Starting your own business

Bob Weinstein,
Drew Stevens, 46, can empathize with the 12,000 employees who were laid off from Starbucks when it closes 600 stores. Even if the rumor mill  broadcasts warnings of pending layoffs, Stevens says it’s still a shock when it happens. It always takes you by surprise.

In these frenetic job-hopping times, when change and transition are unavoidable, it’s not uncommon to be laid off several times throughout your career. 

Stevens, a St. Louis based organizational and training consultant and author of Pump Up Your Productivity, dittoes that. He was laid off twice within the space of one year.

He remembers both events as if they were yesterday. The first layoff was from Chicago-based software consulting company SEI, where he worked as regional director of sales. He had been with the company three years and was transferred from its New York office to St. Louis. He had just gotten home from his mother-in-law’s funeral when he found a FedEx package sitting on the welcome mat of his front door. It was his termination notice.

The timing left something to be desired. Making matters worse, the training consultant had no idea why he was being laid off. “All I was told was that the company was downsizing,” says Stevens.

He didn’t waste any time preparing a job-search strategy. With two small children, ages two and four, he knew he had to find something pronto. Initially he pondered pursuing his long-time dream of going off on his own and starting his own sales consulting business. But practical considerations – a mortgage, two car payments and a laundry list of family obligations — put that off for the time being.

For a short while, luck was on his side. Six weeks after losing his job with SEI, he was hired by Bridge Information Systems as director of sales. But just when he felt his life was getting back to normal, Stevens got a surprise call from his executive vice president, two months after starting his new job. It wasn’t to compliment him on his good work, but to terminate him.

The reason? Stevens was told that the company was also downsizing, a trend that’s all too common in slow economies. Looking back on his brief stay, Stevens guesses that maybe he was a poor fit.

This time, instead of looking for a new job, Stevens took the layoff as his cue to go off on his own and start his own business.

It turned out to be the best thing he could have done. He was ready and confident and had learned enough about himself and the job market to know that he could make it.

After 18 years of working as a salesman, Stevens discovered that the one thing he loved to do most was sell. “I knew that I could always get another job selling, especially technical products or services,” he says. “But I also knew that if I could sell a product, I could also sell myself.” This led to a new career as a training consultant and teacher.

 Stevens advises anyone who has been laid off to follow his lead and re-evaluate his or her assets and think hard about what he or she loves to do.

The salesman-turned-training-consultant learned many valuable lessons from his layoff experiences. Here are three of them:

1. Don’t procrastinate. Start job-hunting immediately, says Stevens. The faster you get on with your life, the better you’ll feel.  It’s very easy to stall and make excuses for delaying the inevitable: the tedium and frustrations accompanying pounding the pavement looking for a new job.

2. Evaluate your strengths. Take a hard look at your prior job (or jobs) in order to get in touch with your selling strengths. Stevens was lucky. In good or bad times, there is always a demand for salespeople.

3. Create daily routines so time isn’t wasted. This isn’t easy. The essence of creating disciplined work routines is setting daily goals for yourself.

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About the Author

Bob Weinstein is a writer, reporter, editor and author. He can be reached via email at