Let's talk business ...
I am thinking that this could be an interesting topic. Most of us never had a chance to go to college, many of us were involved in various service industries like cleaning and such, and we have had some limitations placed on us. So I thought it might be interested to see what has worked for people, what hasn't, what the progression has been, where people went wrong and where they got it right.
I'll start. I passed up scholarships to engineering school so that I could pioneer. I was also into electronics in high school and while I fixed tv's and vcr's and microwave ovens and such on my own I was offered the chance to go to school to learn the repair mobile electronics (pagers back then, cell phones were just coming in) and my own storefront, of course I turned that down as well.
I stopped pioneering before year one was up though I had my time. Ran out of money. Bounced around doing telemarketing, managed a marketing department for a construction company, read meters for the gas and electric company, and lots of random things (worked in a laptop repair facility, did basic inspections on commercial and residential properties as a contractor, and more). Cleaning was that thing I always went back to though. I could make more money washing windows or pressure washing parking lots or cleaning common areas in apartment communities.
Eventually I got married and we cleaned banks and car dealerships at night as a subcontractor from some other Witnesses who ripped us off. They lost their contracts and my wife and I took our last few hundred dollars and decided to go out on our own cleaning. We started in the apartment rental industry because we wanted to work during the day and picking up communities meant that we would get a bulk of work at once. Much easier and faster than building a house cleaning business one house at a time. We did this for 4-5 years. My dad and brother worked for us. Then one day the largest property management company in town sold their properties, our business was cut in half or more, and we had to let my dad and brother go.
So I started a mobile auto detailing business out of thin air. I had the idea and although I was clueless we got started. I offered cheap group rates through employers locally and realtor agencies and they spread the word for us. We started fast and cleaned lots of cars, especially for realtors as it's part of their livelihood.
While doing this we were building a residential cleaning clientele and keeping up with the few rentals we had left. Eventually we transitioned to houses full time, cross promoting what we did with our detailing clients and we ended up cleaning for many of them.
Now we clean houses full time, just my wife and I. We make decent money, have money in the bank, and we have a full schedule with probably a 10-20 family wait list. People wait for years to get on our schedule. If we lose a client due to them moving or having a financial reversal, we can just call our list and pick up a new client easily. We pick and choose who we work for and are not afraid to fire a bad client. We love our clients and are friends with them. Our first holidays have been spent with some of them and it is great. We have a lot of control over things but we do work very hard physically every day and we have a ton of things to keep up with.
My fear is that eventually there will be a point of diminishing returns physically. I'm 40 now, not getting younger, and definitely feel the exhaustion of constant physical work, cleaning 2-4 houses most days, and a few offices as well. So at some point I feel like I need to find something else for us to do. Maybe it is expanding our cleaning business somehow and hiring, though hiring house cleaners is scary as every house is different and it's hard to standardize, and often these are fairly low wage employees that require lots of babysitting that I don't want to do.
I love marketing and study it. I'd love to get involved with it someday. If nothing else, I love to grow as a person and don't think I want to clean forever, but I do enjoy it and would have a hard time going back to a traditional j-o-b where I punched a clock. So we're in a good place, but that may not last. I'm wondering if others have transitioned from cleaning into something else and what that was, or maybe you built a cleaning empire.
So what's your business? How did you get there? What are the pros and cons, where are you heading, what do you want?
Great thread Dubstepped!
Yes, the missed opportunities is a big issue for many of us. What COULD we have been if higher education wasn't condemned?? What if....
I had a similar path as you. Because of "putting the kingdom and theocratic things first", I didn't go past high school.
I would have LOVED to go into marketing or advertising!
I would have LOVED to have become an architect - designing houses and buildings!
Instead, I cleaned windows, did basic sales jobs etc.
OK, so I have done ok out of it to be honest. I have had the gift of being able to speak with people, and provide good customer service. I started a business 15 years back that has done well enough for us to live adequately. So I am not bemoaning my lot in life. BUT - rather than being in control and pursuing a career that I REALLY wanted, I had to settle for one that "pays the bills"
Hey SIAR, what kind of business have you been in for the last 15 years?
And I feel you on settling for things that pay the bills. I do have to say though that I realized that instead of doing something I love I would need to find what I loved in what I already did. I hated cleaning for a long time, it was just a necessary evil. But I did eventually find the things I loved in it. The people, helping others, an outlet for my perfectionism, their pets, making things look new again, working with my wife, a measure of autonomy, listening to books and podcasts all day, etc.
Everything I do has to have a purpose. I've never been a "just to pay the bills" guy.
When I look at my career path(s), and when I know what awaited me as a JW had I stayed there, and also the path of my JW siblings (most of them), I feel like a spoiled brat.
First, I come from poverty. My parents had nothing and built what they had from the ground up. Their level of education wasn't past 4th grade.
I never worked for minimum wage, from my very first job I worked in/used high tech, had my first PC in 1985 and my first cell phone in 1987 (I call myself "the original millennial"). Without finishing college I was the vice president, assistant to the CEO of an Engineering technology company, giving training about CAD to the same Engineers that were still teaching me at night in college.
Sent Engineering to hell since my decision to be in that field was one I made at 13, thinking of what I wanted to be and the reasons for it, and since I've had different career paths in different industries.
Most of my career paths and choices have been very rewarding in different ways. I've worked in:
The nonprofit sector in various aspects, from being in boards, to case management, to outreach, to philanthropy, to teaching, to fundraising, to protesting by showing myself and my coworkers naked in the White House.
Education and training, my presentation skills acquired as a JW came very handy at the time of working in training and education, and my technology background has given me a great career in education technology.
Doing volunteer work I have provided services, computer equipment, negotiation skills to acquire properties, relationship building for fundraising, and thinking out of the box to start programs and offer help to several neglected underserved communities.
In technology itself, I had several jobs in tech support, being smart enough to make the move out of that field before the gazillions of programmers and network support engineers became obsolete by the ever changing nature of the IT beast.
Today I'm working on my second Masters Degree, and started putting things together to start doing independent work in my current line of work.
The pros are all the rewards that come from being successful and good at what I do. The cons are the same cons of everything else in my life. I've done it all with support of random, casual or accidental people and things that happen. Because of my upbringing, I don't have strong roots anywhere. Been with my now husband for 15 years, married 10 years this September, and that's the most time I've ever been part of a community, a family, anything.
There's a con that turned into a pro. I didn't have the remotest idea of anything related to career management, job search, career paths, didn't know that careers are to be managed and the role of relationships in your career advancement. I learned it all the very hard way. Burned a few bridges behind me, and did quite a few unprofessional (not illegal, nor unethical) things. Later it turned to be a pro because I was able to design a complete curriculum on job search and job readiness, so good that it became a standard in the city where I created it. I designed keeping in mind all the things that I went through that (to my surprise) they don't teach anywhere.
All my accomplishments have come directly as a result of my strength, no handouts, no shortcuts. However, not a lot of love either.
First Scratch, congrats on the big upcoming anniversary!
I like your story. Sounds like you got a leg up technically from the jump and through hard work, natural intellect, and foresight resulting in good timing, you've made quite a life out of it all.
All paths seem to have that yin and yang to them. It sounds like your lack of roots has also got a lot of variety on the other side of things. It sounds like you've accomplished some cool things.
I wish I ever felt ahead of the game or on the cutting edge of something. As a poor JW kid we never had much. We had a black and white tv while others had nice color sets. We had a big console tv while everyone else had sleeker sets with remotes. When everyone had Nintendo and Sega I was just getting an old school Atari. I could go on and on, but I'm just realizing while writing this hoe I've always been behind in so many ways. The gifts I was blessed with were never developed while I was behind on everything else.
In some areas of life I've caught up and gotten ahead, but it's exhausting to keep fighting from behind.
Oh, and what's your current line of work that you're getting a Master's to help advance?
Dubstepped, I agree with your points
Apart from technology and its fruits Liberalism and its emphasis on the individual - educated man claiming rights at the top of the chain - is losing ground to the self educated who can make connections with people and thrive in an atmosphere of community.
For myself I also don't have many regrets and welcome the new sharing more caring world and look for ways of working with others and for this my time as a jw does come in handy. Got my BA - finally and am glad it was in classical studies as it as a huge antidote to religion. From this vantage point I can see why religion is so important but manage to make a skeptical spirit work when dealing with everyday religiosities. Too much of it simply seves huge egos and I am done with that.
exit. As to starting businesses - I did try to start a couple but was unsuccessful due to time constraints.
I was an active witness in secondary school (high school). In fact I got baptised in February 95, my last year of school.
I've always been interested in animals but studying biology in further and higher education was a no-no because evolution was taught.
I also liked languages so I thought about doing A-level German and French. My German teacher actually gave me a book that featured lots of useful German vocabulary and phrases that was aimed at A-level students. My GCSE results were pretty good - I got an A in French and A* in German so I enrolled in the sixth form to study A-level German and French. I enjoyed it for the first two months.
But this was 1995 and 'the end' was imminent. An elder managed to persuade me to think about pioneering. He gave me one of those 'are you doing enough for Jehovah' talks. The answer's always 'no', isn't it XD
So in mid-November 1995 I dropped out the sixth form and concentrated on field service. I remember telling my German teacher - he couldn't believe it and almost begged me to stay! My dad, a die-hard JW at the time, thought I should stay in the sixth form but this elder was highly respected and made an impression. I thought I'd gotten my priorities right so I left. I ordered a WTS bible study book and bible in German. I can't remember the name of the bible study book - it was a small, brown hardback that came out in '95. The bible was Die Neue Welt Uebersetzung Der Heiligen Schrift (New World Translation).
My plan was to do pioneer hours for 6 months, without officially pioneering, and then to apply to pioneer.
I found out it wasn't a way to increase one's spirituality or draw closer to God - it was just more doors slammed in your face. Plus, the generation change happened at the end of Nov 95 but I had already left sixth form and announced my intention to pioneer! Talk about mind-fuck!
I eventually abandoned the idea of pioneering and did portering and driving jobs.
I left the WTS in Jan 2007.
I took up a portering job at the Natural History Museum in Sept 2007. In 2009 I went back to full-time education to study Animal Management and went on to uni to study Biology in 2012. Nothing was stopping me now - no concerns about learning evolution.
I graduated with a first class degree in 2015.
I've recently been doing warehouse work and I've been applying to enroll at the University of Bristol to study Palaeobiology (MSc).
It's never too late to return to education.
@Ruby - Yeah, you have to have the time to start a business. It really kind of is all consuming, especially at first. It would be really difficult to start a business and go to school full time. I'm glad you found your way to education that made an impact on your life though.
I've had several businesses. The most successful one, I recently closed after 12 years. I coordinated disability accommodations like sign language interpreters, real-time captioning, converting books into braille, etc. As small, women owned businesses go, it was highly successful. It was a lot of work for me to do on my own for so many years and I finally hit burn out this past fall and ended up in the hospital.
I am now going back to school and deciding between architecture and engineering at the age of 46.
I have to say that it has been hard for me to go back to school and decide what to major in - part of my struggle is I am interested in so many things, but the other part is getting over the mindset of "waiting for the end to come". In many ways it is a huge mindfuck because when I look at the future now, it is blank.
Anyone else have that experience?
@LUHE - Congrats on finally pursuing the education that you want. I think that's great. Do you have an end game in mind with it, something that you want to pursue as a career application of this education?