Tag Archives: the life of a small business owner

How I Left Corporate – Part III

Fighting foot traffic to get to the office? Not anymore!

Fighting foot traffic to get to the office? Not anymore!

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

Can I come back as a contractor?

Can I come back as a contractor?

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.

A Day In The Life of a Small Business CEO

So what’s it like to be the CEO of a small or developing business?  The answers are probably as varied as the individuals that head these organizations.  Yet the one common thread which I’m sure we all have in common is this; you’re responsible for everything.  Let me elaborate.

When I worked a “corporate” job, there were all types of functions to take care of various tasks.  The folks in Marketing made all those fancy advertisements.  Sales guys and gals made sure the money keep flowing in.  Legal dotted the I’s and crossed the t’s and made sure no one did anything to get us in a bind.  IT kept all the systems humming along and fixed them when they went down.  Security kept the riff raff out of the building.  Maintenance made sure that the lights worked right and when something broke it got fixed.  The list goes on and on.

Now when you are the CEO of a small business, you assume all those roles and functions simultaneously.  I remember recently a good colleague of mine saw my title change on LinkedIn (to CEO) and sent me an email congratulating me.  I jokingly responded, don’t be fooled by the title, CEO really just means Chief Everything Officer!  So what is a “typical” day in my life like now that I’m at the helm?  Let’s take a look and see.

5:20AM  Time to get up and get ready to go.  My wife travels a good deal of the time so that often means I have to drop our daughter off at day care.  We’re out the house at 5:40AM and I’m typically back at 6:20AM.  From there it’s time to get ready for my commute (I bike to work) and get headed over to the office.  The biking to work serves two purposes.  One, it allows me to save on gas and conserve that every dwindling savings of mine.  Two, it allows me to get my race “training” in as I often don’t have the time to do full workouts (hey, you make do with what you can get done and move on).

8:00AM  I’m typically walking in the office around this time.  First task is to get all the computers and printers going while I get cleaned up and changed into my “office duds.”  Once I’m ready to go, I have to get our “Uncle Sam Air Dancer” up on the roof so that passing drivers will notice that we’re even there.  Yeah, the office has signage, but you’d be surprised at how much you drive by places a thousand times and never realize that they even exist.

8:30AM  Doors are open, neon signs are on and it’s time to go to work.  The first two hours of the day typically involve me responding to customer emails, returning calls, scheduling the work load for the day, sending out prospecting calls/emails, etc.  This is a bunch of administrative stuff that has to get done, but unfortunately I can’t focus on it for too long because I have to eventually do the work that brings in the checks.

Noon  Maybe I stop and cram some food in my face.  Maybe I keep working on cranking out the work.  Maybe I am talking face-to-face with a customer.  Eventually I will get to eat something, but there really is no such thing as a “lunch break” anymore.

6:30PM  Time to close up shop.  The day is typically too short and there is always something left to do.  I try to table it until the next day UNLESS it involves a customer.  Customer service is essential to building a good brand name and it happens with each and every client interaction.  Mess up once and you’ll pay for it more than you even want to imagine.

7:30PM  If my wife is home then this marks the time when I can begin family time.  If she’s gone then I have to go and pick up the kid first.  Either way it goes, from now until about 10PM it’s me getting my daughter and I ready for the next day, getting food on the table, getting ready for bed and then eventually falling asleep by “accident” as I put my daughter to bed.

Now, if you read above, no where will you read that I talked to my friends, checked my personal email, checked my Twitter timeline, yada, yada, yada.  Is that because it didn’t happen?  Nope.  It’s because it didn’t happen while I was AT work.  When I get home, I get a few minutes here and there to do those things.  But when I’m at work, if it’s not a revenue generating task, it gets to wait.  Like the old adage goes, nothing happens in business until you make a sale.  That’s why in corporate America you typically work in a “cost center” as opposed to a “profit center.”  This is also why the sales folks often get paid a boatload of money, because they actually make the business happen.

Lessons Learned?

So what has this transition taught me so far?  Well, I’ve had plenty of “Ah ha” moments and I’ve also gained an appreciation for many things.  But it I had to pick a few of my best lessons, I would say:

There’s Never Enough Time  The day goes by too quickly and there is ALWAYS something to do.  Most of this “something” has nothing to do with making money, but it never goes away and if you stop doing it, you more than likely will run out of or lose your customers.

You’re Emotions Are Always On  From the time I get up to the time I go to sleep, I am always thinking of the business.  Things go right, things go bad and in the middle of it all, there I stand.  I often don’t have time to relish in the moment of anything that happens.  But what I will say is that no matter what’s going on, I’m always feeling it until the minute I go to sleep.

You Don’t Know Jack  Yeah, you know how to make the product you sell or deliver the service you offer.  You might be good with computers, but there will be a time when something goes wrong and you will have to fix it (or call someone to).  With that said, you are always learning.  No matter how much you know about each function, you will always be learning more about it.  And even if you do know about the function, you will always be learning about tasks.  For example, you may know marketing, but it may take you a few attempts to “learn” which ad actually drives traffic through your door.

It’s Always An Adventure  For those of you who like change, then this job is definitely for you.  No two days are exactly the same.  Every day you will be pushed to your limits in terms of learning, flexibility, time, skills, etc.  It’s both fun and scary at the exact same time.  There is no “Oh, I’ve learned everything in this role and now I’m board.  When is my next rotation or promotion?”  Instead there is “Wow, how do I figure this one out?  And once I do, what’s around the bend?”   But this is what makes being a CEO one of the most rewarding roles out of all the ones I’ve previously had.

Until next time.