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This is the next installment in an ongoing series where I talk about my history in business, starting all the way back when I was a child to now, my mid-forties. Feel free to read parts zero, one, two, three, and four if you haven’t yet to get some context. We last left off when I had just been fired from my first real corporate job, but I already had a much better job lined up, something that turned out to be the most important job of my life…
-By Caleb Jones
Unlike the bullshit corporate job I had, this job was something much better. Instead of being an employee, I was an associate. Instead of being paid on salary, which I utterly hated, at this new job I was paid on 100% commission. It worked somewhat like being an attorney. I would go out on work on computer systems for my boss’s clients, bill them by the hour using a timesheet system, and I would receive 50% of the billable hours. If I was able to close my own client accounts, I would receive 70% of those hours instead of 50%.
The hourly rate my company used to bill me out was $50 per hour which was quickly raised $75 per hour after about a month or two (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was; this was a very long time ago so I could be off a little bit). If you do the math on that, I was getting anywhere from $37 to $52 per billable hours I worked. Even if I only billed 15 or 20 hours per week, I was making a huge amount of money as compared to what I was making at the software company. Just like at the software company, I was hugely excited. Now that I knew everything I needed to know about computers, I used this job to learn everything I could about consulting and business. How to manage clients. How to get more billable hours. How to get new clients. How to squeeze more billable hours into a week.
I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the mornings. When I wasn’t doing billable hours, I was at my company’s office, working in my little cubicle, trying to figure out new ways of servicing clients. My boss, and the owner of this small computer consultant company, was a guy named Ted. He quickly became one of my mentors in my early career. He was very happy about how excited I was, and we would talk business all the time. He told me my hair was too long and that I needed a haircut. He told me I needed to wear a suit and tie. When I wore a suit and tie, he told me they looked like shit and I needed to dress better. He was always right, and little by little I improved my appearance (though I still looked like a stupid kid, being only about 22 years old).
Within a few months I was making $4500 a month. That’s $50,000 a year for a 22-23 year-old kid. Not bad. Moreover, that was back in the early 1990s when money was worth a hell of a lot more than it is today. I upgraded my sports car and bought a better one, bought some better computers, and blew my money in other ways. I didn’t save any money because I was young and stupid, but at least I had no debt. Other consultants came and went, but I stayed on. Ted raised my billable hours, raised my billable rate, and raised the percentages I received. I also went out and closed some new accounts, further raising my income-per-billable-hour.
It was then that I decided I needed to start my own full-time computer consulting business… but I knew I wasn’t ready. I had no money in savings, had no customers of my own, and wasn’t confident that I could find new clients completely from scratch. I needed more time. Ted started losing more and more computer consulting clients and gaining more database development ones. This dented my income. Reluctantly, I started looking for another job. I found a contracting company that focused on hiring out computer nerds like me. One day, with a heavy heart, I quit the job with Ted. We were both sad, but he understood I have to move on.
The contracting company immediately assigned me a computer position in the corporate offices of a big, national bank called First Interstate Bank. The pay was good, just slightly less than what I was making with Ted during my best months, but with a guaranteed salary (which I actually did not like). With a frown, I had to go back into the corporate world once again, a world that paid on salary (yuck!) and was rife with mismanagement and bullshit. At least I knew this was all temporary. I was on the path to start my own business, so this corporate bullcrap was just a quick stepping stone. As I started my new position at the bank, I knew it would suck, but for the first time in my life, I had an actual plan. Next installment coming soon.
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Elevations 2018-12-30 21:49:52
Very interesting sir. I'm the guy (intp) from Nigeria who once asked for advice at blackdragon blog. I have been brave since then (hopefully), I have put my feet down and decided to go into and find success in Architecture, I've managed to find entry level job with a small Architectural firm, while I've gained admission into an Architecture school (a puzzle for me to solve now), I've been saving 70% of my income. Though I'll have to leave for school soon. My hope is to save up enough money to start up my Architectural firm straight out of school. I just wanted to say you're lifting up someone (people) you might never even get to meet at all. Happy New year
Caleb Jones 2018-12-31 09:45:07
I’m the guy (intp) from Nigeria who once asked for advice at blackdragon blog. I have been brave since then (hopefully), I have put my feet down and decided to go into and find success in Architecture, I’ve managed to find entry level job with a small Architectural firm, while I’ve gained admission into an Architecture school (a puzzle for me to solve now), I’ve been saving 70% of my income. Though I’ll have to leave for school soon. My hope is to save up enough money to start up my Architectural firm straight out of school. I just wanted to say you’re lifting up someone (people) you might never even get to meet at all.That sounds fantastic! You're on your way!
Yoda 2019-01-01 06:55:17
Nice interview at 21 Studios: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IDaMC-6eQfU Besides Blackdragon 2019 Tour,and the bussiness course from March,do you have other products/courses that you will launch this year?
Caleb Jones 2019-01-01 10:09:10
Besides Blackdragon 2019 Tour,and the bussiness course from March,do you have other products/courses that you will launch this year?Oh yes. Several other things later in the year I can't talk about yet.
Investor 2019-01-02 03:38:04
and was rife with mismanagement and bullshit.As someone who just recently stopped working at a corporate job for a big company, this sums up a lot of my observations there. Something that I find really stupid in corporate is that everyone has a fixed salary yet people are so obsessed with hours that you work, as if that was more important then the actual results you produce. The result is of course that everyone becomes inefficient and or starts doing random stuff that doesnt make sense. If you are efficient and then tries to use the spare time to do his own stuff or leave early everyone hates you. Because staying long hours in the "office" somehow = hard work and dedication even when most of them spend this time drinking coffee/attending pointless meetings/typing long reports no one reads etc.
Caleb Jones 2019-01-02 10:28:46
Something that I find really stupid in corporate is that everyone has a fixed salary yet people are so obsessed with hours that you work, as if that was more important then the actual results you produce.Haha! Yes!
The result is of course that everyone becomes inefficient and or starts doing random stuff that doesnt make sense.Correct. The entire concept of salary ("I'm going to pay you a flat amount regardless of your results") encourages wasted time. Hire some employees and put them on salary and you'll see this happen right before your eyes, even if they're good people.
EL 2019-01-02 10:50:30
@Investor Just got a job as field application engineer working mostly with technical support. I am 22 and couldn't believe it was like in the American movies. Never thought that people dealed with this bullshit corporate culture throughout their lives. Everyone acting nice, zero testosterone, pretending they work with something important while the workload in fact amounts to 2-3 hours of effective work. Sometimes less than that and still not be able to go home.What is wrong with the managers? I am going to get my experience from the IT and sales department and get f*ck out of here with my own company. Can't believe people do this to live from paycheck to paycheck and f'uck up their life quality.
Investor 2019-01-02 12:15:57
Correct. The entire concept of salary (“I’m going to pay you a flat amount regardless of your results”) encourages wasted time. Hire some employees and put them on salary and you’ll see this happen right before your eyes, even if they’re good people.There can be arguments made in favour of fixed salaries, but conversely the whole point of having a salary as opposed to hourly wage is that you work on a task / project and not per hour. Therefore hours should become irrelevant. So if I finish my tasks for the day (week?!) before lunch I should be able to go home without arousing any resentment and then maybe just show up / call in for the meetings. Forcing me to stay in the office just because the rest is innefficient just encourages me to become inefficient and do bullshit like everyone else.
Just got a job as field application engineer working mostly with technical support. I am 22 and couldn’t believe it was like in the American movies. Never thought that people dealed with this bullshit corporate culture throughout their lives. Everyone acting nice, zero testosterone, pretending they work with something important while the workload in fact amounts to 2-3 hours of effective work. Sometimes less than that and still not be able to go home.What is wrong with the managers? I am going to get my experience from the IT and sales department and get f*ck out of here with my own company. Can’t believe people do this to live from paycheck to paycheck and f’uck up their life quality.Haha, yes this is big corporate. Smaller companies are a bit different because if they do this they get out of business much quicker. I saw people with title senior engineer who produce meaningless measurements without any clear conclusions and just keep adding it to some report no one is ever gonna read and if someone actually asks for it he would reply its somewhere on the company cloud. Unrealistic deadlines that always result in delays (of course). When I told them they freak out and say this is how we do things here or that I am cynical / lazy, that "We can do this" then of course they did not do it by the deadline for again and again. Then I tell them that at this point this isnt just unrealistic but it is lying to management what they are doing. Then the senior engineers get angry. Then when the senior management finally loses patience due to so many delays the engineers freak out and everyone runs around working hard but they dont work smart. It reminded me of the anecdote that there is a construction site where they run around with empty wheelbarrow, when asked about it the worker said we are so busy we don't have time to fill it up! Sometimes I thought I was not working at a tech company but at a theater. The low level managers are total pussies who are not able to stand up to senior management even when the decisions are clearly detatched from reality / disfunctional and also afraid to talk to members of theyre team about things they do not like. The senior management is alpha 1.0 who shouts big out is his mouth but has no clue how stuff works and has "briliant ideas" that result in decrease in sales. This the company then tries to fix by cutting down on innovation projects and firing engineers who actually were producing something (or people who didn't agree with them). Then the company looks positive on balance sheet even though they postpone the problem and will have much deeper problems later. Thus the investor keep investing and there is a stock market growth despite the internal signs that the company will no longer be competitive in a few years. Its good lessons on what to not do. You can learn a lot in a big company, just don't take the stuff too seriously. Find someone whos actually good in the company at something you wanna learn and ask for some mentoring. Be very direct and assertive even with management, but have it always backed up by strong technical arguments / knowledge and if youre dominant with them you can always wipe the floor with them by explaining stuff to them. I got away with a lot there using this and the managers and employees were scared to tell me what they dont like about my behaviour, but it wouldnt have worked if my results werent speaking for themselves. Once they had the solution they immediately found the excuse of money to get rid of me. But thats fair, I was there to solve a problem and I did it.
Caleb Jones 2019-01-02 14:21:18
Can’t believe people do this to live from paycheck to paycheck and f’uck up their life quality.And that's how most of the Western world lives...