When to Jump: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
Is it time for you to take the leap?
It’s no secret that I’m a giant nerd. And yes, this is going to be another one of those blog posts.
If you’ve read my bio, you will also know that I’ve worked in restaurants for the last twelve years — the majority of that time as a professional chef. This is the story of how I got here. And where is here, exactly? I can sum it up pretty succinctly:
Three days ago, I quit my day job and became the full-time COO of a digital agency that I started with my wife Amber.
Leaving the comfort of the familiar for a new adventure… It’s got me feeling a bit like him:
An Unexpected Party
When opportunity knocks, it doesn’t always take the form you’d expect.
In 2010, somebody asked Amber if they could pay her $300 to help them set up their website. At the time, we lived in an 750 square foot cottage on Nantucket island. I was supporting us on a Sous Chef’s salary and working 60-70 hours per week (and loving every minute of it!). Let’s just say it didn’t take much convincing for Amber to take on what was to be her first client.
Like a long series of unexpected guests showing up at our door, new projects and clients would materialize every month or two. Over time, best practices were honed, systems were created and refined, and Amber’s customers received incrementally better results. It gave our budget some breathing room, and it was a relatively low time commitment for a stay-at-home-mom (or should I say work-at-home?).
We moved ever onward with optimism, believing that Au Coeur Design would remain a supplemental source of income, while I continued to focus on my own career.Before you take the leap: Prepare for the worst, but expect the best. Click To Tweet
Over Hill and Under Hill
The truth is, my path into the food world was not deliberate.
It was originally intended to be a pit stop, but I’m one of the ones that fell through the crack in the floor. Don’t get me wrong! I really have enjoyed my time down here, but over the years I’m starting to see the chipped corners and the dirt swept under the rug. You might say I stayed too long, delved too greedily and too deep. After over a decade, I came to realize that the mainstream part of the food service industry was not the right fit for me. As the business continued to grow, I also had the opportunity to teach some classes, and partner with one of our clients (who is a food manufacturer) to write recipes using their products and create videos similar to this one:
There it was right in front of me: I had a way to make great food on my own terms.
The writing was on the wall. It was time to find an exit strategy.
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Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
In 2014, we decided that Au Coeur Design was going to take a front seat.
After my day job, I spent untold hours learning about all of the processes, best practices, and strategies that were years in the making. I would also start to play a functional role in the business, helping with billing, bookkeeping, and new project inquiries. This allowed Amber more time to focus on long-term growth. Over the last three years, I've been building my own complimentary skill set directly from the hot seat.
I'm used to it. It's not all that different from a busy night in a restaurant -- a trial by fire.
As we began to collaborate more and more, we came to realize that as our roles in the business were changing, the business itself was going to have to evolve, too. Au Coeur Design represented a single-person operation that was geared toward smaller, short-term projects. These "one and done" projects are great for freelancers, who don't have a staff to help manage long-term partnerships. It was time for a new way of thinking: We wanted to create long-term success for our clients and we couldn't do that by handing them the keys to their website and saying "see yah!".... A new brand with a new driving purpose was needed:
On January 1, 2016, Road Warrior Creative was born!
For me, it began as a small time commitment a few evenings a week and the occasional Tuesday afternoon. This was sustainable for us, and I could continue working in food for another year or two, while the business slowly grew. At least, that's what we thought.Opportunity doesn’t always take you down the road you thought you’d travel. Embrace that fact. Click To Tweet
It became apparent within 2-3 months that the we were growing much, much faster than expected. By April, Amber was working sixty hours per week and I was juggling my day job, helping with Road Warrior at night, and managing a household with two young kids. It was at about this point that I started to seriously question what I was doing.
We had a choice: Climb the nearest tree and wait it out, or look for an opening to make a big change.
On The Doorstep
It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.
If you told me ten years ago that I'd be COO and part-owner of a digital agency based in Colorado, I would have called you an idiot.
Ultimately, I made the jump when the time felt right. For those wondering when to jump, I can only offer two pieces of advice:
- Before you take the leap: Prepare for the worst, but expect the best.
- Opportunity doesn't always take you down the road you thought you'd travel. Embrace that fact.
Are you starting something new and exciting? Tell me about it in the comments -- I actually do read them!