Anniversary Call

I went to my former company’s Christmas party this past Friday. It’s sort of a tradition, if you don’t leave on bad terms, to come back your first year out. I was glad to see my old coworkers, and I was reminded of all the dread I had about making the jump. Looking back, I was more nervous about breaking the news to my bosses than I was about undertaking my new gig.

Today’s the one-year anniversary of when I got serious about quitting my job and launching a new business. I’d been considering the move for a few weeks, and when I was at the office Christmas party a day earlier, I found myself looking around the banquet hall and thinking, “Is this the last time I’m going to be at this?”

The next day, I called one of the advertisers in my trade magazine to ask him three questions:

  1. Do you really believe your industry needs a trade association?
  2. Do you believe I can build it and run it?
  3. Do you think you can convince your company to join and provide start-up funding?

He said, “Yes,” to all three, but he’s also a good pal of mine, so I wasn’t 100% convinced that I should do it. I mean, I wondered if our friendship affected his judgement about my abilities to do this. But, because he’s a good friend, I knew I could trust him not to spill the beans while I started reaching out to more companies.

I called another advertiser-pal a few days later — I’ve made a bunch of good friends from the nearly 15 years I spent on the magazine, which has helped me launch this new biz — and asked him the same three questions. I got the same answers.

In the next few weeks, I called on three more companies, getting farther from my friend zone with each call. The fifth company was a major player in the industry, but I had no close relationship with anyone there. My contact enthusiastically told me they’d be on board and would forward me funds if I needed them to get things off the ground. That meant I was five-for-five, and that’s when I knew It Was On. Fewer than four weeks after I made that first call, I gave notice at my job and started this crazy ride.

I think I’ve gotten used to having a job that doesn’t yield a tangible product like a magazine (quite a transition, since I’d been doing this for 19 years), and I’m still working out the kinks of being my own boss, but I can’t forget that first call a year ago, that first time I said to someone besides my wife, “I’m thinking of quitting the magazine.” Did I need to say it to believe that I was really going to do it?

My pal wasn’t in when I called that Saturday, but he rang back that evening while I was at our neighbors’ place. I took the call out on their enclosed deck, watching the headlights on Skyline Drive through the trees while we discussed my future. We talked about our businesses, and our midlife crises, and how long he’d been waiting for me to make some sort of change. (The second pal I called said, “FINALLY!” when I told him I was thinking of leaving.)

I don’t have much to add; I just want to mark the anniversary.

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