Today we are talking about mid-career pivots and we have Stacy Swift, Jeffrey Peterson, and Stephen Westberg. They are talking to us about their various journeys to help you understand a bit more about what some of the standard issues are that we typically think of when we consider doing a mid-career pivot. And how each of these individuals has overcome those challenges. So we’re going to jump right into this.
What Alternatives Did You Consider When Shifting Out of Your Corporate Role?
Mine is pretty black and white. I got thrown out of my job basically because I didn’t want to move. The only alternative I was thinking about: got to find a job out of desperation. I took half a job. I said that’s better than no job. So that’s really where I started to make decisions once I figured out that I could find jobs and I had to figure out how to scale that a little bit more at that point. Once, all right, I could get jobs.
Well, I’ll make a company and the company will be consulting company. I’ll run this consulting company and so I kind of did that. I ended up with two employees and I found that I really hated running a consulting company. I really wanted to just do the work and so I just went back to doing it myself. I boarded my two employees onto one of my clients. During this whole journey was 20 years. There were a couple of times where I tried to buy my clients. There were times when I tried to start with people and none of those ever really worked. I was always trying to find a better home for myself, a better landing place. It took a long time to get there. It’s really fun working for yourself.
What I’ve found for myself in the fractional space person is very satisfying for how I’m wired. I’m much more wired to be part of the senior team. I love being part of a team and building something. Being a fractional, dropping into a company, doing some tactical work, and maybe some strategic work, I personally find it not deeply satisfying emotionally. For me it’s not as fulfilling as being part of a senior team.
I’ve been a multi-unit franchisee with three different companies, so to me, that’s the model that I want. You know, some people are okay with a single unit. There’s nothing wrong with that. A single unit can generate good revenue depending on the business, but my goal is always to build something larger, build equity and sell it.
I guess I had sold the corporate catering business that I had built for six and a half years and had some cash from that business. I don’t know that it was a big decision. Quite honestly, it was like I have this money. I’m not going to go get a job. I want another business. So what business am I going to buy? It was just I always just knew I was going to invest it in something.
How Do You Set up a Consulting Business?
I would probably get a coach or a mentor. Quite honestly, I just think that’s very valuable in anything you’re doing. You need to put together a business plan, and put together a pro forma that will help you with your rate – I think as well. You need to know what your qualifications are and what is the market rate. You know what are other people charging and what will the market bear? What’s fair?
I recommend a twelve-month pro forma and I’ve done it with every business that I’ve ever owned. Do a worse-case scenario that you hope never happens, and do the best case scenario in case it does, and you’re going to fall somewhere in between. Don’t just jump into it, plan it out and be realistic. Take off the rose-colored glasses, look at the good, look at the bad and then go from there.
The issue of sourcing clients, especially in the internet world, your media presence, your lengthened presence, your website, and all that is super powerful and can hide that there’s not much behind that. It’s just you kind of doing your stuff. The company I’m working with, the founder of the company, he’s very well-connected in the Boulder Tech community. He’s also finding lots and lots of google search referrals. The company founder was google searching for fractional firms and came up with us.
Professional presence is really helpful in getting launched.
I agree with Stacy on the business plans if it’s a real hard-core business, I have a lawn care business so when I went into that it was all about planning. Going into fractional work, I view it more as almost opportunistic. You’re trading in a corporate job for a fractional job. I like the world of small companies and those clients all know other clients. It’s very easy for me to get new clients off of my old clients, and so the hardest part really is just getting started and taking a step in that leap of faith, so to speak. Yes, you have to know what you are and what you’re selling. What’s your market.
That’s a really insightful point that applies whether you’re looking for your next job, from company to company. It applies if you’re going into consulting and you’re talking to prospective clients.
Even when you’re having coffee conversations with people being tuned in to listen. Am I able to add value? is what determines the fit. So I think that’s a really great point.
Jerry here has the opposite direction. He’s wanting to go from consulting into a company and he wants to get people’s opinions about how do you make that switch? Some of the challenges you’re faced with. I’m going to say just off the top, the first challenge that you’re going to face is the perception that you are a consultant.
If your online presence and your offline presence aren’t mirroring the new place you want to go. Taking away the look and feel that you are a consultant and making you look and feel like you are a company person.
How Do You Determine If A Company Is A Good Fit For Your & Vice Versa?
In the franchising world, I call it validation, and that’s what I advise all my clients when you’re looking at a particular franchise concept. Part of the due diligence process is validation and you need to keep an open mind. But I want you to find the most successful franchise owner in that system. Talk to them. Why are they doing so well? Why are they so much better than everybody else? And do you relate to that person? And then you need to take a deep breath or do a shot, whatever it takes for you. But you need to find that person who’s floating on the bottom. Why are they struggling? Why are they not doing so well? Is it the system or is it that person? And you can very easily tell, usually from a conversation. You need to validate. You need to hear the good, you need to hear the bad, and then to your other point.
Everybody may not agree with this, but I have always felt that passion is misconstrued. I think you need to be cautious about turning something you’re passionate about into a business.
A good example: You’re passionate about golf and I have seen this with several clients. It comes to me as I love golf and I want a golf business. Okay, well, let’s talk about that. So if you own a golf business, do you think you’re golfing, or are you behind the counter selling golf balls to your friends who are golfing all day? Because there’s a difference.
Look at the business, Mr Handyman. Was I was ever passionate about owning a handyman business? Absolutely not. I looked at that business as the vehicle wanted to go. I knew I could make that business successful and I knew it could make money. I knew there was a market for it. Let’s build it. I’ll get excited about it, let’s build it and then sell it at a multiple, which is exactly what we did. But I was never passionate about the handyman business. I hope that helps the passion I think is misconstrued.
I think that’s a really brilliant point. It also has to make money and has to make sense now. You can’t hate what you do every day. That would be the antithesis, and when most of us talk about it, you need to be able to be passionate about what you’re doing. We mean you need to be happy and excited about the choice that you’re going to go lead a business and manage it.
So the time that you want to be jumping out of bed at least 80% of the time when Monday morning is Yes, I’m really enjoying what I’m doing because I’m making the money that I want at the speed I want. I’m dealing with the kind of people that I enjoy for the most part. So you cannot hate doing business to consumer stuff and go try to start a B to C business. That’s not going to work so well, so there’s a balance in there. But really great point.
The Embracing Mid-Career Pivots video above has more discussion points you will be delighted to check out.