Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Fire Your Boss?

Why Fire Your Boss?

Tom Sheppard

(excerpted from the soon to be released book "Executive to Entrepreneur: Launching Your Life on Your Terms")
When people leave behind a corporate career they are typically either running away from something or running toward something.

Those who are running toward something have some great cause or dream they are pursuing. Likely it has been a burning passion for years, or something that has been simmering along on the back burner.  Now, they either see a light at the end of the tunnel and are ready to make the leap to live their dream, or they believe there is no light at the end of the tunnel and they feel it is now or never.

The good news is for those who are running toward something is that their goal is often very clear cut and their drive will help them overcome most of the obstacles in their way.

But what about the rest of us…

Those of us who are ready to leave behind a corporate career because we are profoundly unhappy with what our future (or present) looks like in corporate life?  If we are running away, like I was, does that mean doom and gloom?  No, it doesn't mean doom and gloom, but it does mean we need to think carefully and plan our escape, because we don't necessarily have that burning bright mission and vision to drag us onward in the face of difficulties until we attain the bright summit we have imagined.

It really doesn't matter if you are running away from a corporate career or toward a cause.  Either way, you are ready to leave your corporate life behind.  For that, I salute you.

Don't get me wrong, corporate life is fine for those who like it.  But for me, I wanted more control over my own fate than what I could find in the corporate world.  And frankly, the corporate world is a profoundly insecure place.  The world of the entrepreneur, for me, affords greater control and security than what exists inside the halls of any corporation.

Security? you say.  Control? you say.  Anyone indoctrinated in the world of the corporate career would laugh at my describing corporate life as unsafe and out of control.  But it is true.  Consider this…

When Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008, Wachovia was well capitalized and one of the leading banks in the US.  Many of the areas of the bank were leading their industry in terms of productivity and profitability.  And yet, when Wells Fargo took over, many highly competent and skilled people were put out of work for the simple reason that their department was a duplicate of functions already being performed by someone at Wells Fargo. 

"To the victor go the spoils."  Would the management of Wells Fargo fire their own people and retain Wachovia personnel?  Of course not?  The fact that Wells bought Wachovia seems to say on its face that the better team triumphed.  But that may not be the facts at all.

Years before Wells bought Wachovia, I was working at Dominion Bank when First Union bought it.  Many of the systems Dominion had were superior to those of First Union.  But, First Union was much bigger than Dominion.  Even though the Dominion systems were better, it didn't make operational sense to throw out the systems that were the lifeblood of a much larger organization and replace them with those of the smaller company.  Doing that would require much more expense in retraining and upgrades to hardware throughout the larger entity.  So, many very competent folks at Dominion were thrown out of work - not because they were less competent or for any other reason than they were on the wrong end of an acquisition.

A few years before my experience at Dominion, I was working for a defense contractor when the Berlin Wall came down.  Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, President Bush declared a "peace dividend" that meant there were to be cuts in defense spending.  The company where I worked had just won a follow-on five-year contract on a key defense system - one that was not going away any time soon.

The government representative told my boss, "Congratulations on the contract win. Oh, and by the way, your next bill has to be 20% less than your previous bill."  In a company running on just a 7% profit margin, that meant an across-the-board cut of 20%.

You may not know it, but winning a five-year contract on a key weapon system is about the best job security you can have in defense contracting.  And yet, here we were facing a 20% cut in staff.  Several good people lost their jobs, totally through no fault of their own.

If that doesn't show you just how insecure and out of control your career is inside the corporate world, then stop reading now and go get your money back for this book because you are unable to learn.

I went through each of the situations I described.  In all but the last, I was one of those who got the axe.  And yet, I landed on my feet every time.  In the last situation, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, I retired to run my own business.  I left behind the world where my financial fate was held in the hands of bosses, power brokers, regulators and congress and instead entered the world of the entrepreneur where I have no one to blame for my security or insecurity but myself.  If I succeed it is because I have brought value to my clients.  I fail, it is because I failed to monetize the value I delivered, or I failed to deliver value.  Either way, it is on me.
So, what is your reason for leaving the corporate life?

Is it because you think your boss is an idiot?  Are you bored?  Or are you ready to take control of your own fate?

My Boss is an Idiot

For many people, the drive to get out of Corporate America is driven by The Peter Principle or The Dilbert Principle.

The Peter Principle says that your boss is in that role because she was very good at something and got promoted again and again until she reached a job that she cannot ever master.  She has risen to the level of her incompetence and will likely remain there until she decides to go elsewhere.

The Dilbert Principle says that management took a complete idiot and promoted him directly into his current position.

When you have a boss that got there by either of these principles, is it any wonder that you are ready to do something on your own?

Compared to your boss, you may be:
  • Smarter
  • More Competent
  • More Knowledgeable

And in return for your greater abilities you get kept on a tight leash and told not to do anything without first getting the “Okay” from the boss.

Or it could be as simple as your boss is a total jerk, and there is nothing you can do about it.

I Am Bored

Fortunately, not all of our bosses are incompetents, idiots, or jerks.  Some of them are really great people and good at what they do.  Even so, you may find that life in Corporate America is leaving you feeling a little stale, bored, terrified, or just plain uncertain about the future.

If boredom is the issue then the world of the entrepreneur should cure you of that ill.  First, you will spend years building your business.  Then, you will want to turn it into a smoothly operating machine.  And at last, you will face the challenge of building it so that it can run without you.  Then you will get bored and sell it or keep it and start a new business.

In the meantime, you will face countless challenges such as learning to market effectively, to hire right, to delegate correctly, and how to attract and retain clients.

Being an entrepreneur will likely keep the boredom at bay for many years.  By the time it bores you, you will likely be so successful, that you can do whatever you want.

I Want Control of My Destiny

As I pointed out above, corporate life is very insecure.  Of course its advocates promote just the opposite picture.  They want everyone to believe that the road to financial security and safety is within the belly of the beast, safe in the heart of the biggest corporation you can find.

Ask the folks at Arthur Anderson how that worked out for them.  Arthur Anderson was one of "the big five" accounting firms in the US, arguably in the world.  Then along came Enron and when the dust settled both Enron and Arthur Anderson ceased to exist.

Suddenly, "the big five" became "the big four."

As an entrepreneur, I may thrive or die on the vine. Either way, I won't have to worry that I was put out of work by some "bean counter" who decided it was more profitable for the company to eliminate my part of the company.


Of course, your exodus from the corporate life, may be nothing more than looking down the road and seeing that you don't want to really retire.

Consider the dictionary definition of the word retire.
·         to remove from active service or the usual field of activity, as an army officer or business executive.
 ·         to withdraw (a machine, ship, etc.) permanently from its normal service, usually for scrapping; take out of use.

Most of us aren't ready to be "scrapped" when we hit retirement age.

In fact, some of us won't have a choice in the matter.  Economic turmoil and corporate perfidy has forced more than one retiree to give up the life of leisure and return to work, often as a door greeter at Wal Mart.
Just ask the mill workers in my town whose retirement funds were invested in stock in FieldCrest Cannon.  When the stock was declared worthless, more than one had to come out of retirement to go back to work and many saw their retirement hopes deferred for decades more.

It Really Doesn't Matter

Regardless of your reason, sooner or later you will find yourself considering life outside of Corporate America.  It may be sooner, or it may be later when you realize that retirement is coming at you faster than you realized.

For most of us when we look at life outside of holding down a 9 to 5 job, we are stuck with fear.  Fear that we won’t be able to provide for ourselves, fear that we won’t be able to have a meaningful or fulfilling life, fear that we will find ourselves with too much time and too little to do.

Fear is natural.  This course will help you take the fear out of your future by arming you with the knowledge, skills, tools, and plans you need to not only survive outside of Corporate America, but to thrive.

Overcoming the Fear Factor

One of my mindset coaches, Raymond Aaron, taught me that the word fear is actually an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. I have found that to be true.


Fear is the greatest challenge in any transition.  Overcoming that fear is a matter of life and death.  Fear can keep you immobilized.

At other times we give up and move on when we need to stick to it because we fear that we cannot succeed.
For me personally, I mastered my fear of the transition years before I made the transition.  I faced it and realized that the worst outcome from making the move was still better than staying where I was at.  I knew that at worst, I could go back to working for someone else, as hard as that would be.

It is ironic to me that my exit from my corporate career was accidentally timed with the hostile takeover of the company I was working for.  Most of my co-workers watched me walk out the door, wishing that they had the courage and foresight to do what I had done.  Instead, most stayed in their cubicles waiting to get kicked to the curb by their new corporate masters.

Fearof success is another obstacle and failing to understand what success truly is and what is the actual price to be paid for success.

Fear of success, really?

Many people fear that success will make them into a bad person. They believe that they will have to take from others to get what they want, and they don't want to be one of those kind of ruthless, self-centered, self-serving people.

The reality is that wealth won't make you a bad person.  Success will only magnify the person you truly are.  If you are generous, wealth will allow you to be even more generous.

Also, the whole idea that you only have more because I have less is totally false.  That is called the scarcity mentality.  It is saying that if you have a big piece of pie, that means there is less pie for me, and it totally ignores the fact that we can make (and are making) more pies.  This world has more than enough in it to let us all live like kings if we just work creatively instead of being so busy counting other people's money.  Every single shortage of key resources predicted over the centuries has been proven false, or was solely the result of human failures.

I, and the most wealthy people I know operate from the viewpoint that what I have for me, I want for you too.  Because of that, they make pies for themselves and teach others how to make pies too, if others will listen and do as they have done.

Fear and Risk

By the way, fear and risk are not the same thing.

Many will say that entrepreneur-world is risky.  That is true.  And corporate life is risky too.  In fact life is filled with risk.

Most of the risks of corporate life are hidden, and very real.  In contrast, the risks of entrepreneurialism are widely known and shouted from the rooftops.  Of course, they are also often over stated, at least in relation to the hidden risks of corporate life.

As I mentioned, risk is part of life.  When you get up in the morning, you risk falling over.  When you go up or down stairs, you risk a crippling or killing spill.  When you cross the street, you risk getting killed by a car. And the list goes on and on.  "But Tom," you may argue, "those are ordinary risks.  I understand them and deal with them."

I say, "Exactly."  That is how we successfully deal with risks.
1.       We identify them.
2.       We understand them.
3.       We take preventative steps to reduce them.
4.       We accept some risks.
5.       We use insurance to shift risks from us to someone else.

Before debarking the corporate  band wagon, it is wise for you to take time to coolly assess the risks of your actions and inactions.  Identify them and understand them.  Then, you can take measures to reduce or
shift some risks and decide which risks are acceptable to you.

However, if you embark on a course of action without understanding the risks, then you are just gambling.  You may get lucky and come out on top.  But I would rather be good than lucky.  Especially when you consider that another coach of mine taught me that the word luck is an acronym too for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.


Knowing and understanding both the risks of action and those of inaction, will allow you to be "lucky" in your new career as an entrepreneur and to position yourself for the best possible launch from corporate-world for entrepreneur-world.

Action Steps

1.       Figure out if you are running away or running toward something.  Think it out and write it down.  Knowing why you are exiting will put you in the mode of acting instead of reacting.  Also, when you know what you are running from or toward, you will be better able to decide what your landing pad should look like, or not look like.

2.       Face your fears head on.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page.  On the left side of the page, list every reason you can think of why you shouldn't leave your corporate career. On the right side, list every reason you should leave your corporate career.  If the Shoulds don't outweigh the Shouldn'ts then you may not be ready to take the plunge yet.  Either your fears are unrealistically large, or your motivation isn’t sufficient to allow you to overcome them.

Tom Sheppard

Next: What Can You Do?

Keyword Topics Related to this Post:
Job Search, Entrepreneur, resume, starting a business, job finder, business cards, career, work from home jobs

Books Related to This Post:
Leap of Faith: Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat by Ed Robinson
The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content by Timothy Ferris
The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
The Job Search Action Plan: What You Need To Know To Get The Job You Want by Shane Turner
Fire Yourself: Get the Job You Want by Tom Sheppard

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