A Cautionary Tale

The wonderful thing about being in your Victory Lap is that you can now work and help other people on your terms and if you have financial independence, even better, it does not have to be about the money. But be mindful and make sure it is mutually beneficial for you and the business. There will be many opportunities to spend your time in Victory Lap from starting your own business to working for others to volunteering. As you have read numerous times in this blog and in our book you have developed so many skills in your primary career that many businesses and organizations would benefit from your talent. Depending on how you left your first career, by plan or by pink slip, your confidence may be bruised and you may not properly value the worth of your skills.  Maybe you just want to help and not be a financial burden on an entrepreneur because you feel you don’t need the money.

First, we will say it again you have tremendous value, there are lots of small businesses and organizations that can benefit from your skills set, you just need to find the right match. We recommend taking some time off before you jump back into work. When you decide to jump back in don’t be afraid to try different types of work or opportunities. You might not find a perfect fit but don’t be afraid to give it a try. One example might be you find a company that needs your help but their product is not a passion of yours. That is okay dig a little deeper, don’t shy away, that company may have a work environment that will provide a wonderful work experience. Generally the owner, at least the successful ones,  will have a passion for their product and their company which can be infectious. You may get lucky and you will find something you are passionate about in a work environment that works for you, that’s perfection. If you aren’t “feeling it” with one opportunity then move on, unlike your first career you have not invested years into the corp., you don’t have to depend on the pay cheque and it is relatively easy to shake hands with the owner and just agree it did not work out.

If you decide to work for a company make sure you have a clear understanding of what your role is and how you will be compensated.  If you are someone that need clear roles and responsibilities make it known. You may find in many SMB that roles are not as clearly defined as your previous experience would dictate. You may be doing sales one day, marketing on another day and helping the shippers the next.  The variety and singular focus of just getting it done maybe exhilarating and a way to learn new things.  Don’t be afraid to move on if the opportunity is not meeting your needs, but give yourself time to be uncomfortable and try a different work style, you may learn something about yourself.

Compensation is always a tough discussion point, when you were in the corp. you probably knew +/- what your value was, but “out of your element” you may question your market value. After all you are new to the industry, job, role, fill in the blank, so you may think you are not worth it. Trust me you are and a word of advice you are worth more than you think you are! Be wary of situations where you are getting no compensation or the promise of a pay day after “we” land that big contract. The company you are helping is not a charity, more on volunteering later. If the company can’t afford to compensate you there is a good chance this is either a company you don’t want to work for as they are not employee focused, or it is a company that probably won’t last. It is ok not to get compensated at your “market value” if you like the opportunity, but get some level of compensation. There are ways to be creative in compensation, it does not have to be in the form of money, maybe it is product. A great example, from a friend who was helping a “niche” meat company. He loved the passion of the entrepreneur and in reviewing their books he could see that to get his “market value” financial compensation would be a stress on this start up company so during the early days he was paid with product. My friend was never hungry and the compensation was workable for the company. He has since invested in the company and is now making real money. Should you invest part of your savings in a company or start a business in Victory Lap, well that is a topic for another blog?

What you do in VL does not have to be about the money, but at some point it is about the money, in our previous career compensation was how we measured our progress it was a success factor. In VL it may be your “mad money”  which supports how and what you choose to do in VL, travel, donate, help your family, etc.. If you are spending a lot of unpaid time “helping” a company this will impact the time you have to live your VL, so if you are not getting compensation you are taking a double hit. Whether in VL or in your primary career the one thing we all have in common is we only have so much time, make sure you are spending it well. An old boss, not a great boss, of mine once said “What ever they pay you is what you are worth”. I am pretty sure he stole that saying but there is a truism to it, in VL you can set your market value, don’t sell yourself short.

Some thoughts on volunteering. There are so many wonderful volunteer opportunities out there from the large, well known organizations like Habitat for Humanity, to fundraising for large charities, to supporting your local church or service group, to helping with a local run or helping with an arts festival or selling tickets at a winter carnival. All are opportunities to make the world around us a little bit better.

I have experienced many wonderful volunteering memories and I have also had some less than rewarding experiences. There are loads of worthy organizations out there that deserve our time and money. In VL you will have an extra 2000+ hours to fill and volunteering is a noble way to fill this time.  One word of caution make sure you understand the workings of the organization and make sure it aligns with your core values.

If you want to be more involved and become a board member make sure you understand where the money goes. Moneysense.ca provides a listing of top rated charities each year. A good guideline for charities is that >80% of funds raised go to the end user. It is a good read and may help you decide where you wish to make your donations and spend your time.

If you are helping smaller charities you don’t have to be an accounting expert, if finances don’t make sense, ask questions. In some cases it may be a case of poor management and perhaps you can help, if it is something more serious you may want to step away. The last thing any of us want is be associated with a “less than reputable” charity. In smaller charities you may have people filling roles without the skill sets to properly meet the requirements, their hearts are in the right place but they have trouble executing. If there is a need perhaps you can fill it or you know someone who can. In some cases smaller charities are so desperate for talented people like you that you might get  “pulled down the rabbit hole”  and your involvement may expand well beyond your original commitment. Be prepared to say no but if you choose to spend the extra time wonderful. Unlike companies even though the operations of the charity may be dysfunctional, their customers/cause need and deserve our help. This makes leaving difficult. If you find yourself in a bad situation give yourself some benchmarks, eg. I will help them find accounting help or I will find a replacement before I leave. Sometimes it will be frustrating but if you power through and leave the charity in a better place – go for it.

Volunteer work at times will be difficult but it is a way to feed your soul and it is a way to make the world a little better.

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