One evening recently I got into a conversation with an old college friend about all the guys we knew. We remembered those who were no longer with us and speculated about those who seemed to have had successful and/or fulfilling lives.
In the course of this exchange I said something to the effect of personally not having satisfied my own ambitions; of not having achieved all I thought I was capable of.
Over the next few days I kept thinking about what I had said and wondered why I had said it. The more I thought about it, the more I felt it was a somewhat hasty and inaccurate conclusion.
Maybe making questionable comments is the key to thinking things through more clearly and arriving at a more reasoned conclusion. I believe that was certainly true in this case.
The facts of my career were I built a successful business out of creative ingenuity where there were no other real models like it to follow. It started when I convinced my then employer, Electrical Industries Association, in a six-month series of discussions to allow me to continue managing their activities as an independent management firm.
We divided the budget up to arrive at my management fee. I inherited the four other employees, and how that all worked out is the subject for another blog. So now we were off and running, and over the next 25 years we acquired the management of several other trade associations, started a regional trade publication, and produced/managed several trade and consumer shows.
Although out initial thrust was as an association management firm, because we were located in Los Angeles it became apparent that our ability to attract enough substantial association clients would be limited. The California state associations were primarily located up north in Sacramento and San Francisco and the national associations were almost all back east in Washington, D.C., Chicago or New York.
The latter group was skeptical of a relationship with someone who had a two or three hour time difference; and to be honest, they were right. It was a handicap. So, the answer to me was to diversify and bring under our umbrella a number of added clients we could service in different ways to achieve added growth.
At the same time, we expanded the use of the title client to include ourselves, i.e., projects we could finance and produce on our own. That was how I built what I humorously called “the smallest conglomerate in the world.”
All told, I had an interesting and multifaceted work life, which has led to a very comfortable retirement.
We employed and supported as many as 30 people at one point, until I decided I was becoming an administrator and didn’t have time to participate in our projects. Not happy with that situation, I scaled back to about 20 people with a few less projects and found that more satisfying.
It wasn’t all easy and there were many ups and downs. Being a pioneer by starting a new type of diversified business was a bit of a struggle. At times I felt I was in a continuous fight. Added to this feeling was a suspicion on the part of some prospects that there was something wrong or immoral about a profit-making entity trying to serve a non-profit organization.
So now back to the statement I made about not achieving my ambitions. On further reflection, I should have said “We built a very capable team of people who, had we been located more geographically closer to where the major prospects were, we could have been bigger and served many more accounts. We weren’t; however, all-in-all, we did quite well with what we had.
I short, I am very satisfied with what we created and accomplished, while at the same time felt we had greater unfulfilled capabilities.
Thanks for listening!