Create Your Own Job Security Blog

Writing Fiction while Sitting By the Bogwood Fire


One of thousands of abandoned croft houses in Ireland.

One of many thousands of abandoned stone croft houses that still dot the landscape which millions of Irish left to try for new lives elsewhere in the world.

Bogwood.n. Darkly colored wood that may be 10s of thousands of years old recovered from marshes and bogs in typically northern latitudes that is dried and used for fuel in areas where other wood is scarce or absent.

 Just as the captive Jews sat by the rivers of Babylon and dreamed of Zion, so the Irish displaced by eviction and starvation in their own land kept their fires in the United States, Australia, Africa, New Zealand, India and China. Scattered in countries of the expanding British Empire, those descended kept ingrained cultural ties with Ireland, even though it might be generations before any of them might return. Like any assimilating population their ties were stronger with the first generation of immigrants and weakened as time and family connections with cultures from other countries were made. As the hand-me-down cultural heritage was weakened, radio, movies, TV and videos brought new exposures of Irish culture to those who had never experienced it first or even second hand, but now will self-identify to be of Irish descent which may be five or more generations past.

Can a person be homesick for a land they have never seen? Travel agents will tell you that this is an unquestioned fact. There is no compelling reason to visit Ireland, vs. Spain, Egypt or Bulgaria, or any other place with more historic sites, gentler climates, better food options, etc.  Yet, many thousands return to Ireland each year to see a storied land that they have thus far only experienced through the creative activities of others. If you cannot go, how can you experience a country without ever having been there? The answer is through writing fiction.

Writing Fiction

Writing fiction is putting mental mind-travel adventures featuring characters of your own creation which you vividly picture in your mind and transfer onto paper. If you cannot visualize a scene and have it play out frame by frame in your mind, you can’t put it down on paper in a convincing manner. Writers and film directors know exactly how they want their next scene to come down before the cameras start rolling.

Can you visualize a set on stage and have your characters move on it? If you can the next step is to write your fiction where you describe the settings you have researched, the characters and allow them, through dialogue, to tell their stories and get the book started. You do not need to know who all the characters are when you start or where they are all going. Give your characters full and exciting lives and their actions and world events can help you set and tell the story of their lives.

People are complicated. They can and have experienced many different events throughout their lives including wars, natural disasters, loves won and loves lost, children, disabilities and ultimately death. These events woven through your characters’ lives can’t help but produce a gripping novel. Whereas a short story may only recount a single incident, the space allowed in a novel allows you to cover an entire lifetime including their interactions with historical and fictional individuals who might be friends at the start, but turn out to be bitter foes in the end.

Watching the bogwood fire burn thought me thinking of the millions who had done the same. Their lives at times gave off brilliant shoots of flame, and at other times more smoke, but beneath was a bed of red-hot coals that radiated warmth into the room and seemingly across the centuries. Put this fire in its hearth in any of the thousands of ruined stone cottages that dot rural Ireland. Read of the times, see photos of the landscape and let your mind’s eye tour the landscape, smell the wet earth, take in a hint of the sea and rotting kelp and let your characters tell their tales by the light of the sparking fire. This how generations of Irish spent the dark winter days when there was no money to buy oil for their lamps and it was too early to go to bed.

Where would I start a story? Perhaps 10,000 years ago with the tree was in full leaf and woolly mammoths walked among them. Maybe I would start during Medieval Times when Viking raids threatened the entire coast each spring. Perhaps there is a tale to be told during “the troubles” that culminated with the Easter Uprising and the formation of an Independent Republic of Ireland. Or I could start it today with the uncertainty of a hard or soft Brexit and its potential impact.

There is ample material to be mined here to keep writers of Irish fiction busy for the rest of their lives, and I have not even touched on magic, superstition and fantasy. It all begins with time. Pick your time, select your characters, give them purpose and let them drive the story through trials, tribulations and conflict towards some ultimate, perhaps not fully realized, success.  This is Ireland after all. All will turn out well, but likely not as quickly or easily as might be imagined – and that is what makes a good story.

One of the best examples of this sort of expansive Irish fiction is the 1992 movie, Far and Away, which was co-written by Director Ron Howard and Bob Dolman and stared Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman. The movie follows the life of a young Irishman who after a botched attempt to murder his landlord escapes to America with his landlord’s daughter where he and her go through a vividly shown tableau of late 19th Century life to restart their lives by participating in the Oklahoma land rush of 1889. In this case the screenplay was produced without the benefit of a prior book, but Howard and Dolman visualized each step of the process before the first foot of film was shot.

To an imaginative mind a single event, seemingly trivial on its own, can create a novel which might expand into an entire universe of activities as occurred in the unlikely events related by Walt Disney’s animated mouse which grew into an international company with not only movie properties, but theme parks, TV networks and media publications of all sorts.

What Does It Take?

A professional writer can produce a book-length manuscript in about three months. This is working at it every day with only a few breaks during the writing period. Writers are generally not worth living with during this period, or at least I am not. The creative period is followed by the even more daunting tasks of rewriting, reorganizing and polishing follows which might consume another month. Then the manuscript goes through the submittal, editing and publication process that might drag on for a year or more. Manuscripts by new authors have an uphill climb to be noticed in the publication world.  Authors brought to near desperation that this book in which they have invested so much effort might never be published, often decide to self-publish it. It becomes another of the million books  published that year to a lack-luster reception. Is that the end of the book and their writing careers? It could be.

A Following

Even before a potential publisher picks up your book, one thing that they will want to know is how big is your following? Do you have a presence on social media? How many people care what you do? Have you published in the past? Are you for whatever reason, well known? If the answer to these questions is, “Yes.” Then your book might have a chance at being read and perhaps passed on for further consideration. A writer can develop his own following and even serially publish his book in chapter form to gather readers and ultimately buyers of his works. This was done by many writers in the 19th Century whose new books might be serialized in newspapers all over the English-speaking world. The Sherlock Homes’ mysteries, Dickens’ many stories, Mark Twain’s works, etc. were often first published in this manner. You can do the same with a dedicated blog about your writing project and your book. By the time it is ready to be published you will have already received pre-publication orders from your fans. This is; however, a long-term process, that will take months and perhaps years to bring off the first time. The second time, and subsequent, times will be easier as you will have already established a fan base.

Are you meant to be a full or part-time fiction writer? That is a question that only you can answer and time will prove. You might not have the physical attributes to be an athlete. Perhaps you cannot draw, sculpt or paint. But, if you can imagine and paint vivid scenes with words on paper, there might be a book writer in there somewhere. If you do not try, you will never find out.

Have you been writing mini-stories or plays since childhood? Many writers have. Do you enjoy stories told by others and even have invented some of your own? Very often writers are also adept storytellers. Have you participated in impromptu stage performances? If so, this is a good indication. Have others told you that this or that was a good piece of writing and you saved it? That might be worth looking back over, even if it was done many decades ago. If you have been checking off all of these things as you have read them, you have the creative capabilities to produce fictional works.

Learning the skills can be done through taking on-line courses, reading books on techniques and ultimately, sitting down and putting words on paper. You must get over all of the mental and physical hurtles of delayed starts and the “I cant’s” that prevent you from doing anything. Many writers find it convenient to outline the plot and characters on paper and this gives them the skeleton of the novel to flesh out and a way to conveniently keep track of their progress. This is also helpful if elements of the novel are not written in chronological order, as might occur if you are on location where a significant part of the action in your book takes place and you want to capture that portion while you have all of the resources and reference materials at hand.

It makes no difference where in the story line you start. The thing is to start and then flail through it until it is done. Do this and you can write your novel. Go to it. Now.

This, and many more, tips on starting your own business are contained in my most recent business book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. This book will help you formulate different business opportunities, sort them out into short, medium and long term activities and implement them. It also provides the nuts-and-bolts information on topics like how to name your business, secure copyrights, trademarks and become registered in your state. This book is available from, other e-booksellers and from your local bookstore. You may also order a copy by using the PayPal button below. I also do individual consulting by telephone and e-mail. Arrangements for a consult may be made by using the contact form.


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Starting Another Business While Working for Someone Else

Hovey at school

Ethical ways to start another company or create a new job while working for someone else.

 “When you take the King’s shilling, you are the King’s man.” Is a quote from Old English that still resonates today. When you are employed by a company you are expected to abide by company policies and to the best of your ability promote the company’s interests. This practice is enforceable not only by company policies, but also in many circumstances by law. You may be prosecuted for the theft of real or intellectual property. You will, as a condition of your employment, often have signed a non-disclosure agreement where you agree not to disclose a company’s trade secrets, patent information, etc.

Given this constraint, how does a person ethically seek to start his own company while being employed by another?   I strongly advocate this policy in my new business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.”  Not only this, but I maintain that you should actually start and run it quietly in the background while you are working for others in order to have income for you and your family should your job be abruptly terminated.

In the gig economy it is assumed when you are hired to fill a short-term position, and that you will be continually looking for another job either within that company or for your next job somewhere else.  You might even start your own company. Everyone’s options are seemingly open. Just as your company might hire or fire you without notice, you ethically have the right to do the same.

Corporate Jobholder

There are two distinct approaches to starting your own business while working, depending on the job that you hold. If you are a member of a cooperation where you were first hired, say as a junior Tech person and worked up through middle management, you would likely have been with the company for five years or more; but for whatever reason seem to be stuck with no obvious way up within the company organization – or none you want to take. In this case, the concept of starting your own entrepreneurial enterprise is looking more attractive.  You should:

  • Look for new business opportunities in another business or service area.
  • Do all your searching, contacts, interviews, etc. on your own equipment. Keep all this information on your private phone and computer. Separate your employer’s business and your own as much as possible. Pen and paper provide one of the most secure ways of recording your own thoughts as suggested by my booklet, Ideas for New Businesses, which provides inspiration for and a way  of privately recording business concepts on long-distance flights. Keep track of these ideas, especially those that are not appropriate for the company for which you are working.  One of these might become your next business.
  • Volunteer and participate in company workshops, on committees from other parts of the production process and in joint ventures with other companies. Broadening your outlook and experiences not only enhances your personal knowledge base, but also makes you a more obviously valuable employee who is worth promoting. Keep track of such participations and any awards that you might have earned.

Gig Economy Worker

While some companies would try to eek every potential advantage our of a gig worker’s employment, and assert that they have every right to do so, temporary employment is by any standard, just that.  If your “Temporary Employment” has now lasted five years or more, then it is time to think about filing a complaint with your state Labor Relations Board and see if you are not due additional benefits, such as health insurance, from the company that hired you.  Unions and sometime Temp Agencies can help you in filing such a claim or correcting the situation.

  • Your greatest asset in working for a variety of companies perhaps doing radically different jobs is your power of observation and adaptation. Look at jobs all around you. Could you do that job better? Is what that gal is doing really appealing to you? Can you form your own company around any of these things that you are seeing others do?
  • Again, make sure that you keep your own business concepts and job searches remain your property by doing them on your own phone/computer on your own time.
  • Although applicable to both types of employment situations, gig workers are even freer to ask about forthcoming projects that they might participate in, permanent positions in the company and opportunities abroad.
  • Cultivate friendships with those within the company. It is entirely possible that this year’s co-worker might be next year’s boss or they might provide useful tips about future business possibilities that you can exploit.

Being in the Stew of Life

Somehow your next best business opportunity will come from something that you have experienced. Be on the lookout for that opportunity and be ready to act on it when it arrives. Then see what, if anything, can be derived from your present work experience to enable you to find out more about your new potential business without breaking ethical business rules, doing anything illegal or violating your contract. If there are extra company trainings or education, take advantage of it. You might even be able to sound out details of your business plan while taking company-supported educational programs.

A lot of this is going to have to be balanced around family activities and responsibilities. Work on your business as you can and when you can. It might be that commute time can provided your daily business hour. If so, plan for it and work on it while you ride or fly. Each day try to do something towards advancing your business. If you persist through the daily distractions of life, you can accomplish your intermediate objectives and ultimately run your own business.

These and many more tips are in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife,” which is available from and many other sources as either a softcover or e-book or by using the PayPal button below.  You can also find more information on my blog and over 20 YouTube business videos on the Hovey Smith YouTube Channel.  Individual consultation can also be arranged using the contact form below.

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Working Through Sick Days


Tax stuff

How you can continue productive work through your annual bout with colds, flu and sinus infections.

An annual debilitating fight with colds and other respiratory diseases is something that impacts everyone from the CEO to the worker who is contracted to clean the toilets with each employee losing an average of five day’s work a year. The pressure is on to continue work, either because of taxes, project requirements or to pay bills; even though you may be feeling more dead than alive.

Coping with Infectious Diseases

At its worst stages the only one in your household that might not be impacted by the latest crop of infectious bugs may be your fish. This is the time that you really need a Jewish Grandmother. If you don’t have one, adopt one. Besides being good Christian practice to look after your neighbors, extending a cross-cultural bond between religious and ethnic groups cements people-to-people bonds that can help us all get by in society. We humans are social animals and work best when we have caring people around us. In today’s society where families may be separated by continental distances, forming a pseudo-family in your new neighborhood is some lowest costs insurance than you can buy.

If you need help with child care or even to help to look after yourself, ask for it. There are those who can buy groceries and leave them at your door. Some stores are also offering home delivery of medicines and groceries that can allow you to stay home during your typical seven-day recovery period. This recovery might be even longer if you are hit by multiple strands of this junk.

Going to Work Sick

You do no one any good if you are infecting others at the office. In these days of paring down the workforce, back-up workers are often not available to fill in when someone is out. Maybe it is only you who can deliver the annual ——– report that is required by State or Federal law. Even if so, see if this report cannot be delivered electronically, rather than in person. Work from home for as many days as you need to get over your crud, and don’t spread it around.

Besides being good practice from a health point of view, the stress of putting up with a cold and working leads to mental lapses. Such less than optimum thinking results in obvious mistakes that you would have caught. While you might be valued for your ability to see other approaches or options, your mental capacity is reduced during periods of high fever which in extreme cases can result in blackouts or even hallucinations.  You are not setting a good example by going to work sick. If someone tells you to go home, GO HOME.  Take this advice, regardless of whether it comes from the Greeter at the door, or from the CEO.

Good Days, Bad Days and Worse Days

As the disease wracks through your body, some periods will be better than others. There are times when coughing can be so severe that you may double over, lose consciousness and fall to the floor.  This is a common cause of the elderly breaking bones. This is no less dangerous if you are in freeway traffic.  Equally debilitating is if the bug hits you in the digestive tract and you are running at both ends, seemingly unable to keep food inside of your system. If either condition is more than temporary, hospitalization and intravenous fluids and/or feeding will be necessary to keep the body functioning. Don’t try to tough this sort of thing out, and DO NOT take these conditions to the workplace.  Go to your doctor or emergency room for treatment.

Review What You Send

At times the symptoms will be so bad that you cannot sleep. You are up at odd hours and seeking relief by sitting up in your recliner, because lying down brings on more coughing or puking. You are feeling worthless. O.K. Do something. Bring out your laptop and write something. Start to work on your next report, review your e-mails and reply to the most vital of them. However, before your send them, REVIEW WHAT YOU SEND. You are going to make errors, omit words, put in half-baked thoughts and often sound stupid. Respond to what you must, but look it over first. Put most of them in a draft folder, and don’t send them out until you have had a chance to give them a second, or third, look.

You are working at only half-mental capacity or less, so budget taking twice as long to complete anything. Tell your correspondents that you will reply, but later when you have the chance to provide them with a better response. If they don’t or cannot understand, then you should start searching for another job that places a higher value on its personnel. Paradoxically, non-profit organizations may be the worst offenders in this regard. Just because you are working for a good cause for little pay does not mean that you should sacrifice your health to do it. Volunteers who rise through the ranks of such organizations have often not received any management training and may be otherwise worthy, but not good managers.

Delegate Responsibilities

Delayed response should be your default mode when you are sick. The next best tool is to delegate tasks to someone else. This obviously gets sticky.  You may think that there is a danger that the person you delegate the task to might do a better job than you would have. From the company’s point of view, this would be a beneficial result. You might see yourself as allowing a potential rival to replace you at your job because you feel more vulnerable when you are sick. Instead, assign him the report, help him with it and commend him if he did a good job. Your ability to recognize rising corporate talent will be rewarded in most forward-looking organizations. This supposed negative can be turned into a positive for you both.

Diversify Activities

While stuck at home, plan your work and everyday activities to be diverse. This keeps your body moving, may get you out of the house (say doing yardwork) for a period and provide periods of work and entertainment during your illness. Try to make your activities less prison-like. Maybe there are a series of fix-it items that you have been planning to do. You are certainly going to need to clean up after yourself, which may be an even more unwelcome task than usual. The keeping-moving part of this recovery is vital. You may not be able to resume your exercise program, but try to do something even if only for a few minutes every day.  Be especially careful when moving things, as you will tend to drop things much more often, including laptops. You do not want to lose something that you have worked hard to complete because you dropped the device you wrote it on or spilled a cup of coffee on it.

Delay Responses to Get Rest

Just as you work when you can, you must also rest when you can. This illness is interrupting your sleep. If your bug has kept you up most of the night and finally at daylight you have fought through your last coughing episode, go back to bed.  When you awake and feel better, then do some serious work for as long as possible. When your symptoms come back, take another round of medications. When the vomiting, etc. is over and you are physically and mentally hurting, REST. Even if you are a younger person with the faster recouping power of youth, rest is vital for your recovery.   This makes for an irregular, unpredictable work day, and your disease-permitted work periods will be intermittent and irregular.  Typically, it will take you at least twice as long to accomplish things that you would usually do, and at times you might only be able to do half as much. Accept this as your new normal until you are back on your feet.

Complete the Task at Hand

Complex multi-tasking is not something to attempt when you are ill. Make it a point to complete the task at hand, before moving to another. Colds, flu and fevers tend to make one even more forgetful than usual. The old standby of writing it down and crossing it off still works.  Make lists and use them. Perhaps you now  keep such things electronically on your phone, but even having a sheet of paper taped on the refrigerator door can be a considerable aid in getting needed things done and keeping track of how your day is going.

Stressed Systems and Creativity

One aspect of a stressed system is that it provokes creativity, which may or may not be directed towards workplace issues. Look out for this and record these events as they occur.  These flights of mental fancy might be artistic expressions in different directions or in fields that you do not usually think about. These creative thoughts may have commercial value if properly developed. What they do psychologically is to provide mental rewards and relaxations. Allow them to work for you.

Thinking About Another Job

If you are stuck in a job/s  where you are just getting by, your sick days may be the only time you have to seriously investigate the possibilities of starting your own company which is the thrust of my newest business book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. In this new book I tell how to sort out business possibilities and select those that you can implement immediately, others that take more time and perhaps ultimately discover your “business of passion,” that may sustain you throughout your entire life. In today’s global e-commerce world, anyone, anywhere can start a business that might someday evolve into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Even if your goals are not that lofty, the book explains in detail how to raise immediate cash, invest in your own future and alter your approaches to reach your present and future life goals.  This book is available from and from your local bookstores.  I will be giving a free two hour seminar Create Your Own Job in Augusta, Georgia, on March 15, 2019. Go to for details.  Although the event is free, I do need an approximate count so I can get additional space if necessary. If you can attend, please use the reply form below to get more information on the event and follow-up activities.

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Choose Your Partners as Carefully as You Would Choose Your Parents

Eating Insects Athens, 2018 Participants

Gather a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and skills to help you launch your new business or cause. 

While sex appeal and lust-driven emotional responses likely played a large part in your being conceived, such responses need to be set aside when taking on a business partner.  Maybe a sex partner can be a business partner, but the first determination in partnership is “What can you bring to the business that I cannot?”

If the answer is, “Nothing that I can see right now,” then your sex partner is best removed from consideration. In looking for partners or team members, you need to find people whose skill set is different from your own and have different life experiences. This is somewhat counterintuitive, as the default position would be to choose partners who came from the same cultural background, went to the same schools, were the same age, had similar life experiences, etc. It would appear that attracting like-minded individuals would make everyone more compatible and provide for a smoother-running organization. If you want to be in such an organization join a country club, but you need more diversity in your business associates and partners.

In today’s world-connected business environment, partners do not have to come from previous associates, although this is a relatively easy pool of candidates to tap, they can come from anywhere. It is desirable to be able to access those who operate in lower-costs labor markets and having a foreign-based partner can ease your transition from a strictly U.S. into a World-Wide market. This can also help you understand why a product designed for one market might be a failure when introduced to another part of the World? While it is true that we are a World-Wide interdependent manufacturing and business community; that does not mean that we are all the same.

Who do You Need for Partners?

  • Like it or not, this is you. At least for now it is. Although perhaps you feel more intellectually comfortable working strictly on the creative or design side of the business than telling people what to do, this is a necessary business function that must be filled. When you were by yourself it was easy to decide what product to produce, which marketing tactic to try next and what trade shows to attend. After the business has started and you begin to need help to grow it you are, by default the CEO until someone is found who you have sufficient confidence in to take over that position. Because of ego factors that day may never come. There are many who started their own businesses that became so emotionally invested in the business; that they could never sit back and let someone else run it – even when the business is in a death spiral.
  • Usually these people are associated with product design and advertising. These are the folks who produce your promotional materials on social media, print your brochures, design your ads and make your videos. These are people who may see new uses and markets for your products, suggest design improvements and help you investigate new markets. Harley Davidson is a typical company with a universally-known product that has now designed and produced an electric- powered motorbike that looks enough like and sounds enough like the traditional Harley to be immediately identifiable – yet is a forward-looking design.
  • Where, how and to what population groups to approach with new products can determine a company’s success or failure. A product release that is too early or too late and can have huge impacts on its success. Potential buyers can be turned off an entire product line if an expected release date is not met, and they might wait for years before a highly anticipated new product is released.
  • Whether it is an intellectual product, like a book, or a manufactured item, the best production methods must be decided on. “Best” these days is often considered to be the lowest costs, but the highest valued items are most often made in their countries of origin. Many businesses are now attempting to produce items that fall into a low cost, medium cost and higher cost categories that are usually referred to as “good, better and best,” to broaden their brand’s potential appeal. It is a business truism that someone, somewhere in the world will always undercut your lowest costs, and a race to the bottom in product pricing usually results in business failures. Never, ever, price a product below production costs. It is better to scrap a failed product and write off the loss than sell at low dollar because doing so devalues the entire product line.
  • Just-in-time delivery has become widely adopted in modern marketing. Stores plan their product displays on their shelves months in advance. If you are fortunate enough to secure a spot on a major retailer’s shelves, you had damn better meet the delivery date without fail.
  • Often for start-up companies the accounting functions are farmed out to firms who will handle your payroll and file your Federal and State paperwork, etc. Even though they might now be doing these functions, a person who delights in details, has a strong since of order and procedure, keeps track of OSHA regulations and generally keeps the company out of trouble is still needed. Others in the organization who are caught up in the details of meeting their responsibilities will be tempted to employ short-cuts, which may well be illegal. A person who fills this function might be a Lawyer or come from a variety of backgrounds, but he/she needs to have a very meticulous bend to his personality and the strength to point out a shortcoming, even though others in the company may object to his meddling in “their departments.”

Having defined the categories of people that I need, where do I find them?

If you are putting together a team then your search pool is very often restricted to present company employees. If it is a large-enough company perhaps team members might be recruited from other branches, departments or countries to add a diversity of opinions and approaches to your efforts. Certainly select some from your immediate surroundings, but actively solicit others that you have gotten good recommendations from other branches or divisions in your company.

If you are looking for partners in your own company, you are not under any such restrictions, and you have the entire world’s population for you to select from. One of the better ways to select is to do so from those presenting in trade shows or professional meetings. Even though some may be students, their approaches as demonstrated in their papers can be very useful in highlighting their areas of interests and provide a measure of their capabilities.

Self Growth with its hundreds of thousands of members and tens of thousands of experts can provides leads for potential partners at all levels of experience to potentially become part of your international partnership.

If you can look dispassionately at the qualifications of your close friends and family members and say that they fit the qualifications needed to participate in your business then they might also be considered. No one has a blood right to become a part of any business. Even in businesses that are largely family run, members must demonstrate their capabilities to do something the business needs to have done. The most successful assimilations of family members have resulted from the son or daughter of the founder getting professional qualifications, working for another company for a period of three to five years and then being invited to become a member of the family’s company.  The most significant thing is that they must want to be involved. If they do not want to be involved or work with other family members, then they had best seek another career or perhaps even start their own firms. Just because you are a Ford does not mean that you should run Ford Motor Company.

This and many more topics are covered in my most recent business book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.  In this book I advocate starting a series of businesses throughout one’s life to raise cash as needed, train for future careers and ultimately discover a business of passion that can carry you throughout the remainder of your life. This book is available on, other on-line retailers and your local bookstore.  I am also available to speak on business topics and have presented in the U.S., Europe and China.

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Avoid Financial Disaster when Selling Your Company

Hovey with Tennille Bank front

Is selling your company going to reward you financially or leave you with a bankrupt company and debts that you cannot repay?

Thus far your entrepreneurial enterprises have gone well. You started a company, made it a success, ran it for decades and now would like to cash out to move on onto something else. You have solicited offers and some have been received. How to you evaluate which one to accept? A range of options are offered. These include:

  • Cash Purchase with A One-Time Payment
  • An Initial Payment with More Being Made over A Period Of Years
  • No Initial Payment with You Awarded Stock in the New Company

These are three end points that might include more incentives such as continuing health insurance, your receiving retirement benefits along with your cash settlement, housing, a consulting contract, salary during a transition period of months, hunting rights on company owned properties, etc. These sweeteners are significant, and it is easy to get carried away with them while overlooking possible downsides to the deal.

Cash Out Your Company

Advantages of a Cash Out settlement center around the fact that when the deal is done, it is done. Although there might be some perks allowed along with this type of settlement, once you have sold your company you are out of it except for a brief transition period. Your settlement is fixed, and typically after a few months you are free to do whatever you wish. If you are a young guy, you might want to start another company. Whatever, you have your money, and any connection with the company you started is over. It may be hard to let go, but you need to make a clean break, financially, socially and psychologically. It’s all over. Move on to the next stage of your life.

With this type of settlement those buying your company are taking more risks, and the amount being offered might be half, or perhaps only a third, of what you consider that the company is worth. Their giving you cash is taking away money that might otherwise go into improving the company’s physical plant, bringing in a new accounting system or other upgrades to make the company more viable in the present business climate. All too often, these changes also include shifting production facilities to less expensive operating sites in another state or even out of the country. These changes are going to be financed by debt, and your demand for cash increases the buyer’s debt load without any associated improvements to the company. Consequently, many potential buyers will attempt to draw out these payments over a period of years with the ultimate objective of paying you from operational profits. This transfers more of the risks to you.

A Part Cash Part Later Payments

This type of settlement has a longer pay-out period and a larger total settlement which might be made even more attractive because the tax obligations would be less on the total amount. You would pay less to Uncle Sam and be allowed to keep more for yourself and your family. You are betting that the new management team will be able to take your company, run it as least as well as you did and perhaps make it more profitable that it was. They certainly think so, and they will do everything possible to make you believe that this is true. In reality it may not be.  They may have no intention of operating your company, but after selling off its assets, leave it as a shell organization that is unable to function, much less make any money. The company is taken over, its assets sold, debts incurred and goes to bankruptcy with you left out altogether. Their obligation to you now becomes noting more that their obligations to other laid-off employees, which is next to nothing, Except for the initial payments, you will likely receive nothing further, and creditors might even go after your assets if you are still listed as a company officer.

Stock in The New Company

In order to preserve a maximum amount of cash to foster the operation of the new company, the buyers may offer you a minority stock position with a seat on the board. Being a board member is somewhat attractive because it keeps you, the former owner, involved; but does not have nearly the time commitment that you had as owner. You would still have some input as to the direction the new owners were taking the company, but your obligation has changed. You are no longer representing yourself, but you are representing shareholders. The shareholders interests are not yours, and the less paid to you, the more money is available for reinvestment in the company or as dividends to them.

Even if you violently disagree with what the majority owners wish to do with your former company, you are helpless to do anything about it but go along and hope for the best. Again, unwise investments, unnecessary spending for trips and advertising, expansion of the product line without doing sufficient market research, inflated salaries for company officers and outright theft can quickly drain the assets of any once-thriving company. All you can do is watch.

The final result is that you now hold worthless stock, the company goes bankrupt, and you are left with nothing. Maybe you want to put your workers back to work and start up the company again, but you are now likely facing a debt load that you cannot repay.  You make a heroic effort, but it fails. Whatever assets you had in the company are now sold off, and you are left with nothing to show for a lifetime’s work.

This unfortunate chain of events is happening every day to companies large and small. Before you sell your company, know your potential buyers and select your options carefully. My general advice would be to take a smaller settlement as a cash buy-out and then separate yourself from your old company as fast as possible. A continued association may offer some social benefits; but unless they offer some financial benefits as well, such commitments are more of a drain on your time and finances than an enhancement.

It took time and care to grow your company, use equal care in divesting from it.

This is but one of the many issues that I discuss in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. I also have a YouTube video on this topic on the Hovey Smith Channel. The book may be purchased from Amazon and other on-line booksellers. If you wish to consult with me on this and other business topics contact me using the reply box below.

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Truck Drivers as Potential Entrepreneurs

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A life on the road teaches many things that are useful for starting new businesses.

 The image of the American truck driver as a white, cigar smoking, fat, slob, is unfortunately what comes to mind to most potential employers when they see the word truck driver on a resume. Some fit this Hollywood stereotype, but many do not. A driver that I know who operates one of the largest trucks in the world for a Canadian oil shale mining company is an attractive, personable young lady that I publicly declared to be, “My kind of woman.” She had overcome personal abuse as a child, became a self-supporting woman in rural Canada who is able to kill and process her own moose and generally take care of herself – a far cry from the typical image of a truck driver.

Just as truck drivers can be from any demographic, they may also have many types of educational experiences, ranging from nearly none to Phds who had advanced degrees in subjects where there were no jobs during the 2008 financial crisis, and took a good paying job as a long-haul driver. This was a classic case of, “learn to love the job you’ve got.” Some made the most of it, purchased their own rigs and are independent drivers who now have the choice of working for any number of companies .

Experienced truck drivers who can successfully pass a drug test are being highly recruited; but automation is threatening their existence. Just as machines have replaced assembly-line workers, automation is threatening truck drivers. Estimates are than in 20 years, most deliveries will be made by automated means with companies like Amazon and Google pushing the frontiers of this technology. Much tonnage of material in the mining industry that was once moved by ore cars operated by men was replaced by conveyor belts decades ago, and rubber-tired and tracked automated vehicles are already working in many mines. Since their routes are well established, it was a relatively simple task to automate them. Only where decisions must be made by the operator are man-directed trucks necessary. Pushing a button is all that is commonly necessary for a stack loader operator to call a truck to his location. That truck is loaded, sent to its dump point and the next brought into place.  The more uniform the material, the more automated the process can become.

General Skills that Most Truck Drivers Have

Routing Ability. Every driver must be able to follow a rout whether on a map, a skill being rapidly lost, or on a series of electronic devices to take his load wherever it needs to go.

Accounting. The tally of what was delivered to whom, where that location was and time tracking is a part of a drivers everyday existence.

Time Management. Each driver must, by law, keep track of his driving time and allow for rest breaks.

Mechanical Aptitude. Since the truck is the driver’s home-in-motion and vital to his making a living, keeping it in safe operational condition under all road conditions is a needed skill.

Observational Skills. Many confined to offices and their screen devices are noticing a reduction of their basic observational skills relating to the world around them. Drivers must always be keenly aware of their surroundings.

Time-Speed Estimation. Drivers learn how to make reliable estimates of loading and unloading times, travel times and what delays might be caused by weather.

Food. Just as fuel is needed for the truck, food is needed for the driver. This access to good and bad eateries throughout the country provides drivers with a keen appreciation of food and how to select the best available options.

Adaptability. Drivers must be able to adapt to different road conditions and plan alternative routes as they may be needed.

Stamina. Long distance truck hauling requires the development of mental and physical stamina. This is much more than push a button and something happens on a keyboard. Trips may be hours or days long, and concentration through this period means that they are accustomed to taking on jobs where the pay-off may be delayed and able to take work that takes a period of time to complete. This is the opposite of instant gratification that many expect in today’s society.

Communications. From both business and social points of view, drivers are practiced communicators with everyday use of radios, smartphone technology, visual screens and virtual reality used in training programs. Just as significantly they talk to others and may be exposed to original business ideas that they can use as well as to people who might be potential partners.

If you are in Human Resources and screening possible candidates these are the qualities that many drivers have ingrained in their system that will serve them well when deployed to other jobs.

Things Truck Drivers Can Do

If you are a truck driver and thinking of what you might do after you have been automated out of a job, these are the qualities that you have than are very useful for seeking another job or starting your own businesses. In fact, it is a very good idea to start a non-related business while you are still employed so that not only does this business bring in extra income, it can grow to support your family after you can no longer drive.

A downside of driving is that accident or work-related injuries can unexpectedly occur at any age. While evil to contemplate, you might be disabled by an injury in your 20s or 30s or from an occupational-related condition in your 40s or later. Common illnesses among drivers are back problems, repetitive motion conditions (like carpal tunnel syndrome), head injuries, arthritis, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases or combinations of them can end a driver’s on-the-road career.

Alternative Careers.

Professional Qualifications. If you had professional qualifications in progress or near completion and never acted on them, now is the time to complete that training, get your degree or certifications and redirect your life around that skill set. This might be working for another type of company, starting your own business or both.

Communication Arts. The professional adaptation of written, verbal, visual and virtual reality can be combined in a nearly infinite number of ways to take advantage of a driver’s experiences and skills to produce a money-making product. These efforts rely on the drivers’ individuality, his life experiences and passions. Perhaps he may use his experiences to be a podcast radio host. Maybe he will write short stories about them. Perhaps he likes to produce fact-filled videos about the places he has seen. He might even write a best-selling novel.

Mechanical Arts and Sales. Who better to sell truck accessories than a driver who has actually used them? Not only might you design new products for those in the industry and start a company around those, you might also act as a salesperson for existing accessory suppliers.

Food Industry. As eating is a vital part of the truck-driver’s life, reviews of eateries around the country might be his forte. If these efforts are persistent, a following can be accumulated and this entire effort turned into a multi-media-based enterprise. Perhaps he might want to introduce new types of foods to his driving buddies by opening a diner or restaurant that might be expanded into a chain, or having his own on-the-road food blog or YouTube channel.

Business Trends. On-the-ground observations of business trends around the country can enable you to make reasonable guesses as to coming trends in real estate, companies that are doing innovative things and provide information for direct investments in stocks or real estate. These observations might even result in your taking a business concept that is proven in one part of the country and implementing it somewhere else.

These concepts and many more are explored in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” In this book I not only explain how to sort through different opportunities, but also provide the nuts and bolts about how to start a business in the U.S. You can find the book at and all other on-line retailers or order from your local bookstore. I also offer individual consulting and business programs for businesses and organizations, and you may contact me using the reply box below.

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Jobs for Laid-Off Assembly Line Workers


Atlanta Waterjet Cutting 2
This Waterjet Cutter replaces workers who would produce these blanks one at a time.

Automation has replaced hundreds of thousands of assembly line workers and Human Resource Departments have not succeeded in finding jobs for many of them.

All too often assembly line workers are considered by management as “interchangeable work units” who are only capable of bolting on parts as they come to their stations. With automation a large factory structure is frequently replaced by a smaller building housing new machines that do not require as much lighting, air conditioning or heat. A business that once employed three shifts of 200 workers each now only needs 30 workers per shift.  What happens to the now-redundant workers?

The already small Human Resource Departments are overwhelmed. While they attempt to select the best workers to be transferred to the new factory and may refer workers to state unemployment facilities, they frequently cannot find enough jobs for their former employees. Some employees who are approaching their 60s may be forced into an unwanted early retirement. A few others with better skills might be retrained and shifted to other jobs, but for many these well-meaning efforts are insufficient to find them work at anything near the same salary levels.

Unions, whose members may have been fatefully paying their dues for decades in hopes of insuring their jobs, can do little when entire plants are relocated to non-union-shop states or even to other countries to take advantage of less expensive labor costs and better climates.  Their work rules and strict job descriptions have confined workers to very narrow categories and left workers with fewer work experiences to draw on and consequently less of a chance to find jobs that pay nearly as well.

Workers may find employment in service industries or flipping burgers, but these are often insufficient to pay rent, buy groceries and meet medical costs, much less maintain the lifestyle that they had enjoyed for decades. Workers pushed into such positions may have to take multiple jobs to survive, and a single illness or adverse event can easily push them into homelessness.

Another category of former assembly-line-workers may be young enough, healthy enough and have sufficient training to move with the factory or to another state, but are restricted by family obligations from relocating elsewhere. Such obligations often include caring for parents or older relatives, periodically helping out on the family farm or not wanting to leave a state that supplies excellent services for a disabled child.

Jobs for former assembly-line workers

A company may employ a separate firm to aid their employees in learning how to do a job search, write resumes, go for interviews, etc. This is often done over a brief period after a mass layoff. This training has value and should be taken advantage of. It is free and the associations gained and friendships made during such trainings may be more significant than the training itself. Another valuable aspect of such trainings is that it helps with the grieving process that comes from losing what you had previously expected to be a life-time job.

Unfortunately, the economy has moved away from the years when a person might expect to be with the same company his entire working life. Those positions are now being replaced by the “gig economy” where workers are hired to fill positions as they are needed. When the project is completed the workers are dismissed. Anyone who has ever worked any part of the construction business has known about working “gigs” for decades. This work method has now expanded to nearly all parts of company and corporate operations. Team members no longer have to be in the same location or even in the same country.

Frequently overlooked in retraining line workers is the possibility that they could start their own businesses, stay in their communities and be even more productive members of society.  Part of the reason that this is ignored is that “workers are workers and not managers.” This is self-defeating, short sighted and outright WRONG. Such thinking is a relic of medieval system where lords ruled over the land and controlled everyone beneath them. If you were not a member of the nobility, you were stuck at whatever position you were born into. Everyone who has lived independently is a manager. They have managed their own lives and those of their families for all of their adult lives, and they can certainly be taught to use their existing skills, acquire others and manage their own businesses.

This is the approach that I take in my new book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” What I advocate is that people seek out entrepreneurial activities as early as High School by doing things like mowing lawns or providing services for older members of the community. Then seek advance training in college or elsewhere and pick up some business courses either on-line or as electives. In the meantime they invent, alone or with others, a business that they start and run on a low level while they are working for someone else, getting health insurance, etc. Should they be unexpectedly laid off they have their own businesses already running to ramp up with their severance pay and start making serious money.

In “Create Your Own Job” I show how to sort out various business possibilities into those to act on immediately to get some money in the house, others to be implemented later after some professional training or certifications , and still more that require college degrees, partners or perhaps co-owners to implement successfully. Such businesses may be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere and often at very little costs. I also provide chapters with detailed information on topics like coming up with a name for your new business, possibilities for financing, nearly no-cost advertising and even what to do with your business after you no longer wish to run it.

The best results from your business will often be obtained when it combines your skills and experience into something new that might be an invention, production method, book, screenplay, physical art, new marketing approach, public service or a configuration that combines invention-marketing-art in a new way. The possibilities are unlimited and extremely personalized – exactly the opposite of the people as interchangeable-work-units concept.

I will be giving a two hour free seminar in Augusta, Georgia, on March 15, 2019. This will be in Music Room B at the Salvation Army Headquarters at 1833 Broad Street. This Create Your Own Job Seminar will began at 7:00 PM and conclude at 9:00 PM and include a workshop where I will assist participants in sorting through a set of job opportunities that they generate. Although the event is free, seating is limited. If you are going to attend contact me at with the words “Augusta Event” in the subject line or by using the contact form below. I am also available to present at other locations and work with companies undergoing restructurings.

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Be Prepared for YES


Pedersoli Cook Bros Rifle Top and Carbine bottom cropped

Proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance. Rule of the seven “Ps,” U.S. Army, c. 1860 and possibly long before.   

 At a hospitality suite during a two-day business seminar, those hosting the event are obviously promoting their products to the attendees. Freshly pumped with a flood of information, a potential way to use this new-found information begins to formulate in your brain. It is still rattling around connecting with this possibility and that, some of which are humorously impractical; but one seems to be on more solid ground. Eager to try this new concept out on someone else, you approach one of the vendor’s representatives, and he answers, “Yes, we do that quite often. In fact we just implemented a similar program with one of your competitors.”

Now that the application of this concept that you envision seems possible, you are burning to tell one of the higher ups in your company about it. Although your eagerness may be somewhat powered by alcohol, pause. First, have you sufficiently thought through the concept and its ramifications?  Secondly, can you implement the program if you were asked to run it?

Knowledge based requirements

Although the product that you have been told about has all of the excitement that new technology can bring, do you know enough about it to effectively sell it? How much is this going to cost in time and money to implement? What new people are going to be involved? I Is this new product or operational concept going to increase profits or reduce costs?  Is there likely to be a profitable return on investment?  Is this a logical extension of the company’s  line?

The product being discussed at the seminar might have been industrial machinery. It could be a new method for recruiting talent. It might have been a discussion of innovative organizational structures. Perhaps it was an innovative approach to marketing, advertising or product packaging. Any of these can have impacts on your company. Have you sufficiently thought about what those might be, before approaching your bosses with it?  If you are satisfied that you have, then go ahead with some preliminary feelers. Say nothing too solid yet, just an inquiry to judge the potential degree of interest. If the answer is “yes” or a “maybe,” then you have time to work up a formal proposal, which would probably be asked for anyway.

Personal factors

We all have lives, and these life happenings very often interfere with business. With what you can anticipate in your near-term future, can you actually take this idea from concept to presentation to implementation. Perhaps you can do the concept and presentation without any problem, but a family illness, planned vacation or health problem might prevent you from being able to implement the program. In such a case, who do you recommend to lead the project?  Obviously, this person needs to be brought into the project as soon as possible. If you do not have a person in hand, then at the least the project leader’s requirements need to be specifically outlined so that the Human Resources Department knows what kind of candidates to bring in for interviews.

Financial aspects

Return on investment, shareholder value and market share are all catch phrases that you will need to supply information about.  Someone will ask about these at the discussion of any change in the company’s product or operational methods.   It is likely if you are a “concept guy,” you are not well versed on making estimates that are based on anything but hopeful wishes. You need harder information and will have to go to someone else to help you get it. In short, you need to cultivate a friendship with someone in the accounting to help you out. These are things that they have received training on, but may never have had a chance to put that training into practice. Find someone who is excited about doing more than handling payroll and see if you can elicit their aid.

You don’t have time

Already faced with a 12-hour work day and travel two weekends a month, there is no way you can touch this project, however appealing it might be. In former times when there was a group of relatively new hires, such investigations could be passed on to one of the junior staff. Nowadays, there are few, if any, junior staff with many companies. Another possibility is to contract with one of the company’s retirees who might be eager to reconnect with those he once knew and work on a significant project. Another option is to hire a gig employee to come in, look at the concept and report on it. You could not expect as good a result as would come if someone intimately involved with the company did the work, but it might be serviceable, and your gig employee might even become a regular employee if you liked his work and you thought he had the capabilities of managing this project. Another possibility is to depend entirely on the company who made the product to make recommendations on how to fit it into your company and run it for you on a contract basis.  In such cases, they would be responsible for selling the product to  company management. This does happen, but at the costs of effectively bringing a partner into the company who controls a vital part company operations.

Business ideas are like children. You want to give them a fair chance to be seen, heard and perhaps even tried before they are rejected. Before you propose an idea, be prepared to help it grow into a prosperous adulthood.

I discuss starting your own business in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security” and cover selecting an appropriate idea for your business at whatever stage of life you are in and whatever your immediate needs might be. I also do business consulting, particularly for those wanting to launch something related to outdoor recreation and/or survival. For more information you may query using the contact form below.

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Overcoming Mental Blocks to Career Advancement


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You can overcome self-doubt and knowledge deficiencies to increase earnings by designing a job that fits your unique mix of talents and abilities.

All of us have a unique set of knowledge and experiences. In modern regimented business models it is common to attempt to place people into jobs that don’t suite them with the result that some workers are forced into jobs where they do not fit.  While specialized training is necessary to function in almost any part of today’s economy, the benefits may be relatively short-term, as one technology is replace by another within a few years.

The human animal is a complex being that was designed by evolution to respond to unpredictable life situations. Just as early man might have had to run, climb or swim to escape predators, today’s workers must be able, and willing, to change working methods, ideas and sometimes jobs to earn higher salaries. While human resources departments strive to foresee demands for different types of workers, often caught up in the minutia of payroll, health insurance and complying with State and Federal regulations with the result that HR departments do not take time to define how their work force needs to evolve.

This type of forward thinking is best done by workers who can have experienced both the advantages and shortcomings of the new system, product, production method or ad campaign and can conceive of ways to improve it. If a worker has a vision of some improved method and keeps it to himself, he is depriving himself of a potential advancement opportunity. Once the concept is fully developed, it becomes possible for the worker to design is own job and move up a higher-paying position, depending on the value of his concept.

Mental blocks to advancement

  1. The belief that a person can do only one set of things is a holdover from the Medieval Guild system that was transferred to Union Shops. Most corporate and work organizational structures reinforce this mental trap. This was not true at its inception and is not true now. People can learn more than one thing and, in fact, take on multiple professions at once. A physician may also be a novelist, a baker might be a week-end comedian or a physicists a graphic designer. The skill-set paring might be even closer linked with the designer also being a machinist who can not only conceive of his creation, but actually build it. The combination of designer-marketer is particularly powerful. Individuals have unique sets of skills that often express themselves in different directions. If a worker can take some unexpected combinations of skills and turn that into a job description, that worker can sometimes design his job. If he can sell this concept to his present company or another company, he has invented his own job that uses his particular skill set and vision. If his pitch fails, he can use this concept to start his own company
  2. It is not necessary that a worker immediately have all of the skills that his new job logically requires if they can be obtained through outside courses or work experience. Extra trainings and use of other people can help you overcome any feelings of inadequacy and shortfalls in knowledge. Another alternative is to add people to your team that fill knowledge and experience gaps. We are all differently gifted and afflicted. Just as if you were starting a new business, plan to gather people as and when you need them to complete your vision of what this new job is to be and how it will work.  In modern corporations mentorships and advocates are vital for selling any new position. The general premise is that if a company is going to advance, new concepts received from a broader demographic are vial for future success. In your case, you are presenting a new approach that has the advantage of being generated by someone already in the company that 1. Can be implemented faster, and 2. Can be started with less costs and disruption than bringing in outside talent.  These are powerful genetic arguments for supporting your new job, and that you are the person to fill that need.
  3. The psychological lingering, “I can’t do this,” running around in the back of your mind must be replaced with a definitive; “I CAN do this.” All of these “I can’ts,” are a result of being rejected many times in your life for reasons that are often unrelated to what you do at work. It is easy for an outsider to say, “Get rid of all this excess mental crap and move on.” The reality is that these issues can persist for decades. If they can be recognized for what they are and how they were derived, then they can be dealt with in a more realistic manner. Any therapist would advise to identify the issues so they can be recognized when they appear for the unnecessary distractions that they are, and move things in a more positive direction for accomplishing your goals.

Becoming confident that you have the tools, will and abilities to succeed in life and business by documenting your progress through trainings, certifications, taking on smaller tasks and accomplishing them and ultimately you will have the confidence that you need to design your own job and promote it to your company’s management or perhaps even start your own business. You can gain confidence by starting mini-businesses and making a success of them. You will have little personal risk, gain experience, increase your confidence and learn from each new venture. Even if some of them should fail, this is not an unusual event; but is another life experience to be learned from. Almost every business person will tell you that some of the most meaningful parts of their business education were learned from their failures.  To have a business that failed is part of the learning process.

These are a few points explored in more depth in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife” which is available on and other resources. I will also be giving a free two-hour lecture on March 15 in Augusta, Georgia, at Music Room B of the Salvation Army HQ at 1833 Broad Street.  Create Your Own Job  starts at 7:00 PM and ends at 9:00 PM.  Although the event is free, seating is limited. To receive announcements about this and other events send me an e-mail to  If you wish me to appear at your event, you may correspond with me at the same address or use the reply box below.


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Business Ed at the Movies

Business Ed

Award winning movies and TV shows featuring business themes have unknowingly educated millions who never had the opportunity to take business courses in college.

In most business text books each chapter will focus on one subject and provide case studies of how that subject material was used in real-world applications. This is an effective teaching method because it illustrates that the material being presented in the text has practical applications to every-day business experiences.

Individual entrepreneurship is a prized quality in the United States. So it should not be surprising that the real-life struggles of individual businessmen and women can be used as plots in documentaries about the “Robber Barons” of the 19th and 20th centuries or fictional works where some evildoer seeks to impose his will on an innocent population which is defended by the heroes in the movie. Such a theme was used in the silent films where some attractive actress lashed to the railroad tracks was rescued in the nick of time by a dashingly attractive cowboy, who in the later talkies might also be required to sing. John Wayne started out as a singing cowboy, but Gene Autry was more successful in making music a significant part of his career path.

Examinations of the struggles, successes, failures and comebacks of businesses and their owners combined with sometimes bazaar personal lives involving well-known figures of popular culture provides a ready-made plot that can often be punctuated with real-life events from the person’s past to make an exciting movie. Most commonly, male figures interacted with some of the most attractive women in the world which added to the movie’s general appeal. If not, a love interest could be added to the script.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) staring Jimmy Steward is the most often viewed business-related movie due to its acceptance as a Christmas classic that  is seen in millions of homes each year. In this movie a small-town banker manages to hold out when a lost deposit imperils the bank that he inherited from his father and threatens not only his economic future, but also his life. One would hope to have a banker that was that caring about his bank and customers, but such institutions have become more impersonal and greedy as they became large corporations. Wells Fargo is a historic bank has been cited on numerous occasions for actions that were not in the best interest of its customers. It was a greedy, grabbing institution when it was founded and has not significantly changed its character after more than a century, as indicated by recent court actions against the bank.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) starring Jeff Bridges is a biographical piece that traces the life of Preston Tucker who introduced a car after World War II that was so revolutionary that it threatened existing auto makers. Through pressures the established car companies brought on members of congress, a largely invented case was brought against Tucker to force him out of business before his cars had a chance to make an impact on the market. The Tucker cars were pre-sold, and the principle claim against the company was that sought to defraud the public by not fulfilling its lease agreement with the Federal Government. Many of the innovative features introduced with the Tucker were later incorporated in standard model cars make by Detroit automakers. Some 500 Tucker cars were made and are highly prized collectors’ items today. This was an unusual movie, because it depicts a business failure, rather than a success. It is a cautionary tale that warns, “If you are going to produce something new, allow enough time to perfect your design before you have to deliver the product.”

The Aviator (2004) with Leonardo DiCaprio explores some of the many facets of the life of Howard Hughes. Before World War II Hughes was fascinated with airplanes to the extent that he used money from his father’s successful oilfield supply company to build and race experimental aircraft. He was also a movie maker and after an initial flop made a very successful movie Hell’s Angels in 1930 featuring and filming World War I biplanes in battle sequences. This movie was made at the transition between silent and talking films, and after nearly completing a silent version of the movie; he remade it as a talking film. During World War II he was contracted to build a very large transport plane to take large numbers of troops to distant islands in the Pacific war. This enormous float plane, “The Spruce Goose,” used many wooden elements in its construction.  Again, claims were made that the Federal contract was not fulfilled and he, who at that time was suffering from serious psychological problems, had to defend himself at congressional hearings. He took the initiative and made one flight with the “Spruce Goose” and successfully landed the aircraft. It was taken apart, put into storage and never flew again. Few entrepreneurs have the money to self-finance their own projects. If you can, do not let other issues get in the way.  You will need to be watchful of changing markets and be prepared to adapt if necessary to defend your actions.  If you do anything worthwhile, there will be those who will oppose you. Hughes’ life is a cautionary tale for those who now head companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. Be prepared to face increasingly nasty hearings and court challenges to the core aspects of your businesses in regards to privacy issues concerning information gathering and sharing.

Sea Biscuit (2003), again with Jeff Bridges, has a multi-character plot line centered on Charles S. Howard’s founding a successful automobile business. He faces extreme stress during the depression including losing a child and getting divorced. He becomes the almost accidental owner of a horse, Sea Biscuit. Howard is quoted as describing the situation that the horse “was too small, hired a trainer who was too old, a jockey that was too big and being too stupid to know the difference.” In the movie both the horse and the jockey make a comeback after being injured. Sea Biscuit races and wins against a much larger horse. Although in many ways underdogs, the actors and the horse rise against a series of seemingly impossible obstacles and win. The message here is keep plugging away and you may accomplish your goals.  If you don’t try, you never will succeed.

The Big Short (2015  ) with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt features four diverse characters  who observed the events leading up to the collapse of Wall Street in 2008      and let their instincts that the real-estate market was unsustainable guide them to short mortgage-backed securities that were being traded by banks all over the world. These supposedly AAA rated securities were filled with loans to people who had little chance of meeting their financial obligations. As loan defaults accumulated to an unsustainable level, the market collapsed. Many people lost their jobs, once powerful Wall Street firms were liquidated, the Government was forced to buy stocks in major companies to keep them afloat and the real-estate market was depressed for a decade. The movie illustrates that markets can turn on a knife-edge. Investigate very carefully the wisdom of your investments, ride trends with disposable money and keep the bulk of your investments in not-so-risky segments of the market.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) features Leonardo DiCaprio as a young executive who arrives at Wall Street just in time for it to collapse. He takes a job with a firm selling penny stocks and makes an enormously successful enlargement of this business by teaching new selling methods to some unlikely employees. Ultimately the firm collapses, and he with many of his employees are tried for issuing false financial documents and other charges. He lives an exciting life fueled largely on illegal drugs and alcohol. A rich drug addict turns out to be about as worthless as a poor drug addict. His life, although successful from a monetary point of view, turns out not to count for very much.

The Men Who Built America (2012) was a History Channel four-part mini-series that ran for six hours. It featured the lives of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  In the case of everyone but Vanderbilt, who built his fortune on the fur industry, the ability to recognize, adapt and market changing technologies were keys to their successes. They tried to establish monopolies in their respective fields which sometimes succeeded. New innovations in materials, manufacturing methods and distribution were often used to build and expand their companies. In retrospect is would seem that everything that they did was obvious, but the obvious is not nearly so apparent when you are in the moment. Sam Walton is a modern example of a businessman who adapted a new distribution model combined with store-front marketing to become a dominant player in retail trade with his Walmart stores. Walmart’s dominance is now being threatened by Amazon with its on-line sales model. Materials, technologies and selling methods are continuously evolving. Those companies who can foresee and capitalize on these changing market forces will succeed. Those who will not or cannot will likely see their portions of the market steadily erode to the point where their businesses are no longer profitable.

Due to the desired length for Self-Growth articles these are all I can feature in one piece. There are other business-related movies for you to look for and find and study dealing with writing, the arts and other aspects of inventive thought.  If you want to see more articles on this theme, reply.

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