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Fired? Start a Business!
Don't let dear old boss get you down. Start your own business and that corporate job will quickly become a distant memory. [EXTERNAL] (Entrepreneur Magazine's Web Site)Dec. 24, 2001

By Bruce Freeman

It's been often said that when one door closes, another door opens.

In my case, the road to personal and financial freedom opened just shy of my 40th birthday. Six months after the boss said, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out", my wife threw me the surprise birthday party she had planned anyway. When I walked into the restaurant, about 60 people yelled, "Surprise". I figured at that point the "surprise" would be that all the guests my wife invited would be washing dishes for a few days to pay for the party we couldn't afford.

At the end of the party, I thanked my wife and asked her how much it cost. After informing me that "Miss Manners" would not appreciate my asking the cost of a gift, I told her that I would be getting a credit card bill at the end of the month anyway. My wife then tells me that the cost of the surprise birthday party was approximately equal to one of our monthly mortgage payments. So?
"Well", she said, "If the sheriff is going to repossess our house for non -payment, what's the difference if he evicted us a month ago or right after this party. At least this way, I'll have one heck of a party to tell him about while he's taking our furniture to the curb."

Her point was that I was worth more than my job and the love and support of my family was still there for me. Intellectually, it took me a little while to see my loss as an opportunity, but emotionally I knew she was right. You are more than the definition of your last job.

The truth is many employees are fired or "let go" at some point in their careers. Most are working again within six months to a year and virtually all of them survive. After five years, many of them believe that they are better off than they were before losing their jobs. With major company layoffs reported on the front pages of the newspapers, statistics don't mean much. You're wondering how you're going to make your mortgage payment this month. When you are out of a job, the unemployment rate is 100% despite what any department of labor may say. Where do you start? In the words of FAMOUS AMOS, the highly successful cookie entrepreneur, "You start from right where you are."

ADVICE from the trenches

Take some time (24 hours probably won't be enough, but a month is probably too long) to come to grips with the loss. Don't do or say anything professionally for a least a week, because your anger can hurt you far more than the loss of your job. In the first few days, discuss your situation with friends you can trust to keep your confidence. Vent your anger, but don't act upon it. No matter how angry you are, resist the temptation toward any form of revenge. Never denigrate your former employer with industry colleagues because word of sour grapes gets around, and that, could damage you permanently. Remember that only one person fired you, and that you still have friends at the company willing to help you.

You'll know when you're ready to move forward when you stop asking yourself "What am I going to do?" and start thinking "I've got to do something!" This is the time to sit down and make a realistic, if not exhaustive, list of your strengths and weaknesses and to realize that you have choices. Of course, you can polish up your resume or visit an executive placement organization to hone your interview skills, but you can also ask yourself what you'd really like to do with the rest of your life. Look at the list of your strengths and use them to broaden the scope of your thinking. Now is the time to consider starting your own business - one that plays to your strengths.

The second step is easy. The greatest assets you have are your skills, the people you know and the people they know. Catalog everyone into a contact database, or even on 3x5 cards, if necessary. Send a card announcing the formation of a consultancy in your area of expertise and have business cards printed immediately. (Even if you end up taking another corporate job, having a consultancy during the interim is an asset.) Take the time to tell people that you are looking for opportunities; they can't help you if they don't know you are available. Most of your business associates won't necessarily know that you were fired or why, so you can use the consultancy as an opportunity for them to congratulate you on starting your own business.

Take the leap and take the risk. You really have nothing to lose during the first few weeks. You can always interview for other jobs if it makes you feel better. Face the fact that you are going to make some mistakes. Learn from them, but don't let them derail you. Get over your embarrassment and get moving. Keep to the same schedule you used when you were working full time for someone else - now you're working for you. Use down time to join and volunteer for any and all professional organizations in your field. Subscribe to journals or trade publications and scour them for leads. Start a newsletter and ask former colleagues to contribute articles. Write an announcement of your new business and send it to your local newspaper. Join a community service club, offer to coach Little League, volunteer to be class Mom/Dad or whatever interests you. Take advantage of time with your children, when business picks up you'll be glad you did.

Six months into your new business reflect upon where you've been and use the knowledge you've gained to narrow your scope and adjust your course. If necessary, use the equity in your home or whatever financing you can manage to keep paying for things as you go. What keeps you and your business going in the first year is the fact that being fired is not like lightning; it happened once, and in this economy, it could happen again. When you are in your own business, working harder than you ever have, doing something that makes you happy and fulfilled, success will come. Hope and humor will see you through the rough times. Before you know it, personal and financial freedom will find you.

Recently, I celebrated ten years of being my own boss. I'm doing well financially, and my business is more secure than any corporate position available today. Most important, I love what I do and I have time for my family. My priorities are my own. If I can do it, so can you.


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