This is a homework assignment. Just a journal more or less of recreating myself and my business after 10 years of semi-retirement inspired when our cruise from the Gulf Coast of Florida to Nova Scotia got cut short by Covid-19 — more to come.
Epiphany bridge story
I started my business career in the 1970s while in my 20s as an electrical contractor I wanted to be my own boss and not have to work for other people. I had dreams of eventually building a business empire. But I guess I really started my business career as a paperboy, I had the largest delivery route for the New Britain Herald.
But back to the electrical business. I wanted to make enough money to support myself and eventually build a business that employed other people. I did not have any dreams of making millions in the electrical contracting business. I just wanted to be in business for myself.
I managed to find projects and then do the work. And then do the billing, order materials, try to find more work, chase people to collect payments, buy tools and trucks and eventually interview people to hire. I would work on the job all day as an electrician and then put in another 40 hours a week as the business owner. You can do this when you’re 25 years old and not even think too much about it. But it was hard to stay up until 2:00 AM at bars, then be at work at 7:00.
While I was getting tired, the worst part was I had not achieved any of the things I went into business for, such as making more money than an employee (I made less) having free time or bossing people around. Oh, there was a little bossing, but not that much. I had definitely reached a plateau where I could not work any harder or put in any more hours, somehow I had to work smarter.
The wall, and getting over it.
I eventually did make this business work by getting a partner, he took care of operations and fieldwork and I took care of administration and finding work. My first brush with delegation. This allowed us to expand into installing telephone systems, we already had all the tools, trucks and people to do the work but selling telephone systems was a completely different world than getting electrical work. We had a good product, (Mitel) good people and low overhead but we were not making many sales and had no idea why.
We put in a phone system for a company called Computer World, they sold Personal Computers. In talking with the owner of the local store I expressed how hard it was to make sales of telephone systems. He reached under the counter and pulled out a book and cassette tape package called The Art of Selling Anything by Tom Hopkins. The package had not even been opened! He handed it to me and said that the corporate office sent them to a program on how to sell computers but there was no need to sell computers because people just came in and bought them faster than they could keep them on the shelves. So he gave me the package and said take it. This changed my whole idea of how the business worked. The obvious became glaring, nothing happens until a sale is made.
I took the material and devoured it, read the book, listened to all the tapes over and over and over again and applied all the lessons as much as I could. This did allow us to make more sales and increase the business greatly. But my wife and I had plans to move from Boulder Colorado to Nova Scotia Canada. I sold my share of the electrical company to the partner and sold the phone business to someone else and we set off for Nova Scotia.
After creating two businesses with just a high school diploma, an electrician’s license and only the money generated by the business we moved to Vermont where I stated another electrical business and then entered into an arrangement with an established electrical contractor and helped him open a telephone systems division. Through many twists and turns, including running a meditation center, this eventually led to buying into a newly forming software development company in Halifax Nova Scotia. There were a bunch of partners, but by the second year two of us had bought out the others. We delivered business process improvement software for corporations and in 1998 we delivered our first commercial website. We built a turn-key e-commerce site-building system, which we sold, we’re paying ourselves well had about 20 employees and I had started doing management consulting work after training with Robert Fritz. Then GE Capital corporation wanted to buy our business, which should have been a good thing, but actually led us to the brink of bankruptcy. While my partner was in favour of declaring bankruptcy and leaving our creditors holding the bag, I did not want to go that route, so I bought my “partner’s” shares for a dollar, assumed all the debt and jumped on a train to New York where I been hired by McKinsey & Company as a systems analyst/project manager.
After paying off all the corporate debt, all personal debt, our house mortgage and putting money in the bank I left McKinsey and kind of ‘retired’. I went to the Bahamas as part of a 9-month sailboat journey then started just being mostly ‘retired’ but was offering help to owner-managed businesses on a very part-time basis. But This required being on-site and doing a lot of travel and one-to-one sessions with people who often did not have extra money to pay consulting fees. I had decided to just kick back again, but the contractor we hired to cut some trees on our property found out what my background was and convinced me to help him with his business. We have been working together for over 10 years now, but only 50 to 100 hours a year. While we were on our way to nova scotia from the gulf coast of Florida on our catamaran, Covid-19 hit and we decided to leave the boat in Virginia. It then occurred do me that maybe I could continue my small business consulting work in a way that could be affordable to smaller companies by grouping them together, avoid the travel and the one-to-one in-person meetings and be able to share my 40 years of business experience with more people and much lower costs than the old model