a LOOOOONG time coming
FOREWARNING: This is going to be a bit of a lengthy read. It was written more for my own therapy and closure, than for entertaining you or anyone else. Many times these can be helpful to others facing similar situations - so it may be help for you.
The title of this post has multiple meanings. First, it has been a great long while since I have even posted on my blog. There are a myriad of reasons for that - but they all boil down to time. Or how little of it I have had to write. Second, it is in reference to a massive change in my life that has been building inside me for years, and has finally been put into action. Finally, the title reflects the very long time I spent building and growing a company, and the process it took to separate my identity and self worth from that of the company.
Back in early 1991, I started a job that would change my life. I was the first employee hired at Auto Accessories Warehouse, and I spent my college career helping to grown and run this small business. After graduation I spent a short period working at a small computer consulting company, before returning to and purchasing AAW in 1997. I was barely 19 when I first started and only 25 when I purchased the company.
In October 2018, my partners and Kathy and I, decided it was time to sell our company. There had been many great years, but the last several had been very challenging. (Running a company that is consistently losing money is not nearly as fun as one who is growing rapidly.) We found a buyer who was a very good strategic fit for us, and offered Kathy and I an opportunity to stay on in similar roles to what we held previously. While I would no longer be an owner, I would still be running the company, working alongside my same staff that all made the move with me. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Merging companies and differing cultures is a very challenging task. It takes a huge amount of trust and "buy-in" by all the key people. It also takes a willingness to shake up the status quo, an ability to accept change, and a commitment to do the hard work it will take to be successful. Most of all it takes patience, and understanding that things take time. Unfortunately, not everyone is as prepared for this as others. At times, I was that person; at other times, it was my new boss. The bottom line - things didn't work out as planned, and at 47 years old I walked away from a business I have helped build since I was 19
During that time I have hired, fired, or retired over 300 different employees. Many barely made a dent in my life, others made impressions that bring back fond memories, and a few others became more. Some of those worked with me for 10, 15, to nearly 20 years. I have watched them grow and mature. Becoming fathers, mothers and grandmothers. I've witnessed the happiness of marriages, the lows of suicide, played relationship counselor, financial advisor, and so much more. On the flip side, they were witness to my life, as I grew up, and Kathy and I started our own family. We have all heard the term "work wife", well I had a "work family".
There are also countless vendors and customers who have been there for just as long. Many first met me as a 19 year old kid, who did stupid kid things. I watched their kids grow up, but mostly from a distance. We went to battle over business terms, contracts, or pricing - but stayed friends out of mutual respect. I will miss all of this. They are like the cousins in my work family.
So what is next for me and Kathy? This is the fun and exciting part - As many know, I have a passion for building efficient business processes. I do most of this work in the FileMaker Pro platform, of which I am a certified developer. I also have a crap ton of first-hand knowledge of running a small business, and an accounting degree to boot. So I am going to combine my passions, with my knowledge, skill set and education - and start something new. A consulting and development company focused on helping small businesses become more efficient and profitable through process automation and ERP integration. We will also still be offering all the signs and banners we used to do, just now through a new company.
I am super excited to grow something new from the ground up again. A small and nimble company without the challenges of managing people and resources. To dispense of the external pressures that I do not inflict on myself. And working from home, with the dogs, for the first time ever!
But yet, I miss my work family. Bittersweet is putting it mildly.