Flannery Correspondence

November 17, 2009

Brian Flannery, Six Months Later

It has been six months since I cast my cloak-and-dagger security clearance aside and risked the open waters.
I promised to keep in touch and do a special presentation at my former office on the dangers of the Unclassified World.
Until then, for the benefit of the good people I knew on the inside, here’s a summary of how it’s been.

Short version: I’m not rich yet.

Long version (indented details, bolded for skimming):
Christa and I spent the first two months fighting over territory.
She had the funny idea that the house was hers since I was never around much before.
So I threw all her craft supplies away. She put a computer out the window.
I threatened her Twilight books and she settled down.

My first gig was to grow a small bank service business with the promise of someday doing web programming for them.
Growing a small business means cold calling by telephone.
I never really got good at it but I learned buckets about the mysterious world of sales.

Meanwhile, Christa and I tried to spin up a small business we had been incubating for two years.
We settled on a cool name thanks to help from friends who took the internet-based poll (sorry if you didn’t get it).

Heirloom Impressions prints high quality photography onto uncommon artistic media like ceramic tile or hardboard.
We get the quality photos from Christa’s photography partnership, 2 Women & a Camera.
Technical glitches bogged us down halfway through our business plan: The huge printer keeps breaking; we need a more robust production process, free from single points of failure (SPOF!).

While we languished in the doldrums of hardware failure, word spread that we were trying crazy business ideas.
A friend gave us a hot tip on another business opportunity: A niche restaurant in a mountain town.
I know — I know — buying or starting a restaurant is one of the three classic blunders and a great way to go broke as fast as possible.

The only two exceptions where going into the food and beverage industry might be a good idea are (1) paying for an established franchise in a location already proven profitable or (2) capturing a niche market with a unique idea.
Either way the numbers have to work.

Like paper trading, if you can’t simulate a profit on paper or spreadsheets, you have no viable business.
Everything is negotiable.
Once you find out how wildly unprofitable your hot business tip is, you can figure out what it’s worth, if anything.
Then you make a low offer rather than mortgaging your kidneys.

That’s where we stand in the food and beverage industry: waiting to find out if they’ll take a 50% offer and a pair of kidneys.

When Brian departed Northrop, we had six months’ expenses in savings.
Six months later we still have half that amount despite unexpected and un-budgeted costs.
We are baffled at this math yet grateful.

We won’t push our luck, however.
Brian now returns to computer work, freelance, consulting, contracting and temporary work at first.
He still calls bank presidents during the “prime time” before and after the secretaries are screening salesmen.
If you know a bank president or would like to know some, call him during our “prime time” (nap time and bed time).

Meanwhile, Christa and her camera are densely scheduling the pre-holiday shoots and leaving a trail of delighted subjects.
The printing business will be a perk we offer through the photography business as soon as we are confident in our manufacturing and fulfillment processes.
She has officially made more money than I have, which is horrible.
She mostly bosses me around and I stay at home doing chores and keeping the children from climbing the curtains.

We have way too many kids but we love them and plan on having more someday.
We resolved most of the stay-at-home conflict just in time for Brian to head back out into less domestic working contexts.
Working from home is nearly impossible with small kids running around.
You get to the point where those cute babies you wanted to spend more time with become the pests that prevent you from providing for them.
Somehow we both find quiet times to hop on a computer and take care of business.

Most important to us is being there for our girls.
Before I resigned, I had spent more time in my office than with my family.
I had no idea who they were and often went home to the wrong house on accident and spent hours there before noticing.
We are grateful for these six months and the chance to be together for a change.

We wanted to teach our girls that “work” is not just when dad goes away for a long time and comes back late and cranky.
We wanted them to see it — to see work — to see it as hard but worthwhile — to see mom and dad working togetherand playing with them together.
We wanted our girls to know how money works, how things get done, and how to get paid for serving people, helping people and improving people’s lives.
We wanted to show them that business can be a learning game, a manageable risk, even fun sometimes — whether you fail or win or break even — not a terrible mystery to fear.

Jobs come and go.
So do careers.
But serving people well can become a fulfilling and lifelong quest.
(Agree? Disagree? Despise this psycho-babble?)

We have not found the golden goose but we have not yet starved.
Feel free to live vicariously through us and learn from our adventures and misadventures!
-Brian and Christa Flannery

PS. Stock market?

We’ve got a lump of loot sitting in an IRA, rolled over from the old 401k.
We just let it sit there and missed the most significant market correction and upswing of the last decade.
If anyone knows how the stock market works, please keep the hints coming.
I think it’s earning 0.1% interest just sitting there as cash awaiting some allocation to some lucky mutual fund or penny stock or Ponzi scheme.

All six of us

See how Zella is trying to escape

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