This month, I am sharing a very personal article. While I have had a great run over the past 3 years consulting full time, it did not come without a heavy cost. Just when I thought I was at a point of no return, opportunity knocked…
…and I answered.
The First Win
First, we have to go back. Way back!
I originally co-founded Business Improvement Group in 2011 in preparation for my release from my corporate job due to a planned site closure. I have amassed the skills and certifications that I knew were in demand. However, I was new to consulting and had a bit of uncertainty. After talking it out with one of my best friends who was also consulting, we agreed that we should go in as partners and Business Improvement Group was born.
It didn’t take long to get my first project, albeit in Warsaw, Indiana (we lived in South Florida at the time). Given that we’re a homeschooling family, I saw this as an opportunity to show the family other parts of our great country. So we packed up a small U-Haul trailer and headed for the Midwest.
The project was great, but it was the local area that really grabbed our hearts. Growing up near bigger cities on the East Coast, Warsaw offered all of the small-town experiences you would expect to see on a warm, family friendly holiday movie. The project was going along well, we were making great friends, and we were taking in all that this quaint area in The Hoosier State had to offer. And then I got the call…
The Second Win
I received a call from a colleague I worked with at that corporate job I mentioned earlier. I still recall back in 2011 when we were on a roof top party in Miami when he asked me what I was planning to do when the site closed. When I told him I was considering consulting, he looked at me with a combination of surprise and excitement and said, “Let’s talk…”
So that day a few months later when he called, I already knew what would come next. He secured a contract with a former boss of ours, and there was a project that basically had my name all over it and they both wanted me to join in. Just to set the stage here, I always viewed this boss as a true leader and I always said that he is truly one that I would follow. So we packed up the U-Haul trailer and headed out to Minnesota.
From the moment we arrived, we had a blast! The project was exciting, and it was great to work with some of my old friends from South Florida as well as some new folks. My wife always has a knack of making any new place our home, and even somehow broke into some of the most closed homeschool groups for locals (even some native Minnesotan families could not get in!). We enjoyed all that this new area had to offer, joined a family Judo dojo, and made some really great friends.
However, the move from Indiana was not easy for the boys. While we were only there for a few months, we had some great experiences and some very close friends. So we decided that we were not going to travel the country as we first thought, and began to consider settling in once again. We started looking around for houses, but each time we looked at one we found ourselves comparing back to Indiana.
After looking at several houses in several areas, we came to the conclusion that if were to settle down, it would be back in Warsaw, Indiana.
Taking a Pause
So, here is the thing; settling down in Minnesota made sense because I specialize in the medical device industry and there are tons of medical device companies in the Twin Cities area. I could have easily kept consulting until I retired with all the opportunities that were ripe for the picking. However, our hearts were in Warsaw, Indiana.
Remember I mentioned to the small-town experience? There were 4 major players in the medical device industry in Warsaw at that time, and not much more than that. That meant that if we were going to live in Warsaw, I would have to take a pause from consulting as I did not believe I would be able to garner enough work to support our family of five.
So, I reached out to some contacts that I made during my first consulting engagement and eventually sealed the deal. I took the job, stepped away from consulting, and moved the family back to Indiana. We ended up finding a nice home to rent that was only 15-minutes from the plant where I was to work; a farm home on 15 acres of partially wooded farmland. We eventually purchased the home from the owner, and it was our little slice of heaven.
The job started off well but wasn’t quite as fulfilling as the projects I had as a consultant. So, I maintained a little consulting on the side, mostly remote and in an advisory role. However, it was extremely satisfying. It seemed like I had the best of both worlds. My day job made it possible for me to provide such a unique experience for our family. We had a farm; albeit a hobby farm with some goats, chickens, bees, a few pigs, and a bunch or barn cats. We had a few local spots we truly enjoyed, and celebrated Christmas Eve with the closest friends we consider family.
While keeping a little consulting on the side, I thought to myself that maybe I can have it all. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to sustain a full-time consultancy from my farmhouse in Indiana. Life was good, and the opportunities ahead looked promising. So, in 2016, I gave my notice and walked away from my full-time job to pursue my consultancy once again.
Leaving my job was truly a leap of faith. You see, I didn’t even have a contract lined up. I literally “burned the ship”, removing the safety net of a job to ensure that I could give 110% to re-establishing my consultancy. Sure enough, it wasn’t too long before I landed that first gig. Back in Florida…
It was a small project, only a few days. But it was travel nonetheless, and the thing that was most concerning. I originally pursued a full-time job in our journey back to Indiana because I didn’t think that I’d be able to sustain a full-time consultancy locally. What was originally 4 major players in the medical device industry was now down to 3, following a merger between two of the largest ones. There were a few smaller ones that popped up, but nothing that could sustain a steady revenue stream. Some travel was going to have to be part of the deal.
I had a few other smaller projects, then the big one hit! An acquisition and an opportunity to lead the integration efforts. Projects like this are what I live for! I’d find that this project would be challenging in the perfect way; allowing me to exercise all of the skills I’ve amassed to date as well as providing continued professional growth.
If you thought the catch was that trip back to Florida, think again. What I will just chalk up to a combination of miscommunication and misunderstanding, what I thought was going to be an occasional trip to Georgia turned into an expectation that I would be onsite full-time throughout the entire duration of the project.
The first cost came early in the project. My business partner and I did not necessarily agree on the logistics of the partnership. After a few exchanges that I wish I could take back, we decided it would be best for us to go our separate ways. I bought out his share of the business and lost my partner and one of my best friends that day.
The subsequent costs cut even deeper. Whenever I would travel in the past, I would always come home to find the entire family awaiting my return, excited that “daddy is home”, and meet me out in the driveway with hugs and kisses. After a few weeks of travel on this project, my coming home after a week of being away was no longer special. It was routine. It was just like my commute to and from work, however it took a week each time.
Trying to fit everything in two days before heading back out was always a challenge. I was exhausted, and my family and friends weren’t getting the best of me even when I was there. A hotel room was my home for the week, and quality time with the family was a short FaceTime call before bedtime. My wife would share pictures of all the things they did: basketball games, drive-in movies with friends, band concerts, etc. While I was happy to see the photos and see how happy everyone was, the one common theme was obvious: I was not in any of those pictures. I missed 3 years of my marriage and 3 critical years of my boys growing up.
Following the Georgia project, I doubled down in what I thought would be my exit strategy: take on multiple projects to bank enough savings to take a little time off to focus on finding more local and remote work so that I can remain home. While the opportunities were certainly there, an unexpected opportunity was soon to be knocking…
Aside from my full-time contract onsite in Utah (yes, another one!), I fielded a few more projects that I could support remotely from my hotel room after hours. One of them was a review and advising project with my former boss from Florida and subsequently Minnesota (yes, THAT leader I said I would follow). Well, he was now in California and had a project that he needed my help on. As I performed the work and traveled out to provide an in-person report out of my findings and recommendations, one thing led to another and…
Well, long story short, an opportunity presented itself for a permanent position. Once again, mixed emotions. Do I pick up the family once again and relocate or do I decline and stay in the consulting game full time? Seeing that I already lost 3 years of family time that I could never replace, I opted to put my consulting business on pause once again and take the role. This time however, I knew that the role would be professionally satisfying such that I would not miss the allure of consulting.
This is a leader I said I would follow, and little did I expect that this would ultimately lead me in a coast-to-coast adventure. After talking it over with my wife, I am going to take the job and be reunited with my family once again. I know the leadership team that I am following, so there is little risk there and I am excited about this new chapter from a professional perspective. I’m not sure what California will have in store for our family, but whatever it is I know one thing for sure: we will be TOGETHER, and I will once again be a husband and father who will be present for each and every experience with my family.