This is a series about getting your life back on track and achieving your goals.
It was 8 am on Saturday morning. The sun was streaming into our bedroom across the deck overlooking our backyard. It was a beautiful day.
It had been another tough week, and I was glad it was over. I was hoping my mind wouldn’t start racing again about what to do next. I’d been unemployed for a month, but it felt like I’d been lost for eternity.
I looked to my left, and Kathy wasn’t there. I called her, and she walked from the bathroom to sit next to me on our bed.
She was crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She said, “I’m pregnant.”
“Are you sure? How do you know?” I asked.
“I wasn’t feeling well, so I bought one of those pregnancy tests from the drugstore. Look. Here is the result,” she said.
It showed a big + sign.
Kathy was pregnant. We were pregnant. That’s when I started crying. I was unemployed, and now we were pregnant with our fourth child.
After leaving AudioFax as their president, I was a ship without a rudder. I’d now lost two jobs in less than a year. Before, I was employed for 17 years while learning and advancing each year.
The AudioFax job was supposed to give me the fulfillment I was desperately searching for. I just knew going back to working with an entrepreneur would get me back on track. I discovered going back to what I remembered as being fulfilling…was not fulfilling.
The “good old days” were not what I remembered them to be. I was romancing my former entrepreneur days. I needed to remember two things were different now.
I was different.
The work didn’t change. I changed. Before, I was single or newly married. I was building a company with Richard Brock, and Kathy came and joined me in that effort. We had no children. The kids started coming five years after we were married.
I was also inexperienced. The challenges of learning how to set strategy and lead and manage people were all new. I was reading books and attending conferences for new ideas and actively seeking mentors. When I went back to startups, I faced solving the same problems I’d solved ten years ago and it just didn’t do it for me.
Just before I resigned from my corporate job, I met with Joel Koblentz, an executive recruiter. We became acquainted after I engaged him to do a couple of executive searches for me. I wanted to get his advice before I embarked on this journey of returning to Atlanta and startups. He had a great network in Atlanta. In contrast, my network was zero. I had used Atlanta to raise a family, and I knew its international airport well.
He asked me, “Who is helping you with your finance, life, and family goals?”
“No one,” I answered.
He wrote down David Homrich’s name. At the time, he was the founder and managing partner of HomrichBerg, a new wealth management firm. He said, “David is excellent at what he does. This will be a good time for you two to get together and plan this move and understand its long-term consequences.” What he didn’t say was, “I know just the place for you.”
I called David and soon became a client. He helped me sort out our family financial goals and obligations. He got me thinking long-term. But he also acted as an anchor for me in the Atlanta community. He had a great network.
When I left AudioFax, David was the first person I called. I explained my situation.
David asked, “What is it you want to do?”
I didn’t know the answer to this simple question. I’d spent the last 20 years doing what I wanted to do. Now, after starting and selling a company, becoming a corporate executive, and then going back to leading a startup, I was lost. The truth was, I didn’t know. But I did know I needed to support my family, and I didn’t have enough to do it from savings. I needed to work.
I told David I wanted to work with entrepreneurs who were a bit later stage. Entrepreneurs who grew their revenue to a point where they needed professional management. Entrepreneurs who were ready to move to a management infrastructure so they could attract great people and grow even faster.
David gave me a list of names to call who might help me find the right company. There were at least 20 influential Atlanta business people on that list.
I started calling.
This was 1992. My objective was to get a face to face meeting. I started toward this objective by placing a call. I knew I wouldn’t get to these people on the first call but used it as an introduction. I would tell them on the call that I wanted to meet with them and would appreciate a callback.
Right after the call, I would send a letter, which served as a more formal introduction. I put David Homrich’s name way up front and then described my experience and capabilities. I purposely was light on my goals as I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
After a few of these meetings, I came to realize how lost I was. In every meeting, they would say, “You have some great experience. How can I help you?”
Every time I answered, it was different.
It all depended on the occupation of the person I was meeting with, and what I thought I wanted to do for a living that morning, combined with what matched their network. I soon realized that was not how to be successful at networking.
I had to be able to answer the question: What do you want to do.
This “networking” went on for months. One day Kathy, now almost three months pregnant, stormed into my home office.
Kathy said, “I think you’re fooling around on me!”
“I’m dying here, and you think I’m messing around with other women?” I asked.
“You get up in the morning and get dressed in a suit and tie. You leave here at 7 am. I don’t hear from you all day. Then sometimes you don’t come home until 9 pm. You don’t have a job! What are you doing all day long? What am I to think?”
I was lost.
Now, because of the way I was networking, everybody knew it. But I needed a job. What did I want to do?
I gave up. I did something I had not done since I was a child. I prayed.