If your just joining me for the final installment, let me do a quick recap of what you’ve missed. In Part I I talked about what sparked my desire to leave, how I came across my road map and what my backup plan entailed. In Part II I spoke on some of the intricacies of that plan and how it went from ideation to implementation. In this post I’ll give you all the minutia of how I executed the plan and how that has played out over time.
A Day In The New Life
January 16, 2012 marked my first day heading up operations full time. In my 2012 post A Day In The Life of A Small Business CEO I speak about what that life looks like. Four years later, daycare drop offs have been replaced with school, but the routine is still mostly the same. Needless to say, I love what I do and I really don’t see it as work. Our site/blog has numerous post on having passion about what you do, how to deal with fear and how manage through growth. But the key takeaway that I would like to share about my new life is that it’s a fit for me and who I am.
Not everyone is “built for this” as I like to say, and rightly so. Personally, I think you have to be a little bit “off” in order to strike out on your own or head up your own business. However, if you do so, make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. In the 2013 post Why You Shouldn’t Become An Entrepreneur we talk about the 5 reasons you should NOT jump into this lifestyle.
Working The Bridge Plan
As I mentioned, my bridge plan was to work as a contractor via an agency. So, when I was getting ready to leave corporate, I reached out to many of the placement agencies that I had used to get full time positions and asked them if they had a contract division. Some of them did and some didn’t. Needless to say, one agency found my resume in April of 2012 and got me placed on a 6 month contract. This allowed me to pay my bills and still work on the business, which of course was in a slow period since it’s seasonal.
Now, contract work was originally only supposed to be a two year thing. However, I found myself financially in a position where I needed to do it again in year 3 due to a lot of unexpected incidents (e.g. broken collar bone in a bike accident, car repairs, medical expenses, etc). In year 4, I was able to reduce my schedule slightly (e.g. 2 days a week versus 5 days) and in a few weeks I will be in the business 100% (hopefully permanently but you never know).
The key point of the bridge is that it 1) is designed to tide you over until the business can support you and 2) it should also serve a purpose outside of financial motives. What I mean by the latter is that it should enhance your skills, give you exposure to new things (e.g. industries, markets, etc), provide additional training for your new life or at a bare minimum, maintain your skills so that you can continue to be marketable.
My contract assignments kept my skills sharp as I essentially worked in the FP&A department of two different companies in two separate industries. This essentially extended my corporate FP&A career by an additional 4 years. It also allowed me to see how different industries worked (e.g. energy and heavy durable goods) as well as work with new teams of highly talented people.
Watching The Company Grow
Looking back at 2012 and where we’re at the end of 2015 makes my head spin. I remember how mad I was at the end of 2012. The short version of it was that the company performance was far off from our initial projections and I couldn’t figure out how or why. But I quickly trained myself to focus on the mantra “the only thing I can control on a daily basis is my attempt to go out and find sales.”
Subsequent to that year I would go on to work with Intuit as an Ask A Tax Expert and in their Personal Pro product due to the acquisition of a platform I was participating in. Our client base would grow by double digits in each of the years from 2012 thru 2015. We got picked up by some pretty sizable companies to handle their finance function. And somehow in the midst of all this we launched a secondary web site to help folks file all of those old tax returns!
While we’re now at the point where things are starting to stabilize, I have to reiterate that it wasn’t easy. That “not easy” part is outlined pretty well in the post Do You Really Have What It Takes To Start A Business. Thus I would encourage you to read it if you have some time. But in summary, if you are looking on the “how” to leave Corporate America piece, it involves:
- Identifying what your second or new life will look like
- Outlining how you can bridge your current and new life
- Developing that bridge plan
- Implementing and working that bridge as your new life takes shape
- Adjusting and remaining fluid until you arrive at your destination
I hope that you have gotten something out of these posts. Going from corporate to CEO took me many years. I had to learn and work through lots of lessons, some of which I had no direct mentoring on. But if you have the desire to make the change and the heart/drive to learn and then try new things, I am pretty confident that you can achieve the success you desire.
Best of luck in your endeavors and here is to a prosperous 2016!
Mr. Jared R. Rogers, CPA
President & CEO
Wilson Rogers & Company, Inc.