I’m Thankful For: Self Employment

This is Thanksgiving week here in the US. This week, I am going to try and share a post each day about something I’m thankful for. So far I’ve shared how I’m thankful for:

Perspective - Why looking back at past challenges can make current ones seem, well, not that big.

Relationships - I am where I am in large part because of the people who have put time into my life. Relationships matter.

These are slightly off topic but I think you’ll find that there are some lessons that intersect life and career. Professional development, if you will. Today I’m going to continue and share the thanks for these first five months of working for myself. This post isn’t shared out of a bragging or self-promotion intent. The purpose, instead, is to give thanks first and to maybe encourage someone else second.

Thankful That I Did It

I have talked about and thought about this decision off and on over the past few years but it never seemed right. Even when I started approaching the decision it took awhile from me to go from the “thinking about” to “doing phase. I tell you, though – it has been great since making the choice. I am thankful for the “leading up to” events that unfolded and for the confirmations along the way. Back in June as I was thinking through the final decision I used that perspective I talked about on Monday. I remembered the fear of jumping in a pool but the reward that always came once I got used to the water (that time has increased as I get older each year, btw). I wrote about that in my post, Your Dreams? They don’t come looking for you. So I went for it. People have asked me since about the motivators or driving force behind that decision and I guess it comes down to more things to be thankful for but in a nutshell:

  • 80(ish) years vs. Eternity –> I’m going to be around on this planet for around 70-90 years total, if I live according to the average life expectancy.  As a Christian, I am going to live forever in perfect eternity. What is the worst that could happen right now by taking on this “risk” of working for myself? Some tough financial times, maybe some hungry days. I believe God will take care of me here and even if I suffered for the next 40 years – I’m heading to a forever in Heaven. I was talking to another Christian businessman about this and I said “it’s kind of like we are cheating.. the risk of entrepreneurship isn’t the same for us”.
  • Full Time Employment Isn’t a Guarantee –> Let’s face it – look around the economy… How was I any more stable and how did I have any more job security working as a number on another’s budget?
  • I Have Skills –> That’s not bragging. There are many things I don’t know but when I look around the companies that I help out, I realize that I know quite a bit more than I give myself credit for. I’ve seen differences in the clients I have helped so I knew that if I could just get in the door of clients, I’d have customers.
  • Money & Time –>  My wife has changed me in many ways. My faith has changed me in many ways. One of those ways is having an attitude of giving. I firmly believe that all of my time and all of my money is God’s. Working for myself means I have the opportunity to potentially have a bit more of each – that means I have the chance to give more of it away. We love giving and I have more freedom there financially now. I also have more freedom to engage differently in ministries and give my time – or even my skills – to those ministries, charities, etc. that need them.
  • My Kids are Kids Once –> Now this is an area I need to fix in the business – when to say no, when to decide which projects can be taken on at the same time, etc. but one of the motivations is that I can be more flexible. That I can take my daughter to a class, that I can do events during business hours with my kids more often than previously. That we can have a “slow” income month, dip into savings and work less and do more with them. As I learn more about myself and working for myself I’ll balance the schedule out and have the ability to be around more.
  • I had a Network –>  Linked In, Former co-workers, recruiters, other consultants who somehow trust me enough to recommend people to me, friends of friends of clients. I have a network of people already and that beats marketing dollars. So far because of that network, because of being “out there”, I’ve been too busy to figure out how to market. Now I’m working on that because it won’t always be like that but I knew I had contacts.

When I looked at those facts and reasons, I had to say “If I don’t jump in the pool, I’ll never even have a chance to get used to the water”.

Thankful For Pioneers

I got to talk to some people who have successfully led businesses of their own. People like Brian Moran. People like the owners of Winxnet, the company I left full time employment with (but stayed very close partners with – helping them with their SQL work from afar), people like Joe Webb or Andy Kelly. People like Paul Randal and Brent Ozar. People like Karen Lopez. These people all gave advice, encouragement and even warnings and honesty when I was either making the decision or after I made it. All of them working in the same space, but all of them offering their time to see me be successful. I am so thankful for those relationships.

Thankful for Providence

Two opportunities came up at the same time that would have only worked if I were on my own. Winxnet was okay with seeing me try to go on my own and still do their advanced SQL stuff for them as a partner instead of employee. All of these things came at once, as I was praying and thinking about the decision. It was like I walked up to the automatic door at a grocery store by thinking about going on my own, by praying for the decision making process and the doors just swung open. Even after going on my own, I’ve actually had to just turn away clients because I realized I was taking on too much and had to say “no” or “not yet” or “call these guys instead” to give the best service to my clients. I really do serve a God who answers prayers.

Thankful for Clients

I’ve worked with some great folks. Winxnet with some steady (and fun) work; The well known online travel industry site that I’ve been learning Hadoop and Hive at while improving their SQL environment, the Credit Union that has given me some steady work and some patience as I sort my schedule out, the training opportunities, the opportunities to help Microsoft Learning with some projects, and many other projects. I’ve worked on some fun projects, I’ve taught a lot and learned just about as much in the process of helping people get the most out of SQL Server. I am thankful that clients give me a try and I’m thankful for the longer term relationships that many have formed through working with them.

Thankful For Support

My wife has put up with this adjustment and me being home a lot more. We’re still married. In fact, when I was going back and forth on my decision and having that “what did I just set in motion.. how will I find clients?” thing  she was great. She gave me a pep talk and reminded me of all of the calls from recruiters that I could just take some job I wouldn’t love but could do for 3-6 months while I figured it out. She was supportive and has been supportive even when the schedule hasn’t been as free as I thought it would be going into it. She’s been so supportive.

Thankful For “That Feeling”

I gotta say. When I went to the secretary of state’s office in shorts, t-shirt and sandals to file the paperwork to incorporate my llc, I felt great. When I go do a walk through with a client and tell them that their most frequently run query (by a wide margin) used to take 3-80 seconds and with a little work I have it down to an average measured in milliseconds it feels great to know they’ll have happier customers and can feel better about selling to more. When I see a light-bulb go off  when teaching a DBA a tip or trick it rocks. There are many occasions to get what I call “That Feeling” and I love it. Now, instead of just solving problems and making things go faster, be more secure or reliable – I am doing that but I am also creating something – a business – at the same time. While I pray about the business and know that God is in control, I also know that I have the ability to make something or nothing out of this thing I’m trying and that is a great feeling (and a scary one at times also).

Thinking about going off on your own? Send me an e-mail. I’d love to talk to you about the lessons I’m learning even now as I am trying to see how this first year of full time self employment goes. I can share some of the “just starting out” lessons which are still fresh in my mind because I’m only just now learning them.

But yeah. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to go into business on my own in this bad economy and make something that sustains itself.

 

 

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  1. Brent Ozar November 23, 2011 at 12:59 #

    I’m proud to know you. It takes faith to take this leap, and of course you’ve got that. I wish more people had the faith in their abilities, themselves, their qualifications, and their network to make this same leap. What an incredible difference it makes in your life and the lives of your loved ones!

    • Mike Walsh November 26, 2011 at 15:17 #

      Thanks Brent :-)

      You were definitely one of the inspirations/role models along the way of this decision. So far so good but I’m seeing that there are a lot of areas I need to grow in.

  2. Karen Lopez November 26, 2011 at 14:58 #

    I’m so happy it’s working out for you, Mike. I’m glad that it’s working out for you and your family. For me, flexibility is the key reason why I work for myself. The money is good, but if I didn’t have the authority to set my own path I don’t know how I would survive the hard parts of being a consultant.

    I look forward to your update next year — where you tell us it’s still wonderful and that you are still a great boss.

    • Mike Walsh November 26, 2011 at 15:14 #

      Hey Karen -

      Thank you for some of your advice and counsel when I was mulling this decision over. Thank you for the book recommendation (The Secrets of Consulting by Weinberg) and tips after making the trek out.

      The flexibility is the big plus for me also. We’ll see where next year’s post lies! I don’t know as though I’m the best boss. There are still things I’m trying to figure out on the business end of things. I’m a technologist first so the business person aspects are all new to me.

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  1. I’m Thankful For: A Vibrant Technology Community | Straight Path Solutions, a SQL Server Consultancy - November 24, 2011

    [...] Self Employment – I made the decision to try it this year, and I’m glad I did. I think you can make that same decision. [...]

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