Make It a People Business

A reminder for all of us in 2021...make it about people

*This post was initially published on LinkedIn in April 2016*

It’s August 16th, 2011 at 9:30am and I’m driving on the highway en route to a meeting in Rochester, NY. My phone rings and I answer - the next 30 minutes will change my life. The voice on the other line asks me to pull the car over as they have some news to share.  Suddenly, I’m being briefed by the legal counsel of the private equity group that has been investing in Activeion Cleaning Solutions for the past 2 years. Effective immediately, all 36 employees of the firm have been relieved of their roles and responsibilities. In other words, the private equity group is done investing in the company. This equates to immediate unemployment.

I hang up the phone and take about 5 minutes to process what just happened.  I then call my wife and let her know that the company is in the process of being dissolved and the staff have been let go. I turn the car around and begin driving back to New York City. I’m still in a state of shock.  

I was one of the first employees at the company. I was managing the Northeast region for the company and was building a business, a brand, and enjoying the experience each and every day. The fact that I just lost my job was sinking in as I drove mile by mile back home. Working for a start-up company has its ups and its downs. This was one of the downs…for sure.

I had no idea what I was going to do and I was extremely surprised that the company lost funding so quickly. Nevertheless, it was all happening and I needed to figure out what I was going to do next.

Would I find another job? How long would it take? Do I want to stay in sales? What else do I have an interest in? My mind was racing in different directions.

I made a phone call to a friend and a mentor. He and I talked about the current situation, some ideas I had related to other career opportunities and most of all he gave me some great career advice. My mentor said, 

“You’ll be fine, because whatever business you get into, you’ll be able to turn it into a people business.”

I’ve gone back to this advice on countless occasions throughout my career. The currency of any business is people and that will never change. My friend and mentor helped me realize that the industry, the job, and circumstances may change, but the fact that making it a people business was the key.

Understanding people, what makes them tick, and working with them is super rewarding and, in my opinion, the best part about being in business.  Whenever I’m having a rough day, whenever I need a little jolt, I always find myself going back to this simple piece of advice.

Find a way to make it a people business and the rest will take care of itself.


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