The Owners Play Academy is for business owners that feel like they don’t have any free time?
Years ago I was sitting with a client who said he had no time off. At the time I was still flying jets in the Air Force Reserves. He wanted to know how I found the time and ran TeleData Enterprises. I have to first share that TeleData was my first income producing business. Before that I owned Nedra Century Company. A very small auto parts business that specialized in 1965-1968 Ford Mustangs. I was so bad at that business that I still have parts in my garage and haven’t owned a Mustang in almost 20 years.
From a very young age my dad and both grandfathers taught me the value of work. If you finished your work, you could play. Get caught playing before finishing work and there were repercussions. Usually more work. Being the second son, but 10 years younger than my brother created what most shrinks would say is a “second first child”. My brother left for boot camp at 17. I did not know why he left when I just turned 8, but did the same thing my self just over 9 years later without finishing High School.
Before I enlisted I worked three jobs. The first one had terrible hours. The second was at a Pizza place where I was fired for not learning how to make a pizza. The third was selling cars, which ethically I hated. Each of these jobs had a huge influence on the work I chose and all are part of what brought me to where I am today. The pizza job haunted me. Pizza can’t be that hard I thought. The lesson was I was thinking too much about it. Today I have a pizza oven at home and am very confident you would enjoy one of my pies. The process is almost therapeutic now that I don’t think about it, I just do it.
Car sales taught me that I don’t want to sell anything to someone they don’t want or need. It is why we won’t own any website we manage like other companies that will rent you your own business name online. Selling real estate years later re-enforced that idea. My wife was forced to quit a major department store chain because she wouldn’t push credit cards on people who couldn’t afford it.
The work ethic that my Dad and Grand dads instilled in me paid off. Quickly I figured out the best way to goof off in the military is to get high scores and get your work done quickly. I considered the military experience to be a slightly socialist experiment. My bosses gave equal work to everyone at the same pay grade. Only three every pushed me to do more. If I was smarter about my work, got done quicker and finished my education classes, I was released to my own vices. Sometimes that wasn’t always good. Most of the time it gave me a level of responsibility and freedom few others in my group had. Most importantly, that freedom gave me a chance to get my GED and start some college classes off base.
Eventually, I left active duty to finish college. This was my first brush with being near homeless. I had no idea how to manage money, and didn’t know it was a problem. I was very fortunate to land a job at Stanfords Graduate School of Business installing computer networks. Something no one else was doing (yet). I was also lucky that I was able to find friends and family willing to give me a place to sleep or very very cheap rent.
I also had a skill in marksmanship that caught the eye of some very important people. While in college I remained on the National Guard Combat Marksmanship team. I earned a commission and later a pilot training slot because of the wins at major competitions. You would think I had it made.
Just six years after I enlisted, I finished pilot training at the tail end of Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force thanked me for my service and said they had no money to pay me. The job I got flying C-26’s in Fresno California let me fly two or three times a month. My pay was a whopping $400 a month. My truck payment was $395. I was right back in beggars mode without the excuse of being a “poor college student”.
When I became a “traditional guardsman” as a pilot, I needed a job and had to find a place to live. The airlines were not hiring and I had no money. A friend of mine worked for his dad, and they wouldn’t hire me as an employee, so I started a company and subcontracted to them. He also let me sleep on his couch for a month or so while I realized I didn’t know how to manage money.
My little startup that was me, a bag of tools and a pickup truck was called TeleData Enterprises. TeleData started at a time when the internet had less than 500 registered domain names. A network in a home was un attainable and offices where just starting to network. I learned from the military and my pizza boss how to teach simple tasks quickly. This let me buy more trucks and hire techs to do what I considered almost mindless work.
When I was essentially homeless. One thing my parents were never good at was managing money. My Dad used our homes like an ATM and every five years we moved. He died nearly broke. I wasn’t good at managing money then either. The GI bill paid for most of my school, so all of my paycheck went into cars and beer. You can’t rent a house with no deposit money.
I “camped” for a couple of days before a friend took pity and let me crash on his couch. Thankfully I did have a new pickup which let me start my business. After the first couple of jobs were done, I called up my mom’s second husband. Someone I consider a great friend and mentor and asked to rent a room. Less than a year later I bought my first home.
The journey from the Air Force and Air National Guard saying “we don’t have flying money” to me getting married and owning three houses took just over 24 months. During that entire time I took exactly three days off. I was the owner that didn’t know how to play and it was starting to show in my physicals. I was still flying in the Air Force Reserves, and had landed a great job in a great squadron flying KC-10’s. My wife landed a teaching job at the same base.
As my business grew we moved out to the “country club” neighborhood. We had driven around it for almost two years dreaming of the day we could buy in. Then it happened. The worst house on the best lot was for sale, and in such poor shape that no one would look at it. This was a major learning event for me. I learned that real estate agents don’t care about the buyer or the seller. They just want the commission. I asked to meet the sellers and after listening to how they go to a point they were about to lose the house, I crafted a win-win offer. My agent said I was crazy, her agent said “no-way” and that evening she signed the contract.
Still working 80 hours a week between flying in the reserves and running TeleData, my wife made me attend a local chamber fundraising dinner. I reluctantly agreed. At that dinner we won a three night cruise. It was the first time my pager and cell phone would not work. As we pulled out of Long Beach Harbor, a level of angst and fear came over me I had never experienced, even in combat. This was quickly followed by the realization that it was done. I went to our stateroom and took a nap from 11 am to 7 pm. We had an 8 pm dinner at the captains table. I wore a full military dress uniform and was back in bed by 11 pm. My body was able to relax for the first time in years.
On that cruise I met a contractor. Like me he always was hustling for more work. He said “do the deal, get a check, take a vacation.”. While it sounded nice, it brought up the fear of having no work and losing everything like my Dad did twice. For the next two days I got a great lesson in money management for small business owners, and learned how to play. It was very much in line with what both of my grand dads taught me and except for the bad financial habits, my Dad.
When that conversation happened with the client a few years back, the idea for the Owners Play Academy started. If you are a business owner and need to find a way to get a little better balance in life, stop living to work, and start working to live. Sign up for the Owners Play Academy Today.