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August 23, 2012
EDITOR’S NOTE: Twice a month Shawn Brown will write a column that will, in his words, ‘engage the reader on a journey of (business) discovery’ by using his real world experiences from the beginning of his corporate career to his transition to entrepreneur and business owner. Each column will eventually be a chapter of his book Rules of Behaviour. The book will be available in 2013.
EDMONTON, AB, Aug 23, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Having been fully reinstated with my company and team, I decided I was going to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove that I not only deserved my spot on the roster but that, in fact, I could be the new all-star on the team.
As hard as I had worked my first year, I worked even harder my second. I became a master of time management, and really worked on solidifying my relationships with my customers. By the end of that second year, while I may have not been Rob Press’ (to find out more about Rob, read Losing your innocence in business) complete replacement, I had proven beyond any doubt that I belonged in the big leagues. My reputation for working hard, and delivering on my promises with my accounts, and my own internal budget objectives and contributions, was solid.
But while I was focusing my efforts on all of that, the centralization of the industry that had begun the previous year and had affected our firm somewhat dramatically, continued. It actually even accelerated: we continued to lose more clients because of it. To watch this dynamic at play, and knowing full well this was a complete re-shaping of the industry, was an eye opener.
Our team in Saskatoon kept asking the Cowboy (to read more about the Cowboy, read There’s more than one way to do something), and his partner in Regina, for whom the company was named after, if they recognised this and were putting plans in place to position the company to deal with this new reality. We kept getting the same version of two answers. ‘This won’t continue across the industry’, and ‘don’t worry, we’ll be fine’.
At first, and certainly for a while, I trusted their responses, and actually found them comforting and encouraging. But by the end of that second year, and certainly as I was half-way through my third, I knew they simply didn’t understand what was at play, and/or were simply unable or unwilling to make the changes that needed to be made to save the company.
Having had my eyes snapped wide open by being laid off at the end of my first year, and nearly always having the right read or feeling about a given situation, I knew I needed to look completely at my future. It wasn’t, I decided, with them.
Firmly entrenched in the brokerage community and industry by now, and having carved out my own reputation for being a hard, dedicated worker who delivered results, I set out to have some informal discussions with a couple of our largest competitors who were better positioned, geographically, than my current company, and more importantly, which seemed to be embracing the significant change the industry was undergoing, and preparing for it.
One, in particular, intrigued me. It was a Winnipeg-based firm, with operations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Their reputation was strong. While our firm was losing clients, they were actually adding new ones. Further, the managing partner of the Saskatoon office had a reputation of being one of the nicest, most honorable men in the business, and I had run across him in the field on a couple of occasions. I decided to ask him for a meeting, and get his read on what was happening.
That first meeting was amazing. Recognizing that he could and would only share so much information about the industry shift as he saw it, and what his company was doing to position itself for it, it was absolutely clear that my read on where the industry was headed was spot-on. Even more dramatically, it was obvious I was on a sinking ship. We continued our meetings over the next few months, and near the end of my third year in the industry, they made me a formal offer to join their team.
The position was a lateral move, to be certain. But I really got the sense that, aside from avoiding a most certain train wreck with my current firm, accepting this lateral move would allow me a number of new opportunities moving forward. At that time, I had no idea how right my instinct and subsequent decision was.
Shawn Brown is the Founder and President of Forest For the Trees, a boutique business advisory service headquartered in Edmonton, AB. http://www.forestnow.com/
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