Career trouble. It starts as a ripple ......


It might be a change in senior leadership or maybe you get a new manager or director. Sometimes it's a peculiar announcement, a change in policy, your shift is change, or a new clothing, makeup, or hair style directive. It usually starts as a rumor. There are going to be cutbacks, a merger, a closure, or maybe the company's for sale. I paddled through many ripples, even small waves, over the course of my career. Then in December of 2009, it wasn't a ripple. It was a wake-up call.

The rumors I was hearing started coming from a very high level in the parent company. Initiatives began to change. Top line revenue and cost management became everything. Three year growth strategies where being ignored. Expenses and allowances were cut. Travel - client visits and trade shows were cancelled. We became very focused on cash flow, returns, ratios, and market share. Although none of this was written or spoken, it became clear to me that the company was being put up for sale. This is a ripple that was going to get bigger and bigger over the next 18 months. It was a Saturday morning in December 2009 that I started a company called The MBAR Group and seven years later, TalentBlvd.

To be truthful, it took some time before I understood the value of the new found organization I called MBAR LLC (Mike Beth Alex and Ryan) and it literally started as a hustle. At the time I was a mentor in a formal mentoring program while at Cox in Atlanta where I was matched with a talented mid-career Producer from WSB-TV. It was quickly evident that I had found a sweet spot, the convergence of my passions and a potential value proposition. It was from these early moments of The MBAR Group that I learned the importance of a hustle. Eight years later, it ultimately became an off ramp from a fairly toxic environment (that shortly thereafter unquestionably blew up in grand style).

So it was a ripple in 2009 that started a side hustle has turned into TalentBlvd, a Talent Management practice as well as MBAR LLC, a very successful corporate strategic business consulting firm. It was a defensive measure at the time. I was concerned that I had lost control of my own destiny and want to insulate myself. As I look back, there are four things you should think about before you contemplate turning the first hint of a ripple into a side hustle:

  1. Assess the timing. Closures, cutbacks, and layoffs happen quickly. It might not be hustle time, you may need to replace your source of compensation in short order. You'll find your timing largely depends upon your financial position. NEVER jeopardize the welfare and security of your family unnecessarily. Build a nest egg now. Figure out the minimum you need on a monthly basis and aside from other taxed differed plans. If you need these funds you don't want to be paying a 10% penalty to access them. Your goal should be 12 months of basic living expense in a savings account you can readily access. Not an easy task.

  2. Identify your core competencies, skills, and passions. Somewhere in there you'll find the basis for your hustle. This is important and it's not just about fun and games, it's the foundation for a business. It needs to be a labor of love but trust me, it's still labor and hard work. I have a server's heart and enjoy helping the hard working and humble reach their goals. It's not just about giving advice and coaching. It's rolling up the sleeves, building resumes, elevator pitches, segmentation plans, supply chain value analysis, etc.

  3. Make sure you are adding value that someone will pay for. Here's the important part. How much are they willing to pay? Understand their switching costs to change to another provider of your goods and services if they leave you. Can it replace your current compensation within the window of your savings? (see #1 above) What are the trends, growing or shrinking marketplace? Is it disruptive, who will be lining up against you with much deeper pockets? Consider finding some advisers to help you but first, get them under a mutual non-disclosure agreement if your idea is new to the world or you have a significant competitive advantage.

  4. If you have the luxury of time, consider running your hustle on a pro bono basis as an opportunity to refine your offering, potential pricing, build a business and marketing plan, construct a pitch deck and test the investment waters. I ran The MBAR Group on a pro bono basis for years for these reasons. I was able to build out a pitch deck and bring on some top notch advisers. Also I believe that if this starts as a side hustle, you are obligated to give your day job and employer the value they deserve. If your hustle creates a conflict of interest, ethically you should not be competing with your employer regardless of your contract or employment agreement.

In summary, I believe we all need a hustle for reasons I outlined in a previous article Ugh, it's Monday morning again ..... It's critical to the next chapters in your career that you create options. A ripple doesn't mean you abandon your career and current role. The ripple is just a warning sign, a yellow light, a time to slow down and evaluate. If you need language for a non-disclosure agreement or other insights on creating a side hustle, message me. Either I or one of our TalentBlvd coaches will respond within 24-48 hours.

Be Bold. Be Great. Be Timeless.

About Mike McNamara:

Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.

Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services to the underprivileged and underserved. Today as founder and CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile business and media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.

Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.

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