Gears Turn and Careers Change….But It’s All Good For True Professionals

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Every day I struggle with various choices that are thrown into my path. As do we all. Should I make this deal or that? Do I write about this today? Should I start speaking and traveling again? What is the next step in our brands evolution? Some answers come easy while others seem to be just out of reach.

What I have learned over the years is that 1) I am extremely fortunate to have options and 2) options mean choices….. Which lets a professional design their own path to success. And the simplest decision, the one choice that rears it’s head first, it often the one that is better for me in the long run. Hence, the very reason The Simplistic Professional was to born to begin with. Once you have the education and have gained some experience in life, it becomes so much easier to decide which choice is the one best suited for your career.

Did you know that the average professional will most likely have 3 different careers in their life time?

The fact that having differing careers through out one’s lifetime is now common place, does not mean that a person is bad at what they do. It usually indicates that a professional is not happy with what they are currently doing. I have always counseled clients about the need to love what you do. While it may make someone else happy for you to be a lawyer, doctor or business owner, you should ask yourself if that is what will make YOU happy.

When I was 20 years old I co-founded my first company Arzon-Harris with, my then partner now husband, Danny. The business model was based on the idea to incorporate what we both knew best at the time. For Danny it was the fact that he was an electrical wiz when it came to fixing large office machines and had contacts all over NYC. For me it was that I knew everything there was to know about office products and managing a team of sales people. So why should I continue to work as a manager for Staples (this was when they only had a hand full of stores) and he, as head technician for a company that serviced copiers and other business machines for large NYC companies and the Board of Education, shouldn’t be making a profit for someone else that didn’t appreciate him.

So for the next 8 years we started, grew and managed a brand that made us quite a bit of money and showed me that being my own boss was the right path for staying happy. But like most businesses, we reached the point where outside help would be needed in order for us to reach that next level. While I had earned a degree in marketing in college, there were still areas of business that I was not an expert in. Finance, Insurance and Real Estate were my weakest points. The basics that I did know had been more than enough up until that point.

So Danny and I sat down and had a very serious conversation about how to proceed with the business. Luckily we had a few choices that could be made.

  1. We could stay where we were and simply maintain the business as it was.
  2. We could take out a loan and leverage our assets for collateral in order to hire a few upper Management Personnel.
  3. We could sell the company, which would mean relinquishing the name.
  4. We could sell off the assets and service contracts, but keep control of the brand and name of the company.

After talking and weighing our options for many hours, we came to the conclusion that we would be best served, professionally at least, to sell the assets and service contracts.  And by keeping control of the brand we gave ourselves the option of revitalizing it in the future, should we so choose.  As I mentioned earlier, I had learned to love being my own boss and the flexibility and control it gave me.  But realistically I needed to learn from this experience in order to truly create a brand that had strength and scope beyond what we were currently capable of doing.

So I developed a 10 year plan that entailed me going back to work for someone else.  Let’s face it, I really did need to become an expert in every aspect of running a business.  Before I go any further, let me say this.  While I was extremely happy with the choice I had made in college to pursue a degree in Marketing, this was the first time I felt that specializing was not the best of ideas and I should have gone for a General Business degree.   No sense beating myself up about it.  I did not even consider going back to college for another degree, simply because I had already witnessed how different it was on the marketing side of business versus what I had learned in college.

By no means am I indicating that real world experience is more valuable than a college degree.  The basic principals have proven to be invaluable time and time again throughout my career.

I apologize for being so long winded today and I promise to wrap things up here and get to the point.  I simply want you to have a clear picture of what it has meant to me to have choices presented to me and why I say that switching gears and changing careers is a good thing for TRUE PROFESSIONALS!

Back to the article.  Knowing that I MUST become an expert in Finance, Real Estate and Insurance in order to fulfill my dream of building an International Brand, I got to work setting up interviews with the top brokerage houses in New York City.  I have always been excellent at interviews and my previous sales and marketing background served me well and I landed a position at Prime Charter in Manhattan.  Not the most prestigious brokerage but I had actually been cautioned against them as a potential employer.  They had a reputation in the industry that was straight out of a movie.  Boiler Room to be exact.  Instead of scaring me away, I knew it was the type of environment I needed to get me where I was going the quickest.  And it did.  They worked me to death and I passed my Series 7 and 64 exams with in 7 weeks!  Unheard of for anyone to take it sooner than 6 months and the Series 7 has a 50% fail rate first time around.

Did you know that of all the professional licensing exams in the United States…… the Bar Exam, Medical Boards, Real Estate Sales / Broker’s, Insurance Brokerage, Finance….. The Series 7 Exam for Stock Brokers is the third most difficult to pass?

Many professions require state exams.  This is because they are highly regulated by the 50 States and the Federal Government.

Soon after I left that hell hole and went to work for a reputable firm, TD Bank’s Investment arm, TD Waterhouse.  There I spent the next 5 years honing my craft and became a Mutual Firm Expert and Financial Consultant with no client of mine having a net worth of less than $5,000,000.

One area of expertise down and two more to go.  I moved on to Insurance and this time I spent a lot less time in the field.  I did get licensed to sell  multiple lines of insurance that required my sitting for about a another half dozen major exams…….Health, Life, Auto, Homeowner’s, Business (Property)and surplus lines (insuring collectibles and antiques). From there I moved on to complete my 10 year plan by taking a position with DeRuggiero Realty in Hoboken as the office manager for their two residential offices.  While working full-time managing the day to day operations and marketing needs of 40+ REALTORS, I studied my ass off and attended classes at St. Peter’s University (many states require a classroom setting at a local University or College in order to obtain a Real Estate Sales / Broker’s License.)  The week after I completed the classes I sat for and passed my Real Estate Sales License Exam in the State of NJ.

Finally I had gained the expertise Danny and I felt was needed for us to build a substantial, International Brand.  Many of you may think it was absurd to go about accomplishing my goals in such a lengthy manner.  But it was the right choice for me  personally and that led to many more choices that I was forced to make during my professional career.  Point being, as the little gears in our heads turn while we contemplate this or that, each cog presents a a different path on this road map we call our careers.  No matter what is decided in the moment, each decision changes our goals in life.  So don’t ever regret what has been or question if you made the correct decision.  Life is too short for that.

Every professional’s core goal in life should be to work at doing what they love.  Granted, priorities and aspirations tend to change as we grow older in years, knowledge and experience, yet our dedication to being TRUE PROFESSIONALS does not.  Let your choices lead your life and societal expectations.  We are the one’s having to actually live the life we create for ourselves, not our family, friends or peers.

By Michael Harris – Arzon, The Simplistic Professional

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