In 1993 I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and started working as a consultant for a company I now refer to as The Evil Empire. The company didn't seem evil when I first started; in fact they were 26 of the nicest people I knew. Right away they made promises of considering me as a partner, and after my first year I was named Employee of the Year.
Around 18-24 months into my employment I began to sense that the promise of being a partner was a ruse. I wasn't really being considered as a partner, it was just something the people at the top kept telling me because I was pulling in a lot of money for them, and they knew it was something I wanted (the proverbial carrot on a stick).
Hoping I was wrong, I waited a little while longer until I finally realized that my dream of becoming a partner in this business was never going to happen. Despite asking several times, the owners of this business never told me why they wouldn't make a partnership offer to me. They just kept saying things like "We're considering it", or "We're reviewing it." I gave them one last chance, got the same answer, and then I left.
From bad to good
That might seem like a really negative thing, but from that decision to leave a lot of really positive things have come. First, experience has taught me that being a minority partner in a small firm really isn't a good thing. It confuses some issues, such as whether you should get bonuses or raises any more. And it also messes with your tax situation, and other things like your health insurance. So although I wanted to be a partner, being a small-stake partner is no great thing.
Second, even before I left, that company started screwing a lot of customers, and later, when they focused solely on "growing the company" it totally crashed and burned, so I'm glad I wasn't associated with either of those events.
Third, I started writing for The Cobb Group, then Ziff-Davis, and somewhere along the line I created this website, and I'm very glad to have done all those things.
Fourth, I started a small aerospace company, and then I started and later sold my interest in Mission Data. And these days I'm looking at starting another business.
Honoring your dreams
The funny thing is that I can't tell you why I wanted to be a partner or a business owner, it's just something I can remember wanting almost as soon as I got out of school.
My moral to this story is that you have to honor your personal dreams and visions, and not be pigeon-holed by someone else. As in my situation, you may come to a place where the road divides, and you have to make some big decisions. But if you honor your personal vision, I like to think that things will work out.
Some of my inspiration for this blog post comes from a gentleman named Rick Jarow. I found his book on CD named "The Yoga of Work", and listened to it a few times while driving back and forth to Alaska. I can't say that I get it all, but I am trying to honor my own "vision of vocation" more now than ever before.