The Story of My History In Business Part 6 Working in the Corporate World - Caleb Jones

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, four and five if you haven’t yet to get some context.

We last left off when I had just left my associate position as a computer consultant and, very reluctantly, re-entered the corporate world…

So there I was, sitting in my stupid cubicle in one of the downtown high rises in the corporate offices of First Interstate Bank, a large national bank that had been around for decades. My job was helping with the computer support for the several thousand branches all over the country.

I hated it, but unlike the first time I had a corporate job, this time I had a plan to quit and start my own business in about two years. My plan was to suffer through this corporate bullshit for two years. This way while relying on a steady paycheck, I could finish paying off all of my debts (what little I had, mostly a car payment), put a bunch of money in savings, and try to build a little business on the side. Then I could quit my job once and for all and be on solid footing to build my business.

So despite the fact I hated going to work every day, I was motivated by my plan. It helped.

Working for a big company sucks ass. The amount of money wasted is staggering. The disorganization, office politics, and massive amounts of wasted money and time are shocking to behold. If you work for a large company, or ever have, you know what I’m talking about.

I saw entire groups and departments that could be easily eliminated from the company without any noticeable negative ramifications. I saw guys work about 2-3 hours a day who made $80,000 a year (and this was in the early 1990s, so adjust that upwards for inflation) who were never fired, or even reprimanded. I saw executives get furious about the smallest, most minor details just because they happened to see them occur right down the hall from them, when they were having the same problems in their own departments all over the place. My team would work on projects for months just to have the entire thing sabotaged or even destroyed by one or two other employees in distant cities.

On and on. Working at the software company was bad enough, but working in this Fortune 500 environment was a real wakeup call at how horrible companies are run.

Regardless, I put my head down and put in the work while I was there. In addition, remembering the lessons I learned at the software company when I was a little asshole, this time I made sure to maintain a pleasant attitude towards everyone.

This hard work and positive attitude paid off quickly. My boss two levels up from me took notice. When the manager of my group quit, I was immediately promoted to his position. So within four months of starting, at age 22 I was the manager of a staff of six guys, five of whom were 10 or 20 years older than I was.

Since I really didn’t give a shit about the job, I fucked around a lot. I got in trouble with the building staff for having my staff store boxes in the wrong place. We would all competitively play the computer game Doom on the corporate network, dragging down its bandwidth. I would throw big pizza parties, finding any reason I could (“Joe’s kid turned five today! Pizza party!”) and would charge it to the company. Shit, I was directly contributing to the corporate waste I was mentioning above. The difference was that I was a short-timer and I knew it; I wasn’t the corporate career-guy most of those guys were.

About a year into the job, I got a phone call from my boss who had quit. He was now working at Nike, at their world headquarters, about a 25 minute drive from where I lived. He said he was impressed with me and wanted to hire me and another of my co-workers. He told me he would pay me around $7,000 (I think; memory is hazy) more per year than I was making at First Interstate Bank.

I would have preferred to just stay at the bank, since switching jobs in the middle of my two-year plan seemed like a hassle to me, but $7,000 is $7,000, and that was a lot of money to me at the time. So I agreed.

Both me and my friend and co-worker, a guy named Derek, quit the bank at the same time and joined Nike. Nike was a very different company than First Interstate Bank. Nike was much more exciting, vibrant, and newer. The employees were younger, happier, more energetic, and distinctly better-looking. However, Nike was still a gigantic national corporation, so all the same problems, bullshit, waste, and inefficiencies were present. Working at Nike was fun, but I was still floored at the amount of corporate garbage these people had to tolerate by working there.

“One more year,” I kept saying to myself, “One more year.”

Soon, I had paid off all of my debts. A few months later, I had stashed away several thousand dollars into savings, just enough to support me a little during the first few months of my business. I was also trying hard to get some consulting clients on the side, and was able to pick up a few, some of which were referrals and even some old companies who I used to work with back when I was working with Ted (he was no longer doing any computer consulting and was instead focused on database programming).

My job at Nike was computer support again, this time for the sales department. It was fun, since companies always kiss their salespeople’s asses, and I was able to benefit from this. I was sent to several different sales conventions and retreats in fancy hotels with big, extravagant parties meant for the salespeople. Since I was part of “sales support,” I was able to go.

I learned two things from these retreats. One: people in sales were the ones making the most money and getting the most benefits from the company they worked for. Two: monogamy didn’t work, since I saw tons of married people cheat on each other left and right at these sales conventions. It was just a normal thing at these events that everyone was accustomed to.

Soon, I put a date on my calendar: September 15th, 1996. That was the date I was going to quit Nike, then take two weeks to get everything set up, then finally go full-time in my own business on October 1st. Every day I would look at that date, remind myself of it, get excited, and get anxious to leave.

I felt like I did when I was in my last year of high school. I was both excited and frustrated that September 15th wasn’t coming fast enough. I remember the dread I felt when I looked at that date, and it was only March. Six more months! Ugh!

I put in just the minimum amount of work at Nike as I could, focusing instead on reading and research for my new computer consulting business. I cranked out reading as many books as I could on consulting, sales, marketing, success, and so on, and took careful notes as I went along.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, September arrived. I went to my boss, a nice woman named Melissa, and gave my two-week notice. She was confused. Nike was such a great place to work, and I had such a fun, high-paying job. Why would I possibly want to leave?

I was honest and told her I was starting my own company. She nodded and understood. She said I was one of the best people she had worked with, and I appreciated the compliment. Once I had given notice, I relaxed, and just chilled out until the big day arrived.

My last day at Nike, I cleaned out my desk with a huge smile on my face. I said goodbye to my co-workers warmly, since they were all very nice people. With my small box of stuff, I walked down the isles, though the cubicles.

“This is the last time I will ever work in a cubicle,” I said with conviction.

I entered the elevator.

“This is the last time I will be a slave,” I said while alone in the elevator, my happiness rising.

I walked out through the vaulted entry hall of the building.

“This is the last time anyone will tell me how much money I make,” I said.

I walked out, into the parking lot, and got into my car.

“This is the last time I have a JOB!” I actually yelled it out.

And I was right.

I started the engine and tore out of the parking lot, finally, finally a free man.

My real journey had finally begun.

17 Comments on “The Story of My History In Business Part 6 Working in the Corporate World

  1. First time ive seen someone to use your blog and get more traffic.

    Traffic is up on both of my blogs, as well as sales, over the last week. It’s nice. 🙂

  2. Working in any medium to large corporation is the same bullshit.   The offices all look pretty much the same, same politics and favoritism, same stupid meetings and rah-rah pep rallies to try to get people excited.

    Small companies can be cool for a awhile but inevitably get big and onerous as they get more successful and grow.

    You’re spot on that its a man made kind of hell.  There’s a show called “Corporate” on comedy central that does a pretty good job highlighting the ridiculousness.  You’re simply a number, a cog in the wheel, once they get to a large size.   You could die tomorrow and they would just replace you without a thought so, no they don’t give a shit about you or your development.  I can’t understand how anyone can be excited to come to these kind of jobs everyday.

    Getting your own Alpha 2.0 biz is really the best option. It’s part of my goals for 2019, part in thanks to your material on the subject.

     

    Thanks!

  3. In addition, remembering the lessons I learned at the software company when I was a little asshole, this time I made sure to maintain a pleasant attitude towards everyone.

    Hmm, was this part covered in a previous post?

  4. Just want to say, thanks for all the info you share.  I feel lucky to have found you.  I can only hope to repay you someday.  I mean, I know it’s your business, but there’s genuine goodwill behind this too.  (I link people to your stuff often, so I hope that helps!)

  5. You’re very welcome. I’m glad I could help. And yes, helping guys like you is part of my life Mission.

  6. For 10 years i’ve had an amazingly flexible service business working mostly from home, or while traveling.  BUT, one client has absorbed all of my accounts and now I don’t feel stable.  It’s a dream j.o.b. but I hate relying on one company, especially when I think they’re doing something stupid and ignore my advice.  So I’m slowly chipping away on my other ideas.  I’m too spoiled to quit cold turkey, but I’d be a sitting duck to not be building something separately.

  7. I’d be a sitting duck to not be building something separately.

    That. In the era in which we live, having just one source of income, even if that one source is a “good job” is a intolerably precarious position.

    Guys 40 years ago could do that and be just fine. We can’t.

  8. I think your point about corporate waste is lost on so many people, and I think the reason why is that most people work in corporate jobs and so it is just “the norm”. I remember working at a big corporation and occasionally had to go to the place they keep notepads and that kind of stuff. There was a guy in the cubicle next to it. His job was to sell fax paper (yup was a while ago.) That is what he did. He sat on the phone calling people trying to convince them to buy a five pack of fax paper for something like $15. That is what he did all day. Nobody noticed, and nobody cared.

    Oh, and then the other time they brought in this new high priced CIO to this organization that was as fat and inefficient as you could imagine. (They used SAP, which is a piece of software whose primary feature is its ability to generate consulting dollars.) First day she went ballistic about her biggest concern — which was that the printers were not set to, by default print two sided instead of one.

    You can tell when a corporation has jumped the shark. It is when they get a professional HR department. All businesses are 80/20. 20% of the employees do 80% of the work. The purpose of the HR department is to help the 80% who do the 20% and hassle and badger the actual productive people with BS. Of course, a lot of the reason for this is the ridiculous employment laws, partly which serve to support this outrageous structure. But that is the marker as far as I am concerned.

    I also remember working as a computer consultant (in the past five years) at this large company. They used to have this CIO award thing, where once a quarter the person who had gone above and beyond got a bonus of $1000. People used to scramble for this. Working twelve hour days all quarter, working all weekend, etc. So perhaps putting in and extra 300 hours of work, to maybe, if they were lucky, get this bonus, at $3 per hour. Why? Because it was the only source of income they had, it was the only way they could make any more money, or so they thought.

    People who have this idea that having a salaried job is somehow less risky than running your own thing are insane. Why on earth would you want to put all your eggs in one basket like that, and give your employer that much control over your life.

    I am so glad I started my own thing. Totally work the challenges. If you haven’t, you’d be a fool to not start working toward that goal today.

     

  9. The story with bill naito and the boxes was funny:)).But your behaviour at that company was childish.On bd blog you said that the majority of men become adults at 35.At what age did you personally become an adult?

  10. But your behaviour at that company was childish.

    Correct. I was a virtual teenager at the time. (About 22 years old.)

    At what age did you personally become an adult?

    I would say around age 26 or so. By then I had regular income, was working hard, paying my bills responsibly, supporting a wife and two children, etc.

  11. Waste is the corporate norm.

    Maybe too philosophical a question — but why do you think they can get away with this? I mean why don’t they get crushed by smaller more efficient competition? Is it just corporatist laws that give them an massive advantage, along with economies of scale? People often talk about economies of scale but you rarely hear about dis-economies of scale, like this massive load of crap that larger companies carry, and which grows exponentially with company size.

    You are a business consultant, so I am curious if you can give an explanation how these companies aren’t getting crushed by competition.

     

     

  12. why do you think they can get away with this?

    The same reason they get away with forcing people to pay income tax or buying worthless engagement rings for thousands of dollars; because that’s how people have always done it, so that’s what they’re accustomed to, so they go along.

    Second reason: giant corporations have government support and small entrepreneurs don’t.

    I mean why don’t they get crushed by smaller more efficient competition?

    They do. It just takes a very long time. IBM got crushed by little Microsoft. Big Microsoft got crushed by little Google. And so on.

    Is it just corporatist laws that give them an massive advantage, along with economies of scale?

    Yup. In a truly capitalist country you would not have corporate waste on this large a scale.

  13. The amount of money wasted is staggering. The disorganization, office politics, and massive amounts of wasted money and time are shocking to behold. If you work for a large company, or ever have, you know what I’m talking about.

    Indeed. And having worked in the government too, I can tell from experience that it’s even worse there.

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