What started as a terrifying failure ended up being a defining moment in the life of my family. The decisions my wife and I made at that time of high stress affected everything that followed.
In 1982 our young family was living in Salt Lake City. Our home overlooked the Great Salt Lake, with its flaming red and orange sunsets and storm clouds roaring in from the west. We felt comfortable living here. Unfortunately, things at work were not going as well. I was employed by the broadcasting company owned by the Mormon Church. That wasn’t the problem; it was my inability to work well in a large corporate structure that kept getting me in hot water.
After finally admitting to myself it was time to find a different job, I accepted a position to run a new research company for a small but growing broadcasting company located in Tucson, Arizona. I would have a major say in the success of the research division and the growth of this company. The challenge was exciting and the lure of no more snow was powerful.
From the first day things began to fall apart. One of the key people I had hired changed his mind and decided to immediately go into competition with us. The grand plans to build a major broadcasting group faltered and quickly crashed. By this point a fair amount of money and time had been invested in the research division. But, without the radio stations it served little purpose. So, five months after moving to town I was fired.
Suddenly I was faced with every breadwinner’s nightmare: two very young children and wife, a new house in a new city far from any family, and absolutely no source of income. Since we had just moved from Salt Lake a good chunk of our savings had been spent on the move and all that entails. The job I left behind was no longer available.
After a week or so of panic, I settled on the only logical thing I knew how to do: start my own consulting business. I developed a budget for all the printed materials, a business phone line, post office box, and marketing expenses. Then I began making the rounds of graphic design businesses, copy shops, and office supply stores to figure out what I had to do to produce business cards, stationery, proposal booklets, and all that goes with a new endeavor. Since this waswell before personal computers and the Internet, I was completely dependent on others to come up with a logo and package that looked professional. The total costs were substantial and bit even more deeply into our dwindling savings.
Next were calls all of the people I had ever worked for to let them know I was now on my own. I sent letters (there was no e-mail) on my expensive new stationery and followed up with more phone calls. I poured over a 500 page directory that listed every radio station in the country. I picked those I thought might consider giving me a chance and made almost daily trips to the post office with stacks of proposals and plenty of prayers.
Weeks, then months passed with no positive response. This had to work. We couldn’t afford to move and we couldn’t afford to stay without a steady income. We had decided early on my wife would be a stay-at-home mom with the kids and changing that would be a desperation move. I remember quite clearly that first year we pledged to not go to the shopping mall. The temptation to spend money we didn’t have was too great. We didn’t go out to dinner for that year either, choosing to stay home and consume lost of macaroni and cheese and casseroles.
Finally, two small radio stations responded. The amount of income wasn’t enough for much more than our monthly food budget, but at least there was a positive response. I redoubled my mailings and calling. Every time a radio station was mentioned in one of the trade newspapers I’d send a note to the manager hoping to raise my visibility. Slowly, a few other stations became clients, partly due to my experience but maybe more so because of the bargain- basement rates I charged.
Almost a year to the day after losing my job, a major radio station in a large east coast city called and asked me to meet with them and make a personal pitch. Scared out of my wits and knowing that this was the one break needed to save the life my family was trying to build, I flew east and met the executives. By the end of the next week, I had their signature on a contract. While still not nearly enough income to cover all our expenses that station’s hiring began to open the doors.
Within the next year, the business began to show a small profit. A few years later I was handling over thirty radio clients and had become one of the better-known figures in the radio consulting business. Eventually I consulted over 200 radio stations. Things were going well enough that I could retire in 2001 at age 52 and began to enjoy my satisfying retirement.
When I think back to the loss of that job and being faced with the greatest challenge of my young married life, the reason for success was simple: I had no Plan B. I was trained to do nothing else. I had a family depending on me to make something work. I also had a wife who believed in me and kept telling me it would happen while mending the kids clothes for the umpteenth time and getting hand-me-downs from others to keep herself clothed.
The lessons learned were ones I used in every area of my life from that day forward: belief in myself, perseverance, support from my family, and a strong faith in God. A dash of luck and being in the right place at the right time didn’t hurt either.
Bob Lowry Bio: is the founder of the #1 blog for Satisfying Retirement information
Sonia Marsh Says: What a remarkable story of how perseverance and staying “Gutsy” paid off. The first statement that I copied from your story is one that resonates with many people, and reminded me of Chris Guillebeau and his following of people wanting to escape the “Cubicle” world.
“it was my inability to work well in a large corporate structure that kept getting me in hot water.”
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