Surprising Ways Things Work for Good
Gratitude has been defined as, “a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgement of a benefit that one has or will receive.” Sometimes the most tragic and disruptive events bring the greatest benefits and reasons for gratitude.
It was the summer of 2005, and I was traveling, usually every day of the week, with my new job as VP of Sales. Before I arrived, the company had suffered fourteen consecutive months of decline. Under my supervision, we were achieving measureable increases every month in sales. The job demanded a 24/7 availability by phone to over 5,000 distributors around the country and traveling to different cities to conduct training and presentations. Though my official office was in Lake Mary, I could work from anywhere; yet my boss wanted me to relocate.
My oldest daughter, Kali, was entering her senior year of high school, so the requests from my boss for me to move to Orlando were being met with resistance. The real estate market was at its all-time high, and everything said I should just “cowboy up” and move. Interestingly enough, my wife had moved between her junior and senior years of high school, and a friend she met is still today her best friend; in fact, she is the person who introduced us thirty years ago. So there was plenty of evidence that said, “Everything will be ok.” But my gut was telling me we shouldn’t move and I was about to discover why. It is important to never deny your instincts.
On July 5 at 11:00 p.m., Kali was riding in the back seat of a car, coming home from getting ice cream with her friends. My wife, Judy, woke me from a deep sleep and said there had been an accident right around the corner from our house. The kids had been hit head on by someone who fell asleep at the wheel. There are many lessons of gratitude from the incident and not enough space or time to express them all, but one main theme was, “adversity brings committed people of character closer not apart,” and our family grew much closer.
After being at the hospital all night, I headed home to get a little sleep and around 7:00 a.m., I called my boss to let him know what was going on. I knew since he stood on stages across the country speaking to hundreds of people about how his company was founded on family values that he would be sympathetic and compassionate to my situation. His daughter was the same age as mine and he would interrupt any meeting, no matter how important, to take a call from her. So I knew he, above all people, would understand.
Instead, after explaining the situation and having a brief conversation, he asked, “So you will be in to work this afternoon, right?” With my daughter lying in a hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness, I understood what my gut had been telling me and realized the true character of a person is only revealed during times of stress.
At that moment, I felt trapped. I was being paid very well and needed the job. However, I was working for a man whose character I couldn’t trust. I found myself in the most uncomfortable position that I had ever been in, because I was living the opposite of everything that I trained and taught other people, even in our company.
In December, I was called in for my “annual review.” After sixty minutes of being raked over the coals and being told that I had nothing to do with the growth of the company, that I lacked balance and was as self-centered as Terrell Owens, my boss finally delivered the straw that broke the camel’s back: the car accident. He proceeded to say that I showed a lack of loyalty by not being at work that day.
I drove home that day in anger, confusion and despair. As is typical, I screamed at God and at myself during that long drive, especially for trusting this guy by taking the job in the first place. I had been sold into the position, painted a picture that was not reality and now he was making every attempt to own me. There was no way I could bring this home to my wife; though she is a strong woman, the aftermath of the car wreck combined with Kali leaving for college soon was taking its toll.
So since there was no one else to talk to, I just got quiet and prayed, “Show me what I am supposed to do; I know that this is a test but I am not smart enough nor strong enough to figure out what to do – I am trapped, and if I am to endure this pain for the support of my family so be it, but if I’m supposed to leave then just make it clear.”
A Surprising Answer
Two days later, Josh Field called and wanted to talk. Josh had been my VP of Marketing at a previous company. We had not spoken in over eighteen months, but I’ve found that you can never be afraid of taking a call or exploring an idea; you can always say “no” later.
We met for breakfast, and he said he wanted to become an entrepreneur but did not know how; he thought I was the best person to learn from. He didn’t ever want to work for someone again; ironically I was just as motivated to get away from employment.
So I began to explain the key principles of becoming an entrepreneur:
- Whatever you do has to bring value to others first – money will follow
- You have to be willing to sacrifice everything: money, time and belongings
- You must work harder than you ever before – you must live, breathe and eat the business 24/7
- And why? Because FREEDOM is worth it
We continued to talk, neither of us having an inclination about being in business together. We discussed the poor timing for starting a business – collectively, we had five children heading to college over the next five years and we had no idea of how bad the economy was about to get. But we began to explore our dreams. We both loved the lifestyle of Brevard; we didn’t want to uproot our respective families again; we both had a passion for teaching and helping others; and we really liked each other and had respect for each other’s talents. The next thing we knew a business plan was being sketched out on a napkin. Space Coast Business, LLC was born, and our first publication, Spacecoast Business magazine, came out five months later on April 1, 2006.
Opening Doors Means Closing Some
The next month, I was scheduled to meet with my boss in what was a mutually agreed upon exit interview. However, he sent his posse of managers instead, choosing not to meet me face to face to say “goodbye.” The four of them angrily ripped me for “hurting the boss so badly;” to this day, I have no clue what I did. Then as a parting shot, one of them said, “Just go back to Melbourne and work your pitiful little magazine.” Though it hurt, having given them eighteen months of dedication and effort, with positive results, I knew my decision was a good one. Usually, I have found that when anger is the reaction, it’s confirmation of a good decision.
Driving home, I was afraid, but I remembered the maxim that, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of fear,” but was also energized and relieved. I had no idea how Josh and I would pay ourselves, send my daughter to college in two months, survive what I now was seeing as an economy that was turning south or build a business in publishing, which neither of us knew anything about. There was every good reason for us to fail, but there was one good reason to succeed and that’s all it takes: “You can do whatever you want to me, but when you mess with my family, it’s time to fight!”
SCB Marketing began with a terrible event and the faith to follow a dream. So here’s where we are five years later with our “pitiful little magazine”:
- SCB Marketing brings value to others, first and foremost.
- We have sacrificed it all, and love it.
- We work harder than ever before, and have hired over 20 people that we are responsible for in addition to our own families.
We are FREE, and for that we say thanks to:
- The hundreds of businesses who trust us with their marketing dollars,
- The tens of thousands of readers who enjoy the rich and well-designed content,
- Our staff for their dedication and loyalty,
- Our wives, Judy and Jamie, and our children for believing in us when they probably should not have,
- My old boss, especially, for showing me what NOT to be or do; for had it not been for him, I would have never had the faith or courage to start or worse I would be living in Lake Mary.
And in closing, the lesson for us all is that God does answer prayers, we just have to ask and listen.