Old Enough to Know What I Don’t know

I have, as evidenced by a new web address and several new posts, restarted my not so widely read blog, Profit And Loss. For those of you familiar with that blog, welcome back! For those of you who are not, I shall explain further.

The last entry of the old blog was penned (in mostly anonymity) right after the rupture of the U.S. housing bubble and the resultant collapse of the world financial markets. I remember being hunched over my computer staring at the stock ticker with one eye and the price of General Electric common shares with the other. The market buzz was that GE was going to be bankrupt and the stock was going to fall to zero–an alarming prospect to someone who had a significant position in GE shares. Blog–what blog?

At that time I wrote freelance articles for a small business e-zine during the night while working as an accounting executive for a large defense contractor by day. Looking back now it is hard to believe I had the energy to do both those things, as well as pursue a post-baccalaureate degree in a suitable business field and renovate my 1960’s era house.

The Internet is (and was) crowded with business blogs, business newsletters, and e-zine articles. Most are just filler– e.g: the Top Ten Reasons that Windows Ten Will Be a Flop; Why the Apple Watch is Worth $17,000; How to Start a Business Plan (in less than 500 words); and so on and so on. Some are quite good, like Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle and Barry Ritholtz, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, and Wired Magazine, to name just a few. But the demand for business blogging and writing is fairly well served. Evidence of this is amply available by virtue of how difficult it is to make a living as a freelance business writer.

So my blog Profit And Loss was a labor of love, and when the labor outgrew the love, it was time to stop. I even let the web addresss “profitandloss.com” lapse (much to my chagrin, because now I can’t seem to get it back–hence the new URL profitandlossblog.com). My need to write guttered out for almost eight years, while I did battle in the corporate universe, working with endless examples of ladder-climbing pricks that scratched for their bonuses by hook or crook and apathetic but back-stabbing cube-lifers that would do anything to protect their little turfs and pathetic and ignominious retirements plans. I commuted for more hours than I care to admit and put in more weeks of backbreaking work for ungrateful assholes than I, in significant embarrassment, want to recount.

This ridiculous rat race I was immersed in came to a sudden end one day when I was interviewing for yet another executive position at yet another defense contractor. In the middle of an interview with the CEO, and in an odd turn of conversation, he gruffly reminisced on how he had started.

“I was flat broke and working in California,” he said as a preamble. “And one day I realized that I could resell IT equipment to the state just as well as, if not better than, the companies that I had been employed by. So I and two of my buddies pulled our credit cards out of our wallets, threw them on the table, and maxed them all out to raise cash for a new company. Ten years later here I am, the co-owner and chief executive of a $100 million dollar company.”

He smiled at me coldly.

“So what is it that you think you can teach me new about running a business?”

Plenty, I was thinking. And I sparred with him for another hour or so. But my mouth was on autopilot while my brain drifted off to another place. I thanked the CEO and his management team and absentmindedly drove back home. By the time I had arrived at my house I had made a decision. It was time to put my money where my mouth was and leave the corporate rat race behind.

In the intervening days, weeks, and months I have accumulated a wholly new set of experiences that built on what I knew from before. And one day I gave a little start like I had just forgotten a report I needed for a meeting. I paused in md-stride and frowned. I straightened. The blog. That was it! The blog! I was ready to blog again. Because I now knew more about what I did not know. And more about what I did.

Ben Ford

Ben is a partner in an accounting firm in the Washington DC area where he specializes in business planning, operations consulting, acquisitions, and divestitures. He spent most of his career working as the Sam Lowry character in the bowels of billion dollar companies, but unfortunately not getting saved by any Harry Tuttles. When not playing desk-tug-o-war with the occupant of the next office, he drives his kids to soccer, basketball, karate practice, and BSA get-togethers.

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