Why am I Doing This?

That is the question. The obvious answer is the recession and I cannot rely on my existing contacts and clients to carry me. They might. I have a lot of good contact and I believe I do good work if not great work.

No, I am doing this because I have not made enough mistakes. My business career to date has been one accidental success after another. Every time things have looked down for me, something has come along and pulled me up. Not through my doing but through others.

First, there was the co-op job interview where I met the interviewer (unknown to me) on the way to the interview. I thought that this person who was clearly here for the campus interview session could be someone important so I decided to be polite and offer assistance in find the building for him. Turns out he was my 1:30 interview. I got the job.

After school, I took a job with my co-op employer (not the same guys as above). It was easy, they knew me, I knew them plus they offered to let me work 3 days a week for 10 hours a day at 75% of my pay so that I could finish a couple of courses I needed for graduation. Not only that my boss lived in Waterloo so he gave me a drive in every day. It was good, it was safe. I also found my boss embezzling from the company. That was my first promotion. Not the way I would have liked to get it.

Like I said, it was a good job for a guy out of university with zero experience but it was boring after a couple of years. Fortunately, the company moved the accounting department to Austin, Texas and laid me off. Why fortunately? I would have never moved on without the push out the door.

I was then able to combine my love of computers with my accounting background. I was up for two jobs, implementing accounting software and a tax accountant. I wonder what my life would have turned out to be if I was a tax accountant? We will never know. I took the implementation job. I got to travel. My first trip was to California and I talked my way into using the Laguna Seca beach house for the weekend. I thought I was in heaven. (As a side note, the weekend I was leaving on that trip, I met my future wife Lisa). I thought this was the perfect job. I moved houses, I met new people, I was learning a ton and traveling. Well, the travelling wore thin pretty fast as I was not going to California-type destinations very often. Plus the company kept cutting programming staff for the accounting product and I was out there in front of customers everyday just trying to hold it together, me and the product.

Lisa saw how stressed I was and her job was getting relocated to Halifax so we both quit and moved to Ottawa. Now at this point you are thinking, this guy does take risks. What do you mean you haven’t made any mistakes. OK, I have but they always seem to turn out but then again as my Dad always says “How do you know that is bad?”

When Lisa and I moved to Ottawa, we got a job with a corporate eduction company. She was in sales and I instructing. I started out as an Oracle and UNIX instructor. I loved it. Instructing is very demanding physically and mentally but there is something about being in front of an audience with them challenging and evaluation every day or week. But even that job took a quick right followed by a left.

The president wanted to get into Microsoft training and he looked around the room and picked me. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I was a complete UNIX snob at that time. I was writing web pages in vi (notepad for you MS folks), using the command line (no mouse people, I actually had to type what I wanted the computer to do) and writing courses on how to program for the web. I was even the Webmaster for the company, back when you could know everything there was about the web. Why would I want to teach Microsoft. I had even wrote a memo to the head of the instructors protesting my move. I was out of luck. I had to be a Microsoft Instructor.

Turns out I was good at it. I found out I had a real talent for learning from books and writing exams. This came real handy as MS had certification exams. I was certified in no time. Again, life was good.

Then the left turn…..

Lisa and boss did not get along and she was missing her family in Toronto. Even though she was the top sales rep in Ottawa, the boss did not like her and eventually fired her. We considered suing but we did not want to cause waves for me who still worked there. So I said I would stay if they moved us to Toronto. Lisa started cold calling education companies and found one who gave her an interview. During the interview, they inquired what I did. When they found out I was a Microsoft certified training, they interviewed me and offered me a job. I got exactly what I was getting at the old company including the moving expenses. I just wanted out. It also turns out I was their first full time instructor.

Once at the new training company, I kept at the web programming on the side. I created a portal where the customers could register for training with their own customized look and course selection. This sounds pretty tame by today’s standards but it was pretty much on the bleeding edge back then. In fact, the president of the company sold the prototype I showed him without telling me. He just informed me of the sale and I had to deliver (some most programmers can relate to). I worked my way up to Director of Technology there. Something that I am still proud of.

At one point, we were implementing a Learning Management System (basically it keeps track of students, instructors, rooms and invoicing). The consultant we were working with was great. He taught me a lot. Eventually, I was able to do some of the programming myself and even fix his code if it was not doing exactly what I wanted. I was also signing off on his invoices. I finally figured that if he could do it, I could too. Even though, I was probably going to be a VP there some day, I quit to become an independent consultant, specializing in LMS.

Which bring us to now! As you can see, I have taken some risks and I have always succeeded. So I have come to the conclusion that I am not pushing myself hard enough. I am not at the edge of my ability. I have recently got access to a wonderful resource. My father. He has been in accounting for 40 years and has been very successful at it. He is retiring soon and I thought that between us we could do something really special. Something at the edge of our comfort zones. Some fun, innovative, something that would be ours.

I don’t know that the something is yet. We are still trying to figure it out. I am looking forward to a few failures along the way to prove that we are pushing ourselves. I don’t know if it will be a million dollar idea, 10 million or 10 dollars but I can’t wait to find out.


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