Origins – The History of xXx Racing

xXx Racing – Athletico                             Racing Since 1999

Many people who know me, may be familiar with the fact that I race bikes for a team called xXx Racing – Athletico. The team was founded back in 1999 by a group of messengers, but just who exactly were these individuals? Where did they come from and what prompted them to form the team? As the team has grown and membership has changed over the years, some of the nuances and details have become lost to the sands of time. With the team approaching it’s 25th Anniversary, this story pieces some of that “lost history” back together for all to witness and revel in for years to come.

Me at Cherry Roubaix Crit, Traverse City, MI Cir. 2013

Now a special note about this post. I’ve been on xXx, commonly referred to as “Triple X” since 2007. Back in 2012 I did a lot of the research that appears in this post between the team’s 10th and 15th Anniversaries. I had the opportunity to speak with Marcus (see below) on several occasions as I wanted to get the details correct. But as time has passed, a lot of the internet links that contained that history have since been broken or deleted. To that end, this post contains links and PDF files of those same links so that if they are broken in the future, readers will still be able to enjoy and find the original content. If there is a file with the content, it’s denoted with (PDF) to alert you to it. Now with that said, let’s get to the story!

The Beginning

It all began with a guy by the name of Marcus Moore. Marcus worked as a bike messenger in downtown Chicago up until 1995 when he then started working as a mechanic. In 1997 he founded Yojimbo’s Garage, a local bike shop, (PDF) after splitting time between being a carpenter and working at Upgrade Cycles.

Marcus Moore, xXx Racing Founder and owner of Yojimbo’s Garage

As Marcus was into the racing scene as well as that of messengering here in Chicago, he sponsored a single rider in 1997 at our local track, the Northbrook Velodrome. However, the rider burned out and didn’t go back the following season. In 1998, one of his fellow messenger friends, Patrick Babcock, decided to try his hand at track racing. It took Patrick about three or four times to get comfortable with the style of racing, but then he got hooked.

My track number, still being sponsored by Yojimbo’s Garage!

Patrick got wind of a race that was being held in Toronto Canada in October of 1998 and wanted Marcus to go. The race? One of those crazy Alley Cat Scrambles on the Human Powered Roller Coaster track (PDF). This track saw messengers come from all over the world to compete in events such as the Cycle World Messenger Championships. Marcus and Patrick really liked the messenger scene and the vibe they got about racing. There were some organized teams; some that even had women. During the ride back to Chicago, Marcus and Patrick wondered if other messengers might also have an interest in racing. They also talked about forming a race team.

Messenger racing at The Human Powered Roller Coaster

In late 1998 Marcus founded the Alley Cat series called the “Tour Da Chicago” (PDF), which was a muti-race series that was run over a period of time and held on the city streets. It wasn’t necessarily “sanctioned” racing, but it was “organized” and allowed messengers and other strong men/women to prove their mettle and show who was the baddest on two wheels. In November, Marcus and Patrick called a meeting among the messenger community to see to what extent their desire to race actually was. The result? 28 people showed up, which was a very promising turnout. At another meeting, the group sifted through more than 40 suggested names for the team, finally settling on xXx. The name wasn’t inspired by anything of a racy nature, but by a Toronto restaurant named the xXx Cafe that Moore liked and he and Patrick had eaten at during their trip. With that, the foundation had been laid for the team to start racing in 1999.

Team Colors

During that winter of 1998 – 1999, they filled out the paperwork to formally launch the team. It was also during this period that the team settled on our team colors of red, black and white. The history of this is that the colors came from the historic Chicago colors (PDF) of the anarchist movement and uprisings in the early 1900s (PDF) and the fact that they were edgy. Most of the other teams at that time were rather “traditional” whereas the founders of xXx wanted to push the envelope and prove a point. You didn’t have to have a fancy bike and all that gear to be fast or win races. Messengers are fast too and we’re about to show Chicago how we can throw down!

Racing Since 1999

In its earliest incarnation, xXx served primarily as a support system for couriers, but the team made a conscious decision not to restrict its membership, and soon attracted racers of all stripes. While this is in no means an exhaustive list, here are some of those riders who made up the founding/initial team with the years for which results listing xXx Racing can be found:

Marcus Moore (’99), Patrick Babcock (’99), Mike Genge (’99), Eric Sprattling (’99), Thomas McBride (’99), Jason Pyrzynski (’99), Donny “Quixote” Perry (’00), Jeff Benjamin (’00) Zach Fiocca (‘99), Sarah Tillotson (’01), Lissa Krawczyk (’01)

The exact date of when the team was founded isn’t necessarily known but the first race that included results with a majority of the founding riders was the Parkside Criterium Number 3 that was held in Kenosha Wisconsin on April 11, 1999. Back then there was no Cat 5 so most of the riders were in the “Senior 4” category…with the exception of Eric Sprattling.

Team Mentoring

Each one of the riders above brought something unique to the table. All had a love for the bike and going fast. However, there was one rider who brought a little something extra with them; the gift and desire of mentorship. Eric Sprattling rode as a messenger for 13 years. One of the companies he rode for was named Deadline Express. He was also into the Alley Cat racing scene as well as that of sanctioned racing; Eric actually rode for the True Value team of the ‘90s before he helped with the foundation of xXx. With that being said, Eric had a good idea of how racing worked. He also knew that it took training to be any good at it.

Eric Sprattling rockin his True Value race jersey!

Rumor has it that Eric would bump into other messengers during the week and would ask them what they were doing on Saturday. When the respondent replied, Eric would say “Wanna Go For A Ride?” or something along those lines. Early on Saturday morning, Eric would ride to one guys house and meet up with them. The two riders would go to the next guys house and repeat the process until they had a caravan of riders. They would then all traipse up to the northern suburbs (e.g. Highland Park, Fort Sheridan) and sometimes even farther. It was this mentorship that afforded these messengers and friends a route into structured training and racing. Fellow teammate Kyle Wiberg recounts (PDF) how Eric dragged him out to a bike race being held in Sherman Park back in 1989. Eric would later join Kyle at the messenger company Kyle founded back in 1989, Velocity.

Aside from being a mentor, Eric was also an inspiration to these riders. When xXx was founded, Eric was already in his 40’s. As some put it, he was winding down his racing career and wanted to pass on what he knew to others. But while he may have been winding down, he certainly wasn’t being a slouch. You see, stories have it that Eric was one heck of an endurance rider. Many accounts point to the fact that he participated in 6 and 12 hour time trials on more than one occasion. These events were held somewhere around the Charles Mound Illinois area. In preparation for these events, Eric often rode long distances as part of his training. One account mentions that Eric rode from Chicago to Wisconsin, raced his bike and then rode back home. It was also known that he would ride to the Wisconsin and Indiana boarders all within the same day. An account of Eric’s racing prowess appeared in Chapter 13 “Alley Cat” (PDF) of Travis Culley’s book The Immortal Class.

Side note – I rode as a messenger between 1995-1997 during the Summers of my Senior Year in high school and the one leading into my Junior year in college. I was #512 of the Chicago Messenger Service. Now, I do not have a great memory of who ALL the messengers were during that time because I was a kid. But it is literally quite possible that I could have bumped into Eric during those years. If it did happen, I chalk it up to fate that I would later ride on the same team that he founded!

Tragic Moments

While 1999 remains a focal point in our founding, it was one of three very challenging years for our team. Tommy McBride was one of the early messengers who joined the team. As a young chap, he worked at Arrow Messenger in 1996 and later helped found On The Fly Courier. Unfortunately, Tommy’s life was cut short when he was killed in a road rage incident at 5300 W. Washington on April 26, 1999. A memorial dedicated to Tommy can be found on the bicycle messenger memorial page (PDF).

That same year, just a few short weeks later, Eric suffered a brain aneurysm during the Circuit of Sauk (aka Baraboo) road race in Wisconsin. Unfortunately he would not recover and passed away on May 7, 1999. A memorial dedicated to Eric can be found on the same bicycle messenger memorial page (PDF).

McBride and Sprattling were memorialized in the 13th issue of “Dead Air,” the messenger zine edited by Donny “Quixote” Perry (former leader of the Windy City Bike Messenger Association).

In 2007, the year I joined the team, we were unfortunate to suffer two other tragic losses.

Elizabeth “Beth” Kobeszka

Elizabeth “Beth” Kobeszka, was an avid triathlete and joined xXx and began competing in bike races throughout the region. On June 30, 2007, at the age of 24, Beth was killed in a biking accident during the 20th Annual Proctor Cycling Classic in Peoria, Illinois. Continuing her lifelong legacy (PDF) of helping others, Beth was an organ donor.

Pieter Ombregt

Pieter Ombregt was a member of xXx Racing-Athletico for two seasons from 2006-2007. He was a gifted photographer, an accomplished cyclist and a dear friend to the Chicago cycling community. Pieter died at the age of 27 (PDF) on September 11, 2007, from injuries he sustained in a bicycle racing accident.

Richard Moellering

In 2018, the team suffered our most recent loss with the passing of Richard Moellering. A member of xXx since 2012, Richard embodied the spirit and mission of xXx both on and off the bike. I know many of us strive to be even half as engaged, adventurous, and active as him when we’re in our 70’s. Richard passed (PDF) on April 20, 2018 of complications from a cycling accident.

In honor of all our fallen riders, we wear their hearts on our sleeves as a constant inward and outward reminder that their lives will never be forgotten.

Traditions & Legacies

Over the years, many things that became common place within xXx Racing actually had their origins with the people and places surrounding the events in 1998/1999.

As mentioned earlier, the team began with the focus of mentoring couriers as they began sanctioned racing. As early as June 19, 1999, (PDF) riders were venturing up to the Northbrook Velodrome to participate in track races under the xXx Racing banner. This attracted other non-messengers who wanted to race; none of which were ever turned away. It was this open door policy that started the practice of xXx racing being a team open to all. To this day, we remain one of the principle conduits within Chicagoland for new racers to enter into the sport. Additionally, xXx maintains an active and accomplished presence at the Northbrook Velodrome.

In 2001 Randy Warren joined the team in a coaching capacity. This move filled the role started by Eric with regards to someone being able to provide advice and knowledge with regards to training and racing. It was also during this time that the team began working closely with the Active Transportation Alliance and other cycling organizations to help promote cycling in the community.

Athletico Physical Therapy joined xXx Racing as a sponsor in 2002 and became our co-title sponsor in 2003, creating the xXx Racing-Athletico team. We are thrilled to be partnered with Chicago’s finest source of physical therapy and sports medicine.

With regards to us being a development team, various programs focused on fostering this aspect began to emerge over time. The current Men’s Development Program (MDP), Women’s Development Program (WDP), Junior Development Program (JDP) and Elite Development Program (EDP) all have their roots in the concept of nurturing and growing our riders. In 2006/2007, one of those programs was the Messenger Program, which was a historic nod back to our roots.

Our team ride that leaves Wicker Park and heads up to the northern suburbs, follows popular routes that are used by many North Shore cyclist. However, Eric was using these routes back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s for his own training and that of his messenger colleagues. Maybe it’s no coincidence that we still venture that way to this day on our Saturday Team Ride. And on a related topic, in 2010 Coach Warren started the 3 States Memorial Ride as a nod to Eric and some of the epic training that was attributed to him. Back in 2012, as a personal nod to Eric I rode to all 4 of our surrounding states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) in a single day. You can read about it in “200+ Miles & 4 States on A Bicycle” which is here on our blog.

For years, xXx held the Sherman Park Race at the location which bears this moniker. In fact, the park is one of the few in Chicago, that has a roadway in it that was actually designed to be used for leisurely activities, like bike riding, back in the early 1900’s. The inaugural race (of recent times) according to the Chicago Tribune was held by the Chicago Park District in 1989. As mentioned above, both Eric and Kyle were in attendance. xXx began hosting the race sometime later and ran it annually through 2011. In 2012 we shifted the venue up north to Lincoln Park, but remain committed to introducing bike racing to those within the city limits.

Notable Championships

With a rich and deep history of riders throughout the years, the team has had several win championship medals and titles. Below is a list of some of the archived and recorded championships. I am sure that there are more that may be undocumented and were lost to the sands of time.

World Championship Medals

  • 2010: Greta Neimanas (bronze, Paralympic time trial)
  • 2009: Greta Neimanas (silver, Paralympic time trial; silver, Paralympic road race)
  • 2007: Greta Neimanas (bronze, Paralympic time trial)
  • 2004: Rebecca Much (silver, juniors time trial)

USA Cyling National Champions

  • 2016: Steve Burton (masters 60-64 scratch)
  • 2016: Johnny Khufahl (juniors 17-18 individual pursuit)
  • 2015: Nikos Hessert (juniors 17-18 scratch, team pursuit)
  • 2015: Johnny Khufahl (juniors 17-18 team pursuit)
  • 2014: Nikos Hessert (juniors 17-18 points, team pursuit)
  • 2010: John Tomlinson (juniors 17-18 points)
  • 2010: Greta Neimanas (paralympic road race, criterium, time trial)
  • 2009: John Tomlinson (juniors 17-18 scratch)
  • 2006: Aaron Harrison (juniors 10-12 omnium)
  • 2005: Randy Warren (masters 40-44 points race)
  • 2004: Rebecca Much (juniors 17-18 time trial)
  • 2004: Rebecca Much (juniors 17-18 road race

USA Cyling State Champions

  • 2017
    • Jake Buescher (cat 1 criterium, team pursuit)
    • Courtney O’Neill (team pursuit, individual pursuit, points)
    • Tyler George (kilo, individual pursuit, team pursuit, match sprint, Roger Delanghe Trophy Race)
    • Solomon Triester (team pursuit)
    • Katie George (team pursuit)
  • 2016
    • Erika Kondo (cat 3 road race, criterium, 500M, scratch)
    • Emily Laflamme, Katie George, Erika Kondo, Courtney O’Neill (team pursuit)
    • Johnny Khufahl (Cat 1/2 Madison)
    • Sean Metz (Cat P/1/2 Road Race)
    • Andrei Cismas (junior 15-18 road race)
    • Steve Burton (Cat 3/4 Madison)
    • Tyler George (Cat 1/2 time trial, Madison, 1000M, team pursuit, individual pursuit, team sprint)
  • 2015
    • Daryus Patel (juniors 15-18 criterium)
    • Courtney O’Neill (Cat 3 criterium)
    • Erika Kondo (Cat 4 criterium)
    • Emily Laflamme (Cat 4 road race)
    • Ryan O’Boyle (Cat P/1/2 road race)
    • Tracy Dangott, Michael Kirby (Cat 3/4 Madison)
    • Tracy Dangott (Cat 4 Keirin)
  • 2014
    • Nikos Hessert (Cat P/1/2 points)
    • Alec Dinerstein (Cat 3 points)
    • Tyler George, Nikos Hessert (Cat P/1/2 Madison)
    • Michael Kirby, Rob Whittier (Cat 3/4 Madison)
    • Sue Wellinghoff (time trial)
    • Tom Briney, Jake Buescher, Tyler George, Randy Warren (team pursuit)
    • Alec Dinerstein (Cat 3 scratch)
    • Tyler George (4k pursuit)
  • 2013
    • Nikos Hessert (junior 15-16 omnium)
    • WilliamPankonin (35+ road race)
    • Sue Wellinghoff (Cat 3 road race)
    • Fred Schuler (50+ criterium)
  • 2012
    • Brenda Culver (Cat 3 mountain bike)
    • Mark Baranowski (Cat 3 40-49 mountain bike)
    • Ben O’Malley (juniors 15-18 time trial)
    • Sandra Samman (3K pursuit)
    • Kyle Mindick (juniors 17-18 omnium)
    • Tristan Whitehead (Cat 4 criterium)
    • Sue Wellinghoff (Cat 4 criterium)
    • Daryus Patel (juniors 10-14 criterium)
  • 2011
    • John Stainthorp (60+ cyclocross)
    • William Pankonin (Cat 3 cyclocross)
    • Larry Stoegbauer, with help from Jason Garner (Madison)
    • Liam Donoghue (individual pursuit)
    • Dave Moyer, Liam Donoghue and Larry Stoegbauer, with help from John Tomlinson (team pursuit)
    • Dave Moyer (points)
    • Ryan Fay (Cat 3 criterium)
    • Ryan Fay (Cat 3 time trial)
    • Nikos Hessert (juniors 10-14 criterium)
    • Dave Moyer (Cat 1 criterium)
  • 2010
    • Mike Seguin (Cat 3 cyclocross)
    • Liam Donoghue (scratch)
    • Liam Donoghue, Dave Moyer, John Tomlinson, Randy Warren (team pursuit)
    • Dave Moyer (Cat P/1/2 criterium)
    • Heidi Sarna (women’s open criterium)
    • Samuele Bianchi (juniors 10-14 criterium)
  • 2009
    • Seth Meyer (Cat P/1/2 road race)
    • Dave Moyer, John Tomlinson, Randy Warren, Shane Winn (team pursuit)
    • Dave Moyer (points)
    • Liam Donoghue (Cat 4 criterium)
    • Mike Seguin (Cat 4 30+ criterium)
  • 2008
    • John Tomlinson (juniors cyclocross)
    • Eileen Neville (Cat 4 cyclocross)
    • Cecile Redoble (Cat 4 time trial)
  • 2007
    • Peter Allen (30-34 time trial)
    • Joe Ebenroth (Cat 4 30+ criterium)
    • Andy Harrison (juniors 10-12 omnium)
    • Kevin Krakovsky (Cat 4 30+ road)
    • John Tomlinson (juniors 15-18 omnium)
    • Jeff Wat (Cat 4 criterium)
  • 2006
    • Greta Neimanas (juniors 15-18 omnium)
    • Ben Popper (Cat 4 cyclocross)
    • Janet Lin (Cat 4 criterium)
    • Eve Pytel (500M)
    • Eve Pytel (3K pursuit)
    • Eve Pytel (masters 30-39 500M)
    • Eve Pytel (masters 30-39 pursuit)
    • John Tomlinson (juniors 10-14 omnium)
  • 2005
    • Anita Dilles (500M)
    • Anita Dillles, Jennifer Hoover, Susan Peithman, Eve Pytel (team pursuit)
    • Anita Dilles, Susan Peithman, Eve Pytel (team sprint)
    • Emily Macdonald (C cyclocross)
  • 2004
    • Eric Weisenburger (B cyclocross)
  • 2003
    • Heather Calomese, Rebecca Much, Brianna Nichols, Eve Pytel (team pursuit)
    • Heather Calomese, Brianna Nichols, Eve Pytel (team sprint)
    • Sean Hopkins (juniors pursuit)
    • Sean Hopkins, Matt Kaminecki, Justyn Moore, William Chotes (juniors team pursuit)
    • Sean Hopkins, Matt Kaminecki, William Chotes (juniors team sprint)
    • Rebecca Much (200M time trial)
    • Randy Warren (points race)

As I bring this history lesson to a conclusion, I want to thank the many people who took the time with me back in 2012 to share all of it with me. I won’t name them here, because many of them are mentioned above. But there were also several sites and articles that contained data that were also used to piece things together. If you want to learn more about the late 90’s messenger or cycling community, or some of the other events that took place around that time, then make sure you check out some of these other articles, which are linked below.

Jared R. Rogers, CPA
xXx Racing – Athletico
Racing 2007 – present
Unofficial “Current” Historian

Other Notable Reads

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A Bike, A Storm, A Reminder About Life

After a storm, the sun always shines bright!

As I write this, the world is at a standstill due to Covid-19. Riding my bike during a recent rain storm reminded me of an important life lesson. What was the lesson? That the sun always shines brightest after a rain storm!

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I love cycling. Not only do I ride bikes, I race them at the amateur level. It’s this racing aspect that requires me to do tons of training, especially during the summer. So today, even though there was the threat of rain, I decided to go for a decent ride (40 miles). It was my hope, that I would at least be able to make it to the halfway point without getting soaked.

I was fortunate enough to make it to mile 20 with zero precipitation. But when I turned North to head back home, I could see the storms clouds off in the distance. What was “worse” was that I could hear tons of thunder. While it sounds super cool, typically where there’s thunder there’s lightning. By the way the storm was tracking, I could tell that I was going to miss the brunt of it. But there was a chance that I would get caught by the edge, if I didn’t high tail it back home.

Head down and pushing hard, I told myself if I could get 5 miles North, I might be okay. But about 3 miles up the road, the clouds opened up and started to pour big drops of rain. Not a problem for me. I like being in the rain, and always have since I was a kid. While others sought shelter during storms, I was the weirdo out splashing in puddles just soaking it up. Thunder, lightning, wind and all. Blame the Aquarian in me; it’s the sign of the water bearer! Heck, I did’t even own an umbrella until I started my professional career.

So I kept pushing on, getting wet and marveling at the thunder and how loud it was. However, there was lightning. At first it wasn’t a big deal and the strikes were intermittent. But then there was one strike that was super bright and a little too close to home for me. The one thing that all cyclist are trained is that if there is lightning, it’s best to seek shelter. I mean, it’s not a great idea to be rolling around on a tiny piece of metal when there is a bunch of electricity in the air! So I saw a archway at a building and decided to wait it out. Maybe it was a church? Maybe it was a school? Maybe it was a Catholic school which is why I thought it was a church? Who knows.

As I stood under the archway I was wet, but out of the rain and hopefully clear of getting stuck by lightning. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain was going to 100% stop in about 20 minutes. I text my wife so she would know that I was waiting it out and was safe. Once the worst part of the storm passed, I got back on the bike and resumed my ride. As I was riding, the sun came out as if the almighty themselves had parted the clouds to say hello. It was in that moment that I was reminded of the life lesson I mentioned above. It was also when I decided to take that picture around Wolf Lake!

When we humans are faced with adversity, challenge, struggle and the like, we often go through several phases. In honor of the letter “R” (like my last name) I have named these phases:

  • Reject
  • Resolve
  • Reset
  • Resume
  • Rejoice

You may not have noticed these phases above, but if you go back you can see them all. I rejected the fact that I was about to get caught in a thunderstorm. I resolved that it would happen and sought shelter. During this time, I reset and prepared to ride home wet and in the rain. Once the worst was past, I resumed my ride. Lastly, when the sun came out, I rejoiced and almost forgot about the dangerous lightning that I had been riding through.

While things seem bad and scary around the world right now, it’s good to keep the cycle above in mind. At some point in time, this too will pass. It will be behind us and a long way down the road, it will feel like a distant memory. Right now we may be in the reset phase. All of the Summer sporting activities I love, the lakefront trail, vacations and gatherings with friends are put on hold. I’ve resolved myself to believe that we won’t be able to “resume” until we get to 2021. Hopefully at that time, I can head to the track and “go fast and turn left” with all of my friends as the 2020 season has pretty much been shelved.

Until then, let’s all try to keep one another safe. Practice good hygiene, make sure you social distance, protect the most vulnerable around you and remember to tell those you care about, that you love them on a frequent basis. But never forget, after a storm, the sun always shines bright!

Welcome To Wilson Rogers & Company!

Welcome video with Wilson Rogers & Company CEO Jared Rogers, CPA.  Learn about the services our company offers, how Jared got started in the business and what he likes best about his job.

You can also view this on our YouTube Channel here.  If you want to know more about Jared (or his crazy escapades) then check out the Who’s The Boss category from out blog.


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.

How I Left Corporate – Part II

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 this post we’ll go over some of the intricacies of that plan and how it went from ideation to implementation.

Devising The Plan

No more Brooks Brothers, Brothers Brooks?

No more Brooks Brothers, Brothers Brooks?

The first post mentioned that it was the book by Jeff Cohen that gave me the roadmap on “how” to make my transition. I will not share everything that is in his book Working Less, Earning More, but I will highlight its essence.

Essentially, the key to working less and earning more is to margin up the payout for the time/effort that you put in. For example, if you can make $40 an hour doing part time work 40 hours a week or $500 an hour for doing 4 hours of work per week, which do you choose? You choose the second because you 1) make $2,000 versus $1,600 AND 2) you still have 36 hours in the week to make more money.

So the key to the equation is that your second life has to produce more output (money) for your input (time/effort).  Thus your “new life” can take the form of being a consultant, doing freelance work, running your own business or just living off passive income.  However, once you have identified your new life, you essentially have to “bridge” from your current one to the other. So how do you accomplish this?  Per the book you can do this by:

  1. Switching to part time work
  2. Negotiating a consulting gig (with your current employer)
  3. Working freelance assignments (at night)
  4. Creating passive income (like purchasing rental property)
  5. Cut a deal with your spouse

I already knew that my second life was running my/our own business.  However, at the time I was thinking of all of this, I was well off from the bridge phase.  Thus, my shift actually involved a “pre-bridge” phase.  As I mentioned in the first post, this pretty much involved:

  • Building the business part time
  • Creating a fallback position within corporate

I wanted to do the two things above for a few reasons.  First, I wanted to scale the business up to a point that I could then transition into it with little disruption to my finances.  Second, I wanted a “plan B” should things not work out.  If I had to come back to the corporate world, I wanted it to be at a certain level (e.g. Manager).  Thus, while the business grew, I focused on attaining said fallback position (which I did).  Once that occurred, it was just a matter of waiting for the opportune time to present itself to make my exit.

Getting Prepared 

Leaving the rat race in 3...2...

Leaving the rat race in 3…2…

Preparing to leave until all of the pieces were aligned actually involved a lot. This included:

  • Curtailing finances and my lifestyle so that I could survive the startup phase.
  • Switching to my spouses health care.
  • Agreeing that she would stay on in corporate while I transitioned full time into the business.  It’s important to outline roles going into the transition as it cuts down on friction when it actually begins to happen.
  • Outlining what I would be doing to bridge the two worlds.  I decided to do something similar to consulting, but a little more “guaranteed” so to speak.  I decided to become a contractor and persue engagements via an agency during the time outside of tax season.

Now, if you are thinking of leaving and you don’t have a spouse/partner who can help you bridge, don’t assume that all hope is lost.  This just means that you have to 1) build a longer bridge or 2) build one that is strong.  How?  You can take part time/contract work that gives you flexibility to build your business gradually.  You can work for your employer in a part time consulting position (e.g. 6 months to a year) until you train a replacement or work yourself into your new life.  The possibilities are endless; you just have to think creatively.

The Departure

Catching the last train for the last time

Catching the last train for the last time

In 2011, the IRS, claiming authority under Section 330, issued a new rule making unregistered tax return preparers subject to Circular 230.  Much noise was made about this and it looked like the opportunity I had been waiting on.  Essentially, 60% of the tax preparation market looks to paid preparers to have their taxes done.  Of the paid preparer market, 40% is comprised of Attorneys, CPAs and Enrolled Agents (EAs).  The remaining 60% is made up unregistered preparers who do not hold one of these designations.  By regulating this group of preparers (and subjecting them to testing requirements) it appeared that a large population of preparers might be withdrawing from the market (thus effectively shrinking supply and artificially elevating demand).  Unfortunately, later in 2012, the case of Loving vs. IRS was brought to trial in an attempt to stop the IRS’ actions.

Needless to say, in late 2011 my wife and I made the decision that the timing was right for me to leave.  We quickly put some of the last “planning” pieces in place and I effectively “retired” from corporate america on January 13, 2012.

In the next and final post, I will talk about how I implemented my bridge and where things are now.

How I Left Corporate – Part I

So…admittedly I haven’t been posting my personal exploits to our blog that much this year.  It hasn’t been for lack of wanting to, it’s just been because I’ve been trying to manage a company that seems to have a mind/life of it’s own at times.

Needless to say, this month I had some time to ponder some things.  Like the fact that my 4 year anniversary from departing Corporate America will be here in a matter of weeks!  So with that said, I figured I would end 2015 with a 3 day blitzkrieg of blog post related to the subject.  If you’ve ever thought about leaving the friendly confines of a gig to strike out on your own, but didn’t know “how” to do it, these post will share how I went about it.

What sparked the desire to leave?
Over the course of my 13 year corporate career, I believe that I had a nice run. I worked at four well respected employers, held several positions, made decent career progression and money to boot. I wasn’t a “superstar” when it came to politics, but I could hold my own and I understood most of the intricacies of the game.

Downtown! Where is Macklemore?

Downtown! Where is Macklemore?

So why was I considering leaving?  Probably for many of the same reasons that you may have contemplated it.  But when it came down to pinning a “single” reason, I’d have to say it centered around progression.  I don’t believe in “glass ceilings” as I think that you can get around that to a certain extent (e.g. switch employers).  But I do believe that those in the Ivory Tower will only let you hold the roles that they think you are fit for.

How many times have you seen a senior level manager or even a C Suite executive be mentioned in an announcement where it states they are “leaving to pursue other interest” or something to that effect?  Really?  This person makes like $500K+ and they are leaving?  Or did you really mean 1) you’re firing them, 2) they don’t want to go along with the plan or 3) their vision for themselves doesn’t line up with yours so they are out of here?

Needless to say, if I stayed around I think I had the credentials and smarts to make it to upper management.  But what if I wanted to run things?  Would they let me?  What if I wanted to make a million dollars?  Would they pay me that?  While the answers to those questions could have all been yes, there was one way that I could give myself a better probability of those things occurring…striking out on my own.

How I stumbled upon my roadmap
Once I made the decision to leave, I had to come up with a way to make it all happen.  I mean, I like to take risks in life, but I like for them to be calculated.  You know, the ones with sizable upside and minimal downside?  So walking into the bosses office, kicking my feet up on their desk and telling them I quit without having a backup plan was not in my game plan.

The book that gave me my entrepreneurial keys.

The book that gave me my entrepreneurial keys.

One day I was checking out at my neighborhood grocery store.  While standing in line I came across the book shown above.  Now, I was not necessarily interested in working less and earning more, but the title caught my attention.  Needless to say the book’s author, Jeff Cohen, outlined a plan for transitioning from the working a gig life to working for ones self.  So with that, I studied what the book had to offer and then moved towards building the plan.

Creating the backup plan
My plan to leave was actually broken down into the following three phases:

  • Building the business part time
  • Creating a fallback position within corporate
  • Preparing to leave once when all of the pieces were aligned

The plan began in late 2005 and culminated with my resignation in January of 2012.  So as you can see, it took almost 7 years for it to “fall into place” so to speak.  In the next post I will elaborate on each of those phases and exactly how I prepared to leave (e.g. financial, health care, etc).

I’m a failure; but so are most people.

Me? Big Time Failure!

I worked for 4 companies throughout my corporate career and never lasted longer than 4 years at any of them. My failure to be able to “tolerate” simply doing something because someone said it should be done is what routinely led to my departure.

I’ve failed, many times over, to keep my weight in check. While I’m nowhere near obese, I am also nowhere near my svelte days when I was on the football team in high school or when I rode as a bike messenger. I get the weight off by riding hundreds of miles on my bike, and then manage to gain it back months (sometimes years) later.  Blame this failure on my immense love of food and inability to control my desire to feed my face!

After three years of running this company night and day, I’ve failed to achieve the revenue or profit goals that we outlined in our original business plan. What’s worse is that people would consider me a  “smart” finance person and I’m supposed to be good at numbers right?  So why then could I not accurately project the revenues and expenses of this company over that three year period? Oh yeah, because this was uncharted territory for me – having to figure out exactly how many clients you get when you spend $X on a marketing campaign. Better yet, figuring out which marketing campaign even works!

On top of the above, I’ve failed my family for years. I’ve failed to spend as much time with them as I both want and should. I’ve failed to be there when they’ve rung me on the phone and I thought “I’m busy with something, I’ll just call them back later.” I’ve failed my wife and daughter by not giving them all the hugs, kisses and love that I can possibly muster. With all these failures, I’m surprised that I am even loved at all.

So why do I keep failing? Well, I wrote about that extensively in this post so I won’t rehash any of it. But you want to know the interesting thing? Most people are failures.  Let me explain.

Failure is defined as the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success. The key component in the preceding sentence is “may be” and should not be misconstrued with “is.” In other words, failure is simply not meeting an objective. This doesn’t mean that you are not succeeding or will not achieve your goal at some point. The key in moving from failure to success can be summed up in the following quotes:

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” – Gena Showalter

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

With that said, yes, I am a failure.  Most of us are failures.  But mark my word, at some point in the future someone will say “Jared Rogers a failure? That guy has to be one of the most successful people I know!” Yet, they won’t be saying this because I was a failure; they’ll be saying it because I didn’t quit.

Until next time…

Never Say These 4 Words

If you’ve read our blog for any amount of time, you know that there are quite a few posts on here about dealing with adversity.  This mostly has to do with the fact that business is hard stuff and we like to share things to keep you motivated along your journey.  To that end, I wanted to share a few experiences with you.

A few summers back I got this crazy idea to ride my bike to four states in the same day.  While it was a challenge (hey, we’re talking about 200+ miles in a single shot) I managed to pull it off.  The funny thing is that when I relay that story to my non-cyclist friends, they often respond with something like “man, I could never do that.”

Recently I was watching some extreme sports type show with some friends and they ended up playing this Jeb Corliss clip of him “Grinding The Crack.”  In case you don’t know who Jeb is, he’s one of those wing suit pilots who jumps off cliffs and then “flies” back to earth.  Needless to say, after watching this clip, many of my friends were like “there is no way I could do that.”

Based on the comments to the two situations listed above, can you guess the four words you should never say?  Yup – I couldn’t do that.  Technically it’s five words because of the contraction, but you get the jest of it!

The reason one should never say those words, is because they are self limiting.  While it’s possible to assume what one could not do, you’ll never know until you at least try.  Here’s a prime example.  When I was in college I wanted to join a fraternity.  However, as with all “secret” organizations, I was a little hesitant because I just knew that they were going to make me do “something” in order to join.  What that something was, I had no idea, but all I knew was that I was apprehensive about it.

Without going into any real detail, yes, there were some things that had to be done.  Furthermore, some of those things one might think were impossible for one to do when initially presented.  However, I will say that despite what I perceived to be my own boundaries, those boundaries were in fact a lot further away than what I initially thought.  Or said another way, my limits were actually a lot higher than what I believed.  This led me to adopt the philosophy that you can do a lot more in life than you think you can.  Even if you are going through a really tough stretch in life, you can probably handle a lot more before you hit your breaking point.

Thus, the moment that you say that you can’t do something, you are limiting yourself.  If you say that you can’t learn to swim, you won’t.  If you say that you’ll never be able to climb Mt. Everest, then you never will.  If you say that you’ll never get your hobby up and running into the next big thing that society craves, then it just won’t happen.  But if you start out with a little hope and instead say “I think I can,” you might just be surprise at how far you can go.

Until next time…

You WILL Be Tested; In Life & Business

The THIRD time my car shut off!

The THIRD time my car shut off!

Life is not fair. Never is, never was and never was meant to be. Life is simply life. It doesn’t favor, discriminate or judge against anyone or anything. Life simply just happens. You either learn to roll with the punches or you’re destined to get trampled on.

This year has been particularly challenging for me on a few fronts. The business is going good, but is eating up more of my time (which is a good thing). But that makes working my contract gig a little bit stressful. Take that and throw in limited training time on the bike and my track season quickly fell apart. When you do limited riding to stay in shape, your weight goes up and your clothes get a little tight! To top it all off, throw in a little financial mayhem and things get really interesting.

Which brings us to last week. It was mid-week and I was headed to the contract as usual. Got about 15 miles into my 27 mile commute and in the middle of a downshift (on the expressway) the car cuts off. I mean, just shuts off for no reason! Needless to say, I got it started again and got back on my way to work…only to have it shut off again at the exit ramp where I pull off. Oh wait, it gets better. The pic above shows shut off number 3 on my way home and the car died once more as I was pulling it into the shop.

As of the writing of this post:
1. The car has been at the shop almost a week
2. They still don’t “really” know what’s wrong with it
3. I’m picking it up today to take it to another shop that does electrical analysis
4. Dropping off my daughter has been a little challenging this week

Needless to say, I have wondered several times over the past week just what I did to deserve this or who I made mad. I mean, I really could do without all this extra anguish in my life. But guess what? This is life kid; get used to it or get ready to get run over.

As humans, we often go through the whole “why me?” sequence whenever things aren’t going our way. But the reality is this; life and business don’t owe you anything other than one thing called opportunity. It’s up to you what you do with the opportunities that are given to you and no, no two individuals will receive the same ones. So when life seems a little hard, try and remember these things:

You Must Experience Trials to Appreciate How Good Life Really Is
If you didn’t experience pain, how would you know exactly how good joy feels? You wouldn’t. Thus, know that most of the trials you experience in life are temporary in nature and once over, you’ll be better prepared to appreciate the goodness that life has to offer.

Life Is Good
If you can answer yes to these questions then everything else can be solved:
1. Did you get up this morning?
2. Do you have clothes on your back?
3. Do you have a roof over your head (even if it’s only a viaduct)?
4. Do you have food in your belly or the ability to get some?

life is good

You Can’t Control Life
Life is like a casino dealer who deals out the cards when it’s your turn. Ready or not, when it’s your turn, Life will deal you your hand. Don’t like your cards? Tough luck, play the hand you’ve been dealt. Want some new cards? Maybe the next hand will be better (or worse). What about the player who just got an awesome hand? Worry about your own cards; you can’t change them and the other person is NOT you so it makes no sense to worry about what they’ve gotten.

I will get through this little car issue and some of the other things that are making life a little hard at the moment. But until things get a little brighter, I want to leave you with these quotes:

“You cannot control the length of your life, but you can control its breadth, depth, and height. You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Now give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.”

“You should not confuse your career with your life.”

“You spend your whole life believing that you’re on the right track, only to discover that you’re on the wrong train.”

“You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.”

10 Things Dad Taught Me

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would take some time and reflect on my Dad.  In this post a while back, I talked about what it means to be a Father.  This time, I wanted to share some of the lessons that he taught me growing up.  I think that there is value in them all, and even though some of them centered around “being a man” I think they will be shared with my daughter Pilar.  So what did pops teach me?

It’s not what you make, but what you do with what you make.  Growing up, my dad worked for a bank.  He once told me a story about how he was a supervisor, but he kept noticing a guy who made less than him but was always nicely dressed.  At some point he asked the guy how he was able to wear such nice suits on his salary.  “Mike, it’s not what you make, but what you do with what you make.”  Moral: Don’t waste all your money on frivolous things; save some of it. 

Buy good shoes if you can afford to.  If you invest in a good pair of shoes (i.e. ones that can be resoled), they will last you for years to come.  If you buy cheap shoes, you will always be replacing them.  Moral:  Quality products are worth the investment. 

All a man has is his word.  You can lose your job, house, spouse and everything else in your life.  But if you have your word, people will help you start over.  Moral:  Reputation is worth more than all the material possessions in the world.  So once you build a good one, don’t ever tarnish it. 

Always use a firm handshake and look a man in his eye.  This kind of piggy backs off the reputation thing above.  But basically, if you don’t signal to another person that you are trustworthy, don’t expect them to trust you.  Moral:  Always signal to someone that you’re the real deal and mean business.

There are only three ways things can go.  Often times after I would do something that was “marginal” in life I would get this lecture.  “Things can be wrong and turn out wrong.  Things can be right and turn out right.  Things can be wrong and turn out right.”  The key to the lesson was the last sentence.  Moral:  If you did something wrong but it turned out okay, be wise enough to know that you got lucky.  Also, do it the right way the next time! 

Admit when you are wrong.  I use to act like I was a know it all.  Yes, I knew some things, but there were things that I didn’t.  When you are wrong (in knowledge, action, treatment of another person, etc.) it takes a big person to apologize.  Moral:  Always apologize when you are in the wrong.  People will respect you for it. 

Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  It doesn’t mean that the devil is out to get you or that God has forsaken you.  Some people live to be 109 years old and some only live for 109 seconds.  Life isn’t fair.  Moral:  Don’t give too much credence to praise or criticism.  If you don’t, you won’t be rattled when you receive the opposite of what you expect. 

No one owes you anything.  I remember that when we wanted some extra money, my dad would tell my sister and I to go out and collect cans.  We would then take the cans to the recycling center and exchange them for money.  How come he wouldn’t just give us the money?  Moral:  You appreciate things much more in life when you recall how hard you had to work to obtain them.  This goes for just about anything.  So if you want something, go out there and get it. 

You can be whatever you want; so long as it’s legal.  My dad told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be in life, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone else.  Why didn’t he stress being a lawyer, doctor or business man?  Moral:  Don’t limit the ambition of your children.  Let them choose what will make them happy in life and then encourage them to follow it 100%. 

A man opens a door for a woman.  Chivalry seems to have gone by the wayside these days.  But I do remember a time when you opened the door for a woman, got her car door for her, let her out of the elevator first…the list goes on and on.  Moral:  Just like the code of medieval knights, one should strive to be loyal, generous and noble bearing.  You should tell the truth and respect the honor of women.  Always protect the weak and guard the honor of your fellow man.  Always obey those in authority and never refuse a challenge from an equal.

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