'll post my answers here as I am sure everyone will find them interesting. (Thanks C for writing!)

Deciding to leave
How did I decide to leave? Well, It was a process. A long one. I joined the business pretty early on and spent over 13 years working in it. I started in the mailroom(!!!) and moved up the ranks till I was a senior manager.

The biggest mistake I made was following the path my dad paved for me rather than taking my own. I never asked myself if the business is where I wanted to be, or if it interested me. I pretty much took that I had to work in the business at face value. Down the line this would cause a lack of self-fulfillment, but mostly it caused my father and I to clash over me not meeting the goals he set for me (the goals were unattainable by humans).

The other evil, which exists in most family businesses, is that there is no separation between family life and business life. Business always came first no matter what the setting was. We'd end up clashing over business stuff during off hours (you can imagine what that does to a family vacation).

But the fault that really did it for me was the lack of full responsibility. No matter how high up I was in the ladder, all decisions had to go through my father. It came to the point where I could no longer manage my team as he would come down, reverse my decision (in front of the team) and layout a new set of actions.
I think there were two reasons for this: a. he was looking out for his business; b. he was trying to minimize the mistakes I would make.
I do not accept either: I was looking out for the business too, it was a family business after all; and mistakes are part of life, we have to make them so that we can learn and improve.

And so it was, that after 13 years we clashed for the last time over the latter. He would accuse me of mismanaging my team. Arguing was futile. I quit.

Finding my next job & life in it
The original plan was to find a job before I left the business, taking a week or two holiday before I started. I had managed to score a senior position in a tech company, but a few weeks before I was scheduled to start, they called and said the position had been canceled. (Their loss.)
The result of this was that I spent the next 6 months looking for a job. It was not a fun time to say the least. Money was running out and I eventually swallowed my pride and went on the dole for a short period. It was bad.
But, with the help of some very good friends—which, if you ask me, is the only way to find a good job—I managed to finally get a job. It was close to home (a 30 minute commute) and it was interesting. The added bonus was that it was filled with great people, the kind you can't wait to meet again tomorrow. I love it there.

As for being my own boss—not an issue at all. It's all about your employer respecting your time, something I mentioned in a previous post here. Trust and respect is all you really need to feel like you're your own boss because it empowers you to do great work. And if you do great work you will be trusted even more and respected even more. I was promoted only 3 months in.

If you notice you'll see that I opened with trust and respect (at least lack of) and closed with them. If you ask me why I left the business—and were looking for the short answer—I would say that the gist of it all is trust and respect. The depth of their deficiency while in the family business was intolerable any longer...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sell abilities, not time

One of the things I appreciate about my new job is the fact that it respects my time.

In the family business it was all about putting in the hours. Many hours. Many many hours. Attempting to maintain a work-life balance was pretty much frowned upon. The business came first, before family, before the kids, before everything. The business was entitled to my time before I was.

This brought me to an interesting conclusion: We should really sell our abilities not our time. Our salaries shouldn't be based on a time clock print out, but rather on our ability to do great work. And great work is done when we are committed to ourselves and the work we produce, not when we are committed to a clock.

Respect my time and I will respect yours. Respect builds commitment. Commitment instigates great work!


One of the most meaningful insights I had recently was the understanding that I am no longer "locked in".

When I was in the family business the lock-in was pretty solid:
If the work wasn't interesting, or if there was no salary rise or promotion, I'd just take it without much opposition. There was nothing much else for me to do about it. What would I do, leave?!

I was locked in. Locked in by guilt.

The other night, while I was sitting on the stoop, I had this deep understanding that that situation was no longer the case for me, and I realized that I am free to do as I please: If the work no longer interested me, I could try something else. If the salary or position were no good I could leave to look for a more challenging post. No emotional attachments. No guilt.

Ah, the freedom.