Are people allowed to congratulate themselves? Well, whether they are or not I'm going to give myself a brief congratulations. Today is the 20th anniversary of my business. I filed for business license on June 22, 2001, and I've only ever look back once, or maybe twice. Being self employed is scary, and it's certainly not easy, so as Ramon said in the movie Happy Feet, "I'd like to take a moment for myself."

Me in 2011

If you know me personally in some way, you might notice that the date above isn't the date I've been telling people for the longest time. I thought for at least the last 10 years that the anniversary date was June 24th. I was considering putting up a picture of my entire business license, but when I looked at it I realized that the actual anniversary date was June 22nd. The things we sometimes learn about ourselves!

Over the years I've highlighted my business anniversary with either blog posts or videos on specific topics. Most of that is over the last 10 years, and I've had a lot of fun with it. Today I'm going to do something different. I'm going to tell 20 stories. Some of them are personal, some of them have lessons I want to share. Almost all of them will have something to do with business, but some are going to deal with mentality.

When I'm done, this is going to be the longest article I've ever had on this blog. I don't expect that it's going to match either of the two longest blog posts I've ever written on my other blog, one of which was over 5,800 words, but we'll see where it goes. I'll be interested to see if anyone actually reads this LOL

1. The day I went to get my business license, I had no idea what the full process was. Internet searches weren't as big a deal back then as they are now, so the only thing I researched was where to go to get a business license. When I went into the office in downtown Syracuse, I was surprised to see that I was the only person there. I walked up to the counter and told the lady I wanted to register my business.

She pulls out the paper and asked me to fill it out, and when I was done she looked at it and she asked "Who are your associates?" That's because the original name for my business was going to be Mitchell & Associates, which I had just come up with seconds earlier. I said I didn't have any associates, and she said that I couldn't list that as a business name if I didn't have any associates. That's when I switched over to the name I have now, once again a business name on the fly. Had I known better I would have come up with a better name, or at least in my mind better name, but that's just how it goes.

I'm fine with it for the most part, but I've hated people asking me what the T. T. stands for, and I've never told any of them. And I'm not mentioning it now. What I will say is that if you're ever considering going into business for yourself, think about two important things. One, what you want to call your business and two, does your business name help to reflect what it is you do or is it going to confuse your potential customers because you'll always have to explain what you do more often than having people understand what you do. Depending on what your business is about, that could become very crucial to your marketing and branding.

Me in 2004

2. Early on, I knew absolutely nothing about marketing or selling. When you come from a health care background, more specifically hospitals, it's not something you often have to deal with. I remember going to an office supply store and buying some software so I could create brochures. When I think back on it, I'm amazed at how naive I was in thinking that I could put together words telling people what I could do, and yet use cartoon images on a brochure and have people see that as being professional. It probably took me two or three years before I realized that wasn't the way to go, and I only learned that once I joined a local consultants group.

What I turned out to be better at, at least at the time, was networking. The first gigs I got were all because of people I reached out to that I already knew. I got a short consulting gig at a hospital up north, where I had to learn a lesson that I'll mention later on. I got a consulting gig to do a medical billing training for a hospital system in New Jersey. I also got a speaking engagement for an organization in Erie, Pennsylvania. All of them were health care related obviously, and the funny thing about that is that I was trying to leave health care behind. Something everyone probably needs to learn is that it doesn't hurt to fall back on what you're good at to keep your career moving forward. If people are willing to pay you for your expertise in something that you've proven you're good at, then that can be quite lucrative for you in the long run.

3. Because of the consulting assignment I did up north as my first gig, I learned a very important lesson. When you're self employed, the idea is to make more money than you were making when you were employed, and that manifests itself in many ways. The hourly rate I negotiated at the time turned out to be only $.14 more than what I was making at the hospital I left. However, it was a part time gig where I only worked a couple of days a week, so in the long run I was losing money. Luckily my health insurance was covered through my ex-wife at the time, and I'd gotten a severance package from the hospital I'd left and I qualified for unemployment, so I wasn't hurting for money. But I wasn't feeling overly inspired by it either because I knew I negotiated a bad contract.

For a while I kept negotiating bad contract deals, happier to have landed a gig than actually profiting from one. I could look back at all of those contracts in shame, but I appreciate the lessons I learned because they helped me moving forward. It did take me a couple of years before I actually sat down at a spreadsheet and calculated what my bills were and how much I needed to make so that I could not only pay those bills but have extra money to do something with. If you ever decide to go into business for yourself, do something like this before you leave your current job.

4. Something else I wasn't prepared for was staying overnight outside of town on a consistent basis. The town I was working in wasn't large, so there were a lot of amenities they didn't have. For instance, the closest fast food restaurant was about 30 minutes away. There was no cable where I had to stay, and because there were no hotels in town I was staying in a residence that the hospital actually owned. This was also before I had a laptop, so I didn't have anything to do except read, which wasn't the worst thing in the world but I wasn't ready for it. In later years I always negotiated my contract so that I stayed in very nice places and got to rent very nice cars. Sometimes I'd be 15 to 20 minutes away from where I was going to work, but that was preferable to not having access to a bit more comfort, relaxation, and especially food.

5. In the early years before I got my first good gig, I did a lot of things that didn't always have much to do with my main businesses. For instance, I helped a lot of people learn how to budget their money. I fixed computers. I did speaking engagements for free all over town.

Me in 2009

The problem I had is that I hadn't really worked all that often in the town that I lived in. The employer I left was a little over an hour away from where I lived, and another employer before that one was 45 minutes away in the other direction. When you try to work with hospitals, there's very few that are close to where you are so you end up marketing to organizations that are mostly more than 100 miles away from you, and those are the close ones. When I was trying to market leadership, there were a lot of companies in the area but I didn't know any of those people because I had never been in any of those types of industries.

Sometimes you have to be really creative to make some money, and in a way I was at least that good. Over the years I've written two books, created an evaluation module for hiring and evaluating employees, and even a manager training manual; only my first book sold well, with many sales happening during speaking engagements out of state.

I was also good at budgeting, so my main goal all the time was to be able to pay my part of our combined bills and pay my specific bills on time. I'm not going to lie, for while there I was playing a dangerous game, to the extent that I was close to declaring bankruptcy. However, I got lucky and got a premium gig just before that became a reality, and that seemed to be the story of my business life as it was the story of my personal life. And how did I get that job? Networking!

6. My first real gig was for an almost 2 hospital system in New Jersey, close to New York City. I say almost 2 hospital system because after I was there a month and just after the two facilities had signed the contract becoming one system, one of them decided to back out and immediately filed for dissolution. That had nothing to do with me, but it adds to the story.

I got offered an hourly rate that my mind I thought was amazing, and I immediately jumped on it. It wasn't until I'd been there two weeks that I found out that the people I was going to be doing the work for were ecstatic that they got me for that amount because they thought they were going to have to pay me twice as much to come there. That made me come to grips with the reality that sometimes you have to try to get more money for a project because that's where negotiation comes in. You might not always get as much money as you ask for, but you might get more than you thought you might end up with.

7. When I got this gig, I was just shy of 21 years in health care. I had done this particular work before, and I knew I was good at it, but I had never done only this for work, and I certainly had never done it for hospitals this size.

What I learned was amazing, and not necessarily in a good way. Quite often we all make assumptions that large companies know exactly what they're doing across the board and that everything is as efficient as possible. That illusion got destroyed within the first three or four days I was on this gig, and it was shocking. I scared one director within the first three weeks I was there when I had the unpleasant task of telling him that half his department's charges had no prices on them. He had only been in the position five months, but his predecessor had been there seven years and hadn't noticed it. Can you imagine how much money that hospital lost in that department, and nobody had ever caught it? It was nice I became a hero for him, but it shouldn't have ever come to anything like that.

I learned a lot of interesting things on that first gig.

Me in 2007

For one, neither hospital had a single black person as a director of any department, and as I said earlier both of these were large hospitals. There was an African physician who was the director of the laboratory department at one hospital, but that was it. The reason I bring this up is because for one of the hospitals their billing department was almost all black people except for one white woman and one Cuban woman, who was the director. She ended up leaving there after a couple of months, and instead of them promoting one of the black billing personnel who was very qualified for the position, they kept bringing in interim people from the outside. I complained about it to another consultant who was working indirectly for the same company I was working for, and he couldn't understand my issue with it, which I hate to say I expected. Unfortunately, this has been a common theme over the years, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

In different ways it affected the work I needed to do with some of the departments at both hospitals. Sometimes people were scared when they met me, which means I either got a lot of confusion or a lot of people fighting back at things I was trying to tell them whether they knew what they were talking about or not. Luckily for them I always won because I was a consultant who was brought in to do this job, thus improved their outcomes, but it's something I'd rather have not had to deal with. Oddly enough, this might have been the first time but it definitely wasn't the last.

For another, I learned that there are people who actually really want to get things correct and don't mind what it takes to get accomplished. There was a director who had been asked to monitor another department that hadn't had a director for around six months. He said he was confused by what he was seeing any wasn't sure how to fix it.

Once I took a look at his department statistics I realized he had a right to be confused. We ended up having to retrain his entire department on how to capture charges, and we had to make major changes to the computer system for that department. By the time I left, that department was showing a great increase in their monthly revenue, and the powers that be were shocked by it. That's when I knew that I was going to be good at doing that kind of work; well, maybe that and a few other things, but it always feels good when there's evidence that you've done a decent job for someone else.

8. No matter what you do when you're self employed, sometimes you have to be ready to step away from a gig. I stepped away from three of them over the years. The first one happened to also be my first gig at the hospital up north. I felt that what I had to offer wasn't what they needed. I left the second one because the person who contracted with me would never answer questions that I was asking her when I was trying to give her what she needed. That kept frustrating me, so I decided to resign from the contract. The strange thing about that one is that I didn't hear from her after I resigned and I didn't even get a message from her until 13 years later, as if it never happened.

I left the third one because I didn't trust the vice president of finance at this particular hospital because he was bordering on fraud, and I felt he probably had already crossed the line, which means I also didn't trust him. I came into the situation under circumstances that were misrepresented, and there was very little I could do to improve the situation. The one thing I did do that he tried to castigate me for was start showing an increase in cash. The last week that I was there he saw numbers the department had never seen before and he was amazed by them. Yet I understand that he tried to spread the word that I was the worst consultant he'd ever worked with, but it backfired because it seemed the people in New York City knew about him and didn't believe anything he said; whew!

There was one gig I was going to step away from but I ended up finishing out the terms of the contract. Once again, I was asked to come in and evaluate the situation and then make recommendations on improving it; this was an organization I'd actually worked for 10 years previously.

When I went to the person who was designated as my contact and told him what the problems were and how to fix them, he told me that's not what he wanted from me and that made no sense at all. I contacted a member of the board, who happened to be the person who had called me in the first place and asked me to take on the contract, and I told him what had transpired. Two days later I was given total control over making those changes, and I did what I could.

Me in 2012

I had one person who resisted making the changes, but I gave her the option of making the changes or going to speak to the CEO of the organization; she decided to at least give it a try. What I learned from that gig is that there are times when, as a consultant, you need full control over what you've been asked to do in order to be effective. If that's not going to work, then you need to get out of there as quickly as possible. I also learned that even if you make improvements, when you leave if people didn't like what you did to improve things they're going to collapse... which they all did.

The other lesson is to allow people you hire to do a job is to leave them alone without your input unless you're asked or have specific knowledge you need to impart. I recently hired someone to install a garbage disposal for me. Can you imagine me trying to tell him things I thought he was doing wrong when I have absolutely no idea how to do the work myself?

By the way, this gig was four years before the one in New York City, which is why I was able to leave that one so easily, although, outside of work, I was in a place where I had more fun than anyplace I'd ever been. Living in New York City and parking on someone else's dime, eating at a different restaurant every night; who could be mad at that!

9. My next gig was both the most fun and the most frustrating I've ever had to deal with. I was there 53 weeks and helped them increase their overall revenue by $730 million in that time period; more than 100% in a year. It was a large teaching hospital that had lots of potential, but also had a lot of issues.

I came in as a charge master consultant, replacing someone who'd been in the position for 18 months that was previously an auditor; in essence, someone not qualified to do the job. The people in charge had no idea what the position actually entailed, which is why I've had so many problems over the years landing gigs on my own because this is a common issue.

Early on I had a lot of authority to do what needed to be done to correct many of the issues. I gained a bit more gravitas when the other consultants during a meeting realized I was the only person in the room who actually knew how to bill Medicaid claims in New York state, saving them many useless hours doing the wrong thing. I met with every revenue generating department face to face, and for at least 25% of the departments it was the first time they'd ever talked to anyone about their charges. I loved working with all of them... except one person in the L&D area, where I "heard" my first live birth and was glad I was never going to experience that! lol

When things started going downhill for me was when they hired a new Senior VP of Finance who decided he wanted to question every single thing I wanted to do. The first time that came up, I sent him 16 pages of documents on why it needed to be done. He called the project director to ask why I'd done it, and was told that's what he asked for. He backed off his initial request, but said he wanted to be informed before I made any changes. I "sort of" did that if it didn't totally impede what needed to be done, but I stopped trusting him.

My fears came to light when he wanted me to change a few things I felt weren't ethical and bordered on fraud. I typed up a form that I took to him, saying I wanted him to sign it and absolve me and my corporation of any responsibility for anything I disagreed with so I couldn't be blamed after the fact for those changes. He backed down from those requests after that, but it was close to the winding down of the overall project anyway so he didn't have anything to lose.

That hospital had lost $165 million dollars in the previous 3 years; they made a $125 million profit with the overall turnaround the project team had done. One by one they eliminated all of us, and the person they replaced me with only had 5 months of experience at another facility. She clung to me in the last month I was there, and I never spoke to that VP again. I knew what was coming, and I was glad none of the falling out was going to be on my hands. Two years after we left, the hospital was in financial difficulties again. It reinforced my belief that you can't change minds that don't want to be changed, even if there's improvement.

10. In a 24-month period I'd made more money than I'd made in the previous 15 years total. I bought my ex-wife a new car and myself a used car; paid for by checks without payment plans. I also paid a lot in taxes... or at least I thought I had. When I received a letter from the IRS saying I'd underpaid them and saw the amount, I realized I needed an accountant... and I probably needed that accountant 2 years earlier than I had one.

Before becoming self employed, I'd always done my own taxes, even after I got married. We always got money back, but we were also working for someone else. Even though she still worked for someone else, I wasn't any longer. I thought I was capturing my income and expenses properly, and paying enough taxes to be secure. That was true for the first 3 years... but not close to being true after I landed my first real gig.

Me in 2014

Eventually I worked my way out of that big financial mess, but it was scary. I ended up having to pay more money than the last salary I had before I went into business for myself. If there's anything I would recommend for anybody who's self employed, it's to get an accountant or money manager to help you with your finances. At least accountants know how to do tax preparation, and will give you a heads up early if you need to keep up with your quarterly tax payments regarding how much you should be paying. It was also because of my accountant that I incorporated my business, because it offered additional protections I didn't have beforehand. That could've saved me a lot of money if I'd already been incorporated, but it didn't help me much after the fact except it gave me something to lean on when marketing my business.

11. I had a short project with a two hospital system in Dallas. I was actually providing services for a major accounting firm because they didn't have anyone who could do what I do at the time. This provided another lesson for me that still seems to be true these days, that being there's a difference between the ultimate goals of a small company and a large organization.

I was down there for four weeks, doing the job I was asked to do. I visited both hospitals, and I was a little bit shocked at what I saw. At both of the large hospitals, there wasn't a single director who was a minority, and I'm not saying a black person. I did meet one black guy who was a supervisor in the maintenance department of one hospital, and that was it. At one of the hospitals I went in, people kept stopping in the hall and staring at me, and I couldn't figure out why until I started looking around and realized that I was the only person of color was wearing a suit and tie. I might have expected that in a small community, but never in the city of Dallas, which is close to where I was born, which is Fort Worth.

Working with this large conglomerate consulting organization was illuminating. Except for me and the project director, only one other person had ever worked in a hospital as an employee, and only for six months. There were eight of us working different areas of this project, and one of the consultants actually lived in Sweden and they flew her in twice for only two days while I was there. The way we worked was totally different as well. Whereas I went and met everybody at both hospitals after I had taken a look at the data, most of these consultants didn't meet with any of the directors, so I'm not sure what they were actually doing to help.

I figured that one out months later when I was at home after that project was over for me, and I realized that their goals were to find ways to keep themselves there for a longer period of time to increase their billable hours, whereas my goal was to actually solve their problem.

Being me, I tracked that organization's performance over a four year period at other hospitals across the country, and at one hospital that supposedly they were trying to save from losing its license in Los Angeles, in 18 months they had only corrected one violation out of 67 that the state had brought down on them and said that they were having more problems than they thought and that they needed more time and more money to do it. The county eventually made them leave and sued them for overcharging on expenses and a few other things, confirming my suspicions. The organization doesn't exist any longer after being bought out and reducing staff. Sometimes it's better working with fewer people who are going to work to protect your interests rather than try to take advantage of you. That's the best part about being self employed.

12. When the recession hit in 2008, it was harder to get gigs because there are always unethical people out there. I've got two quick examples of that.

The first is that I was contacted for a couple of gigs in different areas of the country. However, neither offer wanted to pay anywhere close to the money I was asking for. One of those offers was for a hospital system in Atlanta that needed someone to help them with their revenue. However, they only wanted to pay $25 an hour and there was no way I was going to go for that. The thing is, they had already hired two previous people for that amount of money and they let them go because they couldn't do the job.

They were trying to take advantage of the fact that people were jumping at any work they could get, and that became problematic because they drove down the kind of money people like me were asking for. Even though I could have used the money, I knew that ethically I couldn't accept low contracts like that because it was going to affect the entire industry long term, and there was no way I was going to be traveling back and forth to a large city like that getting paid that little.

Me in 2016

The second is that I had transitioned into adding another job skill to my business profile. I had started building websites for small companies, which include a lot of self employed people, and I also knew how to do search engine optimization projects because I had done them for my own website. When the local Chamber of Commerce put out a request for proposal for someone to manage their website, because I was a member of the chamber and I had already talked to most of those people about what I did, I thought I would have an opportunity to at least bid on the project. Instead, they hired someone else and I never even got an opportunity to talk about it.

The person they hired had one caveat, which is they had to move their website onto his servers so that he could control things. That ended up being problematic for them because after he moved their website onto his server, he basically worked on their website for about six weeks and then he never followed up on anything else they ever ask for. And, because he moved it to his server, they couldn't leave his services because they didn't have any passwords or any access in order to move it elsewhere for at least three years. From what I found out later, he gave them a relatively low bid that they felt they couldn't have gotten anywhere else because they were putting their website on his server, and then they had to basically genuflect after realizing that they made a big mistake. Once again, if something sounds too good to be true you really need to check it out thoroughly before you decide you're going to go through with it.

13. Mr. Spock said "Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sometimes the impossible only applies to the beliefs of one person, but they can be hard to overcome.

I had a three month gig at a hospital in Pennsylvania to oversee the billing department of the hospital influx after their previous director had left. It was only three months because the senior vice president of finance decided he was hiring somebody permanently in three months regardless.

Once again, history had proven that a person in his position didn't have any real idea of how medical billing or the revenue cycle actually worked. He also didn't fully understand general hospital finance terminology, which became problematic every once in a while when we were talking to each other. I would present data to him, he would say that data couldn't be true, I would tell him it was and I would find ways to prove it to him, and then when I would prove it to him he would go on a rant that wasn't against me, but in trying to convince me and others that the data I was giving him was actually his data that he'd been trying to give to us because of course now the numbers were correct.

As I didn't work for him I didn't just bend over and take it, but I didn't argue with him on those points. Instead, I used the truth of my being diabetic and having to go to the bathroom a lot, and I left him in the conference room talking to other people and sometimes just walked back to my office for 10 minutes or so and did something else. He was also dead set in believing that a large consulting firm that had been at the hospital six months before I got there was accurate in many of their assessments of the department, which led to him reducing the staff by 6 1/2 people during a time when a new computer system was coming in; never reduce staff when your ship isn't in order!

In the course of three months, myself and another consultant, who was actually there for a different project but agreed to help me on some of the things that needed to be done with the department, accomplished a lot, even though the department was understaffed and under-trained, and the computer system, which they hadn't had for even a year, had never been programmed properly, and even though their compensation claims averaged over 720 days outstanding, which is unconscionable. With so many issues on the table and a C-suite executive who had a timetable he wasn't going to budge from, I couldn't fix everything that needed to be done.

What I was able to do was establish some positive processes for some people to learn from, got the company that installed the computer system to fix some of the errors that were out there that had never been addressed, and actually talked to a couple of state representatives about the problem with the compensation claims and got that turned in a positive direction. Unfortunately, once again I found out that less than six months after I was gone that the department was struggling once again, which meant the hospital was struggling once again, and they were absorbed into a major hospital system less than two years later.

14. For a short period of time in the late 2000's and early 2010's, I wasn't making the kind of money I'd made earlier but I was still making money in different ways. I traveled to places across the country giving presentations concerning health care finance, leadership and diversity.

Closer to home I gave a lot of presentations on a lot of different subjects, but only one was paid, that being for University Hospital in Syracuse. I was still doing budgets, fixing an occasional computer, creating websites, doing some social media marketing and consulting, and because of my blogs was being interviewed by people all across the United States for their blogs and magazines, even a couple in Europe, on all sorts of topics that included blogging, writing and many other topics.

I was writing many articles that ended up in magazines; that's still happening, though as a much smaller pace. I also did some health care finance work for the UAE, including creating a charge master for their 5-hospital system (who else can claim that?), but I refused to leave the country to go there. I turned down an opportunity to go to the Philippines to help an organization set up a leadership training program for the same reason.

Still, these were tougher times. We were working our way out of a recession. The gigs I was getting were paying less than they had before. And even though some of my specific search terms are still in Google's top 5, there's a lot more competition on the internet that I have to compete with, many of them job sites, and some of those other companies are massive. Maybe I can compete well online, but offline it's just me, and I'm still not a great marketer in any way.

15. The last good gig I had was in Memphis. For the first time I was truly a part of a team of people pretty much doing the same thing, only we each had our areas of responsibility. Our team was small but we covered more than 15 hospitals that were transitioning to a new computer system. It was the first major contract I received that I could have done from home and saved the system a lot of money and myself a lot of time, especially since it was also the first gig I had that didn't allow overtime; oh well... One final thing; it was the only gig I didn't learn anything from; that's disappointing.

The crew in 2005

It was interesting for more things outside of the job than inside. The only interesting thing inside was that in a city that was 66% black, there was only one black person in a position of authority where I was working; I never got to go inside any of the hospitals.

Outside, it was a dying city still trying to recover from the recession. There was a great financial divide between the haves and the have-nots. I paid for more meals for homeless people than I'd ever given to the homeless in person elsewhere. It was the closest I'd been to a potential tornado since I'd left Kansas City as a child until last week, when I was only 2 miles from one.

I saw many things I'll never see again because I don't see me going back to Tennessee. I also went into Mississippi, a place I never wanted to go, but won a lot of money in their casinos playing poker. I saw the Mississippi River (not impressed), Beale Street (more interesting, especially the gay pride parade), and the botanical gardens (which caused a personal incident that made me change my life to protect my health). I experienced hot temperatures that weren't as hot as I thought they'd be, but they experienced low temperatures they weren't used to (and blamed me for it), including getting 1/2" of snow that shut down the city (only me and the supervisor showed up for work that day; bunch of wusses lol).

16. In the first paragraph I mentioned that I had only looked back twice as far as leaving self employment. Both times the opportunities looked like they might be perfect. Both times something outside of me killed that opportunity... the first one took me time to figure out why, though it shouldn't have.

One of the untold truths about being self employed is that it's harder to get hired for regular work once you've been working for yourself. The reasons are always the same, but still something you have to deal with.

The first time there was a large consulting company that had a position with a great yearly salary that I decided to apply for. I had all the qualifications for the job that they were asking for, and I figured that since I was used to traveling by this time it would be a great opportunity for a bit more stability and I wouldn't have to market myself anymore. I applied for the job and within two days I got the request for an interview. It was a phone interview that lasted around 45 minutes, and it was a great interview. The person on the other side seemed really impressed by my responses, and I knew I would at least get a second interview.

Two or three days later I got a rejection letter in the mail saying that I wasn't qualified for the position. That made absolutely no sense, and I stewed about it for a few days until I came to the realization as to why I didn't get the job. I didn't get the job because of what I mentioned at number 11. Them being a large consulting company, they were more interested in increasing their revenue and billing hours instead of actually solving problems, and they knew that someone who was self employed that had never worked for a consulting company would have a different point of view on the job they were supposed to do. Once I figured that out I wasn't upset any longer.

The second time was a totally different dynamic. It was for a position right here in town at one of our major hospitals. It was exactly what I did, and the pay range would have been nice for a job that I would be working in my own hometown, about 10 or 15 minutes away from the house depending on traffic. Even though it's a hospital that I had problems with in the past for reasons I'm going to bring up in this story, I thought there would be no way I couldn't get this job. I applied for it, two days later I got called for an interview, and I thought I was on my way.

However, when I showed up for the interview, the person in human resources who talked to me thought I was there for a housekeeping position. Like I said, they set up the time and place for the interview, so they had to know why I was there at that time, so immediately I'm suspect. The interview lasted 45 minutes, that I was told I would have to drive across town to go and meet the director of the department.

I drove across town, go into the lobby, and for at least 10 minutes I'm ignored by the person at the front desk, who never looked up at me until I finally said something. Since I was a much bigger person that I am now, there was no way she couldn't see that I was there. Then she called the director, who came down to greet me after about five minutes and walked me up to her office. I mentioned to her that we knew each other because we had belonged in the same organization some years earlier, and she said she didn't remember me. Since I was the only black person in the organization, it's not believable she wouldn't have remembered me, especially since I was the president of a familiar organization in town for at least 15 years and we sometimes had joint meetings.

We get to her office, and the first question she asked me was why I would give up what I was doing to work for them. I answered it truthfully, but even so I knew where the interview was going. What I didn't expect was the interview would last only five minutes, and then she told me there were a lot of qualified people who had put in for the position. Since I knew there weren't a lot of qualified people in the area for the position, I knew I wasn't going to get the job. I got the rejection letter on Monday, which was extremely fast since the interview was Friday morning. I shouldn't have to say what we all know the issue was, but we all know what the issue was, right? That's the last full time position I've ever applied for, and that was eight years ago.

17. After 18 months in Memphis, I decided I wasn't taking on any more long-term gigs that didn't pay sufficient money for my time. To this point that's the main reason why things basically slowed down, though it's not the only reason. I've worked on projects that have taken days or maybe a week or two, but that's it. I finished writing my second book on the topic of leadership, and I've written a lot more articles and done a lot more videos for myself. I've talked to people on LinkedIn more than I used to, but I'm nowhere close to doing the kind of networking I did previously.

I've only been out of my area twice since 2015, once for a business conference and once for a blogging conference. I purposely didn't want a long term contract unless it paid well because I started worrying about my mother's mental health. It turns out I had every right to be worried unfortunately, but I wouldn't have traded what I ended up doing for her for anything else. Family should always come first; that's something to think about.

18. Four and a half years ago my mother fell in her house, and days after that we brought her to my house and she's been with me ever since. She has dementia, and she has declined during the time she's been here. That has shut down my being able to travel to do any projects, especially now that I'm divorced, unless I'm there for very short time or they pay well enough so I can pay someone to stay in the house with her. The truth of the matter is that with the change in technology, I could do any of the projects that I used to have to travel for from home for at least 95% of the work.

Me 2019

That's the only good thing about not working with local clients. The bad thing is that I still have to market to people who don't understand what it is I do. I also don't network as well as I use to or as often as I used to, so I'm not getting as many indirect offers to talk about projects.

I spend a lot more time writing and creating video content these days, and though I'm making some money from it, I wouldn't quite call it generating a true income. However, I'm in a pretty good position right now so it's something I don't have to immediately worry about, but still something I'm working on, which is to generate an income while working from home. The lesson here is to try to set yourself up so that you always have options if your business is going through a tough time.

19. Here's a major lesson to learn that also can be a gut punch. Just because you've given someone a proposal doesn't mean you're going to get the gig, or that there was actually a gig to get. Over the years I've been requested to send proposals for projects, and early on I got requests for outlines of what I was thinking about doing regarding those projects.

I learned early on to stop sending outlines because once a potential client has that they could probably put together a program on their own. As it regards proposals, we all need to be in a mindset where it's just something we did that we now have no control over anymore until a decision of some kind is made. Sometimes the decision is made and you're not contacted on the proposal, and that's disturbing. That's happened more often than not to me.

Last October for instance, I had three possible gigs at the same time, and for one of those I sent a proposal. I ended up not getting any of them, although the one where I sent a proposal is still up in the air. For the other two, one of them I'd had a few conversations about the project but I was never asked for the proposal, but at a certain point the other person stopped responding to any of my calls or emails. On the other, I had actually done some pre-research on the potential project and discussed it with the person, but when she heard how much I was going to charge to do the project she decided against it. Part of me felt stupid for doing any early research while also realizing that had I not done any early research I wouldn't have known whether I could have actually done the project or not. I guess that's another lesson, you might need to learn something without getting paid for it.

20. Let's close by talking about mindset and motivation. Statistics show that 90% of all new businesses will fail within three years or less. It's not easy working for yourself, because you have to get used to either a lot of rejection or being ignored, and truthfully I'm not good at either one of those. What I am is resilient, and that's what got me to the 20 years and I'm thankful for that.

I'm also not a one trick pony, so even though I'm not generating the kind of money I was getting before, I'm at least getting something that's helping me get by. Of course I want more, and it would be nice to hit the lottery, but since those odds are kind of long I'm going to continue doing what I do in the hopes that I will eventually get some clients who will understand that I can do most of what's needed from home. Zoom has turned out to be a wonderful tool.

Also, I'm planning on creating a revenue cycle course for health care because I know there's a need for it, and I haven't created a new product since I finished my last book in 2015.

My words to the wise is that, before you decide to be self employed, do some research, make sure you have full confidence in your abilities and yourself, and if possible put out feelers before you leave the job you have. If you've lost your job because of the pandemic or anything else and you're on unemployment, there's no reason not to look at your skill set and determine whether there's an opportunity for you to make money working for yourself. When you have control over your life, you have the chance to make a lot of money as well as have a bunch of adventures.

In the last 20 years I have traveled to a lot of places all over this country, some that I never wanted to go to if I'm truthful, but it's been an amazing journey. And let's face it, if I hadn't been self employed I probably never would have been on an airplane that hit a deer. That's something to think about.

And I make this promise. For my 21st anniversary next year, I'm not doing anything this long again, which, by the way, has turned out to be much longer than the 5,800 words I mentioned earlier! πŸ™‚