Surprisingly, people ask quite often what made me to decide to start my own business. Depending on how much time I have, and my mood at the time, I give a couple different answers. One part of the story that remains consistent is “I’m young and if I screw it up, I’ll have plenty of great experience to make up lost ground on the corporate ladder.”
The other, bigger, part was a LITTLE more revolutionary to me at the time. Here is just one version of the true story on why I started the Halifax marketing communications company, Denote Communications:
I was fresh out of university in my first real job. I eschewed a career that would logically fit my Bachelor of Commerce and became a Video Game Designer. Exactly one year after I started my job, I had left it. After some amazing experiences, learning countless things, and even getting some unwanted press (I’m still on the Wikipedia page for Family Guy as a result), I had an epiphany.
The studio I worked in had an open concept setup with everyone, including the owner, being at a desk at a pod. The general advantage of this is that teams could easily be restructured when new projects started or were reshuffled, and we were able to collaborate a lot more effectively. As I looked around our giant, nicely designed, studio filled with wondrous electronics, a great staff room, and an actual movie theatre, staffed by about 100 employees, I took the time to take an estimate on the overhead and cost of equipment/furnishings. Add to this that there was also a satellite office with its own (albeit more frugal staff and equipment/furnishings to go along with it), the overhead and capital expenses grew higher. The owner had also recently purchased a Porsche 911, come back from a cruise vacation, and I believe purchased a new home.
Now with the understanding that there were tax credits, ACOA loans, grants, etc. at play, the rough costs and estimation number came out pretty large. I found this absolutely fascinating and to this day am in complete admiration of what the company built, what it produced, and the owner’s business savvy. With that said, it was that same admiration of ambition and success that made me realise I could no longer work there, or anywhere.
Without intending to sound condescending or dismissive of anyone working a salaried job, if you work for another person, you are a cog in the machine and not earning your full potential value. You earn a salary as compensation for doing a small part in a larger product. Nobody pays anybody anything unless they expect to get more value than they paid in return and if you’re getting paid a salary, it’s because someone can get more from flat rating you than paying you on contract. Now there are many reasons one takes a salaried job (I think most tie down to security) and there’s nothing wrong with any of them. I simply just didn’t want to be a cog in the machine. I wanted to BE the machine and create something great. I wanted to create a life for myself and family that was better than average. Basically, I wanted freedom.
Once I came to the realisation of my goals and ambitions and came to the conclusion I was ok with accepting considerable increased risk in exchange for considerably increased reward, the decision to quit was simple. There were definitely a few other personal reasons that had nothing to do at all with my career for making the move, but I don’t think they provide benefit to anyone but a past version of myself. Within a short while of this epiphany, I quit my job, enrolled back at Dalhousie University, and started Denote Communications.
Since then, I’ve learned many valuable lessons ranging from the horribly soul crushing to wondrously uplifting. I’ve done great things and made great achievements that I’d never be able to accomplish on the career path I was on (or nearly any career path). I’ve also sacrificed great things. That said, there are still a lot of years in my life and still plenty of time to recover losses along the way. In this world, anything and everything is truly possible. But that’s another story…
If this interests you, you can read more Q&A/FAQ style posts about my start in business and my responses here.