Downsized Into Your Destiny

Recently I was talking to a bestselling author who has written about being downsized and what it takes to reinvent a career.

We were discussing the evolution of franchising from a life raft for countless downsized executives 20 years ago to where we are today as what may be a more viable long-term career path than the jobs that corporate America offers. Not that jobs are bad, they train you to be a business owner.

My author friend was amazed at how running a franchise was similar to the senior corporate executive role that so many strive for, with the exception that in the corporate role he saw diminishing job security, ever increasing workloads and falling pay, especially for those employees who have been downsized.

In a franchise those same executives can build a role that feels like the best of corporate America (proven model, systems, infrastructure, departments full of experts and other resources to support you), while also offering the best of being a business owner (independence, freedom and control over one’s own earnings).

When I asked him how much he sold his last job for it got very quiet on the other end of the phone, you see employees build someone else’s asset while franchise owners build their own and eventually sell it.

How much did you sell your last job for?

My first seminar presented to a group of corporate executives in an outplacement center was in 1994, franchising was a pretty foreign idea for them at that point. The franchise business model was still forming into something other than the realm of fast food operators. We were seeing a number of consumer and business facing services companies make significant strides in building big and reputable national brands. My role at the time was building the footprint of one of the largest travel brands at a time when agencies were paid well by airlines, hotels and cruise lines.

Time and time again I would step in front of a room with 40 to 50 executives at these centers and teach them about the origins of franchising, what the business model was and how their skills were one hundred percent transferable. We would talk about how to use franchising in a wealth building plan and how to mitigate risk. Considering business ownership was difficult for them because they had been raised to believe that if they got  good grades, worked hard and put the company first in their life that the company would pay them well, make sure they always had a job, and take care of their retirement.

The realities of the work world were very different than most corporate executives expected back in those days, and for some it is still a surprise even though downsizings are common. We helped a lot of those executives find a new direction, some in our travel system and others took their newfound knowledge and found a franchise they saw as a better fit for their skills, likes, goals and how they wanted to work.

Then the strangest thing happened, all of the major U.S. airlines stopped paying travel agent commissions. This was a sea change for the travel industry, what had been the largest income stream for most agencies was  evaporating. I am not aware of any bigger change to a particular market’s income stream in the past 20 years, certainly never to any franchise system. It would be like McDonald’s both having to provide hamburgers to anyone that wanted one, but not being able to get paid for the burger. This threw our company into a bit of turmoil as the executive team worked with agencies to re-mold a business model that would work in the new travel industry.

I was downsized.

With the company working to rebuild the travel agency model, which they did, they did not want to bring any new franchisees onboard. I will never forget that day, walking out of my office with my personal effects in a box or the feeling of going home and explaining that we got the joy of starting over.

Fortunately I dropped into a job that was a life raft of sorts, driving three hours each way to expand a health and wellness company. But my destiny was set back with the downsizing, my goal was business ownership where I could control much of the outcome. There were a couple steps I had to take to get there, but I did.

Soon, I was the proud new owner of my first franchise and have not needed a resume ever since!

Were there challenges along the way, sure there were. Everyone has challenges in life, the difference is if you influence and benefit from the outcome. I had to learn a new business and go build it with the franchisor’s help, but I had built business before just for other people. We saw economic challenges that affected both employees and business owners, like 9/11 and the last recession, but I got to guide my own path through those markets where countless employees were not so lucky and got downsized then spent months or years looking for their next job.

So, what is the moral of the story?

Sometimes downsizing positions you for great opportunities that you might not have pursued had you not been pushed into the pool. Looking at new options, whether a job or business, is always uncomfortable. It would be so much easier to just keep reporting to your old office and doing the same work you might have even thought was getting boring before you were downsized.

From a purely biased point of view, I love that corporate America is making owning a business look so enticing since they only control about 30 percent of jobs anyway. Corporate America has taken away the false perception of security that they have offered up or and encouraged their best and brightest to move from being the employee to being the employer.

Where does your destiny lie?

Mr. Knauf is a highly sought after trusted advisor to many companies; Public, Independent and Franchised of all sizes and in many markets. His 20 plus years of experience in both startup and mature business operations makes him uniquely qualified to advise individuals that have dreamed of going into business for themselves in order to gain more control, independence, time flexibility and to be able to earn in proportion to their real contribution.

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