Business Idea – Prism Career Networks

This is a letter to a colleague in Mississauga. I am starting a business planning course tomorrow at the Small Business Centre here in London to further develop the concept. I am posting the email to her here only because she made me realize why I am pursuing this dream.

A cornerstone of the entire concept is the “for life” idea. Studies show that these days, on average, people switch “careers” up to five times in their lives. Sometimes it is due to lay-offs or industry shifts or moving to another part of the country, or even another country. Although we will enter their lives at different times, for different reasons, the ideal candidate has just graduated and is searching for that ideal career. From initial testing and counselling, yes, they hopefully become a client for life. By building an intensely close relationship and understanding of them, including counselling them throughout their various careers, and including the same ongoing involvement in other areas, such as relationships and family, all the way to retirement, we are there for them. With each career they choose we learn more and more about what they like and don’t like. At some point they may go from working for someone to thinking about starting their own business. We can offer them the very best counsel because we are intimately aware of their suitability for entrepreneurship.

It is important to note that I am basing this entire concept on my own life, throughout which I never had the benefit of the PD testing to better know myself. I made a lot of choices as to my career, none with any real knowledgeable counsel. Many careers, or rather simply “jobs” were born out of necessity, rather than as part of any great plan. When I was in high school, and, in fact, to this day, I considered architecture as a career, but my parents could not afford university, so I gave up on my dream before it even got started. Maybe if I had good testing and counselling and. most importantly, exposure to the realities of the job, and an organization like ours, I may well have taken a completely different path. I may have got counselling on getting student loans or bursaries or maybe even been sponsored by an architectural firm that I job shadowed at and who saw my potential. The point is that I only had my parents as counsel and they offered nothing because they simply saw that, in their minds, there was no way to fund my education, plus they had no validation that I had any real talent for architecture. They never picked up on the architectural books I read or the drawings I did, and the fact is they weren’t qualified to assess my desire at the time. 

Like, I think, most people, I stumbled through my work life enjoying some aspects of the things I did, and loathing others, but I never got a clear focus on any of it, that is, until I took the PD course at sixty-one years old, when it was far too late in life to change the things I had done. Had I been armed with the knowledge I have now back in my twenties I would have.lived a much different life, without question. I started off working at the TD bank. Why? Because my mother worked there, that’s all. This was not a career “choice” and had nothing to do with my temperament or abilities or anything rational. I wasted two years of my life trapped in an environment of rigid procedures and no room for creative thought, screaming to get out. I had a family to support, so I was trapped. If I had the benefit of us back then I would have made far smarter choices in my career path.

The other, and equally important, factor would have been the life coaching part. My marriage started off rocky and never got any better despite twenty-three years of effort. I was afraid to admit that I had made a terrible mistake and even though I did the best I could, thinking that if we just got that better house or better car or something, things would be better, but in my heart I knew that it never would. In total desperation I agreed to even have another child, hoping that would magically solve the problem, but it only made it worse, obviously. I stayed for all the wrong reasons, even when my children told me in no uncertain terms to leave my wife and move out west where they saw I was so much happier. My daughter was very young and it broke my heart for her to tell me to move across the country away from her, but she was right. Instead I came back and wasted another five years of my life just trying to keep things together for the kids. When I finally realized that my kids had such busy lives that I was making appointments to see them, and my mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and we had been apart for more than twenty years, I moved to BC, believing that it was the :”right thing” to do. I would get to spend whatever time my mother had left with her and my kids would come our for holidays and we would all be together. It was a dream. My wife poisoned my kids against me, fearing that I would convince them to move out west, leaving her behind. I have not seen my kids in seventeen years and today I have no relationship with them at all, despite the fact that they are close by in Brampton and Burlington. I have five grandkids, only one of which I met when she was a baby. There is not a single day when I don’t long for my kids and grandkids.

I made all these fateful decisions totally on my own, and today I am paying for it dearly. Had I only had the counsel of someone independent, someone who knew me more than I knew myself. They could have counselled me objectively, knowing my values, like the importance of family and friends, and got me to question my own actions and think about the consequences. When I decided to move out west not one person in my life asked me if I would still go if it meant losing my children in the process. I never thought this remotely possible, but knowing how vindictive my wife was and how paranoid she was about the whole moving to BC thing, I could have considered the possibilities and taken a lot less for granted. I was so clueless that I did nothing about getting a divorce or even discussing it with my wife. I received papers from the court granting a divorce that I knew nothing about. It gave her custody because the court had ruled I had abandoned my daughter, which was not true at all. I appealed to the court, noting that I was never notified of the proceedings, but it fell on deaf ears. 

Maybe I am taking too altruistic an approach to the whole concept and it’s too personal to me. I still believe there is a business here. I desperately want to help others avoid the mistakes I have made in my life, no question, but the business if also born out of need. I am penniless, on welfare, with no real prospects of a “job” to help me climb back up. I was a consultant for fifteen years and never ever wanted for work, so I believe I have the skill set and experience to do this again. I took immense pride in the letters of recommendation I got from clients and the many referrals. I saw the financial rewards, but I never really ever understood that the joy in the job came from helping people and taking pride in my work. That pride and satisfaction, knowing I am making a difference in people’s lives is what I am striving for with this concept. 

Just one of my many experiences was when I was Customer Service Manager for Hilti Canada. I had a guy on my customer service staff who was the proverbially square peg in the round hole. He had the unique ability to upset our own sales staff and customers equally. He spent most of the day on the phone, which he loathed. He never followed up on the promises he made to customers or sales staff. He never really bonded with the other customer service staff and was a bit of a loner. On his lunch break he never joined other office staff; instead having his lunch with the warehouse guys, who were more like him. I had a few meetings with him about issues like being late for work and taking longer breaks than he was entitled to, but I knew there was more to it. After several warning type meetings I called him into the office late on Friday afternoon. As soon as he close the door he said “you’re going to fire me, aren’t you?” Now he was a big boy and prone to anger, so I was a little intimidated, I admit. Instead of rehashing all that he had done wrong, to justify me letting him go, I focused on getting him to question what he really wanted to do in life. I told him that the issues with working on the office were his true self, rather, they were only symptoms of his unhappiness with the job. Although he couldn’t get past the anger and emotion of being fired, knowing that he was about to go home and tell his new wife that he had lost his job, he didn’t blow, but simply left. Most telling, he didn’t bother to say goodbye to his fellow staff in the office; however, I learned later that he had gone to the warehouse to say his goodbyes there. 

About a month later I was in a grocery store and I looked up and saw Kim barrelling down the aisle towards me. I had a moment of panic, questioning whether he was about to beat the crap out of me, right here in public. As he got closer I saw his hand extended to shake mine, and I did cautiously, still preparing to defend myself. Instead he continued to rigorously shake my hand, thanking me over and over for letting him go from a job he now accepted was terrible for him. He said his “hobby” while working for me was carpentry. He had acquired all the tools and was quite talented at it. He said he had stewed all weekend, cursing my name, but his wife, instead of agreeing with him, asked him what it was he really wanted to do? He told her his passion was carpentry, so she simply told him to go find a job in carpentry. He did. He said he could not thank me more for being honest with him and getting him out of a job he loathed and into what he loved. That was a lot better than the beating I thought I was in for. It was a moment of tremendous personal satisfaction to me, one I never forgot. He changed my life as well, because I never shirked from being honest with people if I saw the same thing. I changed many other lives as well after Kim.  

Sorry, I am caught up in my lust to make this successful and we may well not be on the same page here. I accept that. I truly value your input and hope that you share the same desire to help.

Cheers!

Gary

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