Why I Left My Cushy Corporate Job To Strike Out On My Own

Some of you will think I was nuts. Some of you will understand. But one thing I do know, I’m writing this article more for me than for anyone else. Sometimes I need to think on paper (or on my blog) and nothing is better than seeing your thoughts in print … especially when you’re going from a corporate job to one as a Human Resources and Management consultant.

OpenForBusinessMy old job wasn’t exactly cushy, but as jobs go, it wasn’t too bad. Expense account, decent wages, company laptop and cell phone, car allowance, title, laser printer, working from home … it all sounds great doesn’t it? That was the “cushy” part. The not so cushy part: working for a “legacy” company with computer systems from the 70′s, not having the institutional experience or connections needed to get anything done, being on call 24/7/365, having loads of responsibility but absolutely no authority, incessant conference calls so someone could read a Powerpoint presentation to me or remind everyone in the field of the obvious, the inescapable reality that the corporate office cubicle dwellers had NO CLUE what life was actually like in the field,  a few folks in management with an abrasive approach on even the most mundane items … and finally, the feeling that I could do more … make more … contribute more … BE more.

There is a type of security in working for a large corporation. It’s almost like the company is your Momma: there to “take care” of you, to make sure your insurance is on track, your retirement funds are well-managed, your taxes are paid correctly, that you play nicely with everyone else in the sandbox and that they play nicely with you. That security comes with a price, however, in the form of stifled creativity, fear of lawsuits, “salary ranges” and bonus caps, glass ceilings, and policy after policy after policy after policy … I had reached a point that I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I decided I wouldn’t.

And “striking out on my own” is a bit of a stretch. I’m actually working with a great colleague who has been a Human Resources consultant for over two decades. Although I don’t have a salary, I have something even more valuable — experience and wisdom to draw on. We will be working together to help companies identify top talent and the motivations that propel them to action. Using a proprietary software system, we will help companies understand how employees will behave under varying real-world circumstances and we will be using that system to coach line and staff employees to better communicate once they have this knowledge. The vast majority of firms using our system have reported very large profit increases because employees are able to better understand and communicate with co-workers, bosses, and customers.

Having majored in Human Resources, I’ve been keenly interested in things of this nature for quite a long time. What makes a person tick? Why do some people “get it” and others don’t? Why do some employees perform well and others struggle? Why do some salespeople appear to have a natural talent while others barely get by? I know I’m not the only one wondering these things … many CEOs, COOs, division managers, Presidents, and other mid and upper level managers wonder them as well.

The good news is that our system can pick up on most, if not all, of these types of questions and give the answers to those managers in the form of concrete, usable action plans to improve their companies, departments, or divisions. I truly feel that I will be making a significant contribution to any company using our system. I will be “doing” more.

Under the “making more” banner, I’ve written before on the frustrations of having someone further down the corporate ladder making a mistake that costs you either your job or your bonus. Frustration isn’t the word when you’ve planned a trip with your spouse and you find that one person screwed up enough to cost you many thousands of dollars in the bonus you were going to use to pay for that trip. No more. From here on out, what I earn, I earn … and get to keep.

Contributing more — what better way to contribute than to help make the workplace more enjoyable? When you understand your co-workers and they understand you, the workplace becomes a better place. We already spend the best hours of our lives with co-workers … more time than with our own families, so why not help people enjoy their time at work? Much of what we will be teaching bleeds over into personal lives as well so there’s another way to contribute.

Being more — I don’t want to just be a name on the roll for a conference call. I don’t want to just be a cog in the machine that makes money for some hedge fund billionaire. What I do want to be … what motivates me … is being in control of my own destiny and responsible for my own actions and future. I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life, from selling greeting cards door to door when I was a kid, to owning a shaved ice business, to starting a lumberyard with some partners, entrepreneurship is in my DNA and it’s been suppressed too long!

In the end, it’s all about enjoying what you do. It’s about having enough freedom to take a day and go on a field trip with your son’s class. It’s about not having to beg for someone to cover your responsibilities when you want to attend a wedding or a funeral or simply go on vacation with your family. It’s about making the money you want to make rather than having someone dictate it for you. It’s about making a difference in the lives of people you work with and helping them to make their own workplace more enjoyable.

The reality is that I will probably be working MORE than ever, but this I know: I’ll enjoy it … and that really isn’t “work” in the classical sense, is it?