As of January 2015, it has been go time. In and around my duties as a stay-at-home dad, I have been working tirelessly on each and every detail I feel that I need to make this work. Thousands of details like finding and testing adequate backup solutions, acquiring/licensing/ and updating software, legally establishing/permitting/and insuring the business, building scripts that help expedite and control a new digital workflow, educating myself on the best ways to get educated, on-and-on-and-on. At times, the list seems endless… but the time-to-produce is most certainly finite. The line in the sand for me is to have this business up and running and producing a minimum of $2K/month by July, 01 2015. Real income has to be significantly north of that number shortly thereafter but this is seen as a realistic starting point.
After a few months to digest the sudden and abrupt halt to my existing software testing career, I made a drastic decision to change paths and go the entrepreneurial route for my first new career track in 25 years. Fueling this decision was that of health, some measure of defiance, and an immense desire to learn, grow, create, and produce tangible and meaningful results at a pace that challenges me… but does not set out to kill me. The dark side of this choice was that this would be a HUGE financial risk to my family should I fail. To mentally mitigate some risk I would continue to look for the ‘right’ software opportunity to come along but really my primary focus is to start and build my own digital content/photography business. Additionally, this choice of creating a digital content/photography business satisfied a number of criteria on my “sorting out what I want of a new career” list and I did not have to start entirely from scratch. I still have a few bucks in my savings account, I already owned a significant chunk of top shelf digital media assets, and I owned an amazing space where I could theoretically construct a diverse and differentiated studio.
Looking back on the career that I had as well as looking forward to where I want to go and how I want to get there… I quickly came up with the below list of “what I want” in order to help focus and clarify the types of opportunities that I choose to pursue. What I Want:
- To live confidently – not afraid.
- To live peacefully – not angry.
- To be a positive, engaged, and respected head of household and family member.
- To be healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) – by default.
- To have time flexibility (where I am in control of my schedule).
- To receive affirmation that what I am doing has positive and tangible value; generates positive impact/results; and makes a positive difference in the lives of others.
- To wake up each morning with unbridled purpose, direction, and enthusiasm.
- To spend each day being challenged, learning, and extracting success… at a pace that I can realistically sustain.
- To go to bed each night anxious to improve/evolve/apply lessons learned, prior… and with a clear sense of achievement(s).
- To work with people I care about, can trust, and can learn from (and visa-versa).
- To work toward the mastery of DSLR photography (technically, end-to-end processing, and workflow).
- To capture EPIC images (regardless of realm or activity). Action, Adventure, Nature, Life…
- To earn a living that allows my family to enjoy enough financial freedom to live well, to have the best health coverage, to build an appropriate retirement story, and to give generously.
- To build and maintain a ‘home’ (solid foundation).
- To travel North America (overland) on a schedule and by a means that I choose.
- To be at the top of the decision process. Report to myself. Lift others.
While the notification of my termination from the corporate world was unforeseen and immediate, my former employer did pay out a severance. My specific severance was a one time cash settlement that could pay my bills for up to six months during a transition from what was – to whatever is next. My former employer also continued to pay for medical benefits for up to six months from the date of my termination. Other forms of insurance stopped immediately (life insurance for myself and the members of my family, long term disability, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance – for example).
As part of ensuring some security/stability during this time of my transition, my wife immediately went back to work after a six year hiatus of being a stay-at-home mom. My wife’s action allowed me to potentially extend my six month unemployment window if needed – as well as ensure that our family retained adequate health insurance during my transition. As my wife and I have now temporarily flip-flopped our roles, I have become a stay-at-home dad looking after our five year old daughter while I look for new work. BTW, being a stay at home dad has been the most amazing experience ever – one that I would not trade for the world. I am thoroughly enjoying this time with our daughter, however temporary.
So, what is next? Back to the corporate world? Try a start-up? Start down a new career path that might be more satisfying long-term? Strike out on my own? These are all questions I have asked myself repeatedly. For those ‘most desired’ lines of work that I would truly enjoy the most… all would likely consume more capital than what they would bring in, which is problematic. Even within the 2015 calendar year, there will be a looming financial cliff for me to contend with. I am simply not in a position where I can just retire, train for a new career, or incubate a new business indefinitely. The reality is that I have been the primary bread winner in our family by a significant margin and I have to return to some measure of that role in order to adequately fund our existing liabilities; fund sufficient insurance; and adequately contribute to our retirement plan. The time for me to investigate and invest in a ‘most desired’ line of work is rapidly coming to and end. I either need to make a ‘most desired’ career path fly – or – I have to pause the dream and return to a less desired career choice in order to make ends meet. To this end, we are investigating the possibility of opening a photo studio and at the same time I am selectively applying for jobs within my former career choice – as a backup plan.
I showed up for my corporate job on Wednesday (July, 17). It was a day just like any other day. Wednesday’s were where I scheduled the one-on-one meetings with each of my full time team members (alternating half of my team every other Wednesday). Some of the crew were restless. A couple of my team members asked if I had heard the breaking news. I replied “no, I don’t watch the news”. Well, the news my staff referred to was in regard to reports/speculation of potential layoff’s within our company. Size and scope of the potential layoff was unknown. News and media outlets were mostly redundant with a few vying for the most dramatic headlines. I dismissed the concerns and focused on the facts of the here and now. My work day ended much like any other Wednesday. Early Thursday morning while I was checking on pass/fail of overnight activity I received a private email from an unknown source informing me of a mandatory meeting later that morning. Now the butterflies started to fly. I hurriedly got ready for work and shot out the door. My mind was speculating the entire 30 minute commute to work. I arrived at the impromptu meeting location only to find about a dozen other people; none of which recognized. Entry into the meeting was via cardkey access only. The meeting room consisted of ten plus rows of chairs about fifteen across all directed to the front of the room. In the front of the room there was a podium and a large wall screen. Even when everyone was present, the room looked nearly empty. In the back of the room were tables placed end to end topped with of a few boxes stuffed with folders. There was what looked to be a security guard against the far back wall. The room was very dimly lit. The energy in the room was apprehensive and depressing. The division test manager finally arrived twenty minutes late and delivered a very brief and direct speech. The gist of which was that our test positions were being eliminated. Thank you for your service. Your packets are in the back of the room. HR will answer any further questions.
After 25 years of dedicated service to a specific company and their one specific product… I was now on the outside looking in. I retreated back to my office to inform my team of my situation. Many of those I spoke with were also scheduled to attend a private meeting later that same morning. I figured that they would be informed that they did not have a manager any longer and would be given instructions as to how to proceed next. As it turned out, all of them received the same termination news that I did (all of their test positions were being eliminated immediately) – even those who were just promoted. We all met back in my office later in the day to compare notes. Shock and disbelief were at the top of the menu. News spread of the scope of these terminations. A total of 1500+ local test assets were laid off this round (many of which, we knew). Most of my team hung out for the remainder of the day, wandering aimlessly. The next three days were spent returning company assets, attempting to transition work, and cleaning out offices.