Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Another Quora question got me reminiscing about my introduction to free enterprise after retiring from Navy life. It was the first, and only time, one of my boss’s appeared at my front door. It was an unexpected visit after I had abruptly resigned for reasons relating to his fraudulent business practices.
The Quora Question
The quora question was: “Has your boss ever shown up at your front door?” A simple, straightforward question of the type that leads to a lot of possible answers. In my case, this question brought back memories of my first job after Navy retirement.
For some background; I had completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing about one year before leaving the Navy. My first wife and I had purchased a home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for my retirement location. My grand plan was to build a second career in industrial sales/marketing while enjoying a relaxing southern lifestyle. But, settling into my new career proved to be pretty bumpy.
The Quora Answer
Yes, and it wasn’t a pleasant visit.
After I retired from the Navy in April 1996, I went out looking for a job in the world of free enterprise. I found my first job as the Sales and Marketing Manager for a small company working in the then-new world of Internet commerce. They built and placed Touch-Screen Kiosks around the county, and sold online advertising to local merchants targeted to the county’s burgeoning tourism industry. The company was also moving into building commercial websites. My role was to sell their services.
So I put on my sales shoes and hit the road. I started seeing things that greatly disturbed me. Things like, walking into a vendor and getting (almost physically) thrown out with “Your boss has a lot of nerve sending you here after the lawsuit I filed against him!” Or, discovering that the number of Touch-Screen Kiosks my boss claimed he had placed around the county (which was the basis for calculating advertising fees) was inflated. By a lot.
I also came to realize that the company had no sales for at least six months before I started. The new revenue I was bringing in represented all the revenue the company had seen in a long time. Meanwhile, my boss was paying three software developers to write Touch-Screen Kiosk ads and build websites for non-existent customers. In addition to paying for prime location office space and paying me (salary plus commission).
After nine weeks I was getting really suspicious of the company’s financial stability, and my boss’s credibility about anything. Then, on a day when my boss was out on business, in a rapid one-two-three I discovered that:
- One of our Touch-Screen Kiosks, located at the local airport arrivals area (a prime location for tourism advertising) had been confiscated by the airport managers and locked into a closet for non-payment of location fees. They demanded either past due fees or us removing the Kiosk.
- I took a call from a woman screaming that she had been waiting months for a check, and was tired of my boss’s excuses.
- My wife called me to announce my recent paycheck had been returned from the bank for insufficient funds.
I had enough. I went home, got the bounced check and a box, and returned to the office. I left the check, along with office key and a resignation letter, on my boss’s desk. I packed up my personal belongings and went back home, unemployed.
Two days later my former boss showed up at my front door. I politely invited him in and offered coffee. He handed me an envelope with cash, explaining it was for my last paycheck. He gave me a long, mournful monologue on how I completely misunderstood what I was seeing. He claimed a contract dispute over the airport kiosk, the lady who called was crazy and he had paid her weeks ago, and my check bounced because of a bank error. Then he left.
The office his company was working out of went empty one week later. Also too; my boss shorted me about twenty dollars in his cash payment and never paid the commissions I was promised.
This was my introduction to free enterprise after twenty-two years of military service.Quora Answer
The Fallout and Follow-up
This incident proved to have a major impact on my new life as a civilian. Upon starting my job-hunt, I quickly discovered that no one in the pre-9/11 civilian world cared about my military background. The fact that I had a range of military skills qualifying me for a wide variety of jobs didn’t matter, on basis that I’d never done the work as part of a “real job.”
Limited Job Market
My hard-earned Marketing degree (achieved through coursework at six colleges and universities over a period of twelve years) didn’t mean squat to anyone doing any hiring. In fact, my Marketing degree worked against me when trying to land a job in the technology sector, such as it existed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast of 1996, because it wasn’t a “technical degree.” My twenty-two years of Navy electronics work also meant squat to anyone doing hiring.
This was back in the days before online job sites were a thing. All my job hunting was via dead-tree newspaper ads, snail-mail letters, and fax. It took three months of effort to land this first job. Getting hired in the career field I wanted to be in meant a lot to me.
Working as Sales and Marketing Manager made me the public face of this company. I had sold advertising contracts to several prominent businesspeople during the nine weeks I worked there. My sales were one-year contracts, paid up-front as per the pricing structure my boss developed. Once the company disappeared my customers had nothing to show for their money. I felt tainted, and was too ashamed to ever face them again. This limited me in the potential sales/marketing jobs I could even apply for in the close-knit Gulf Coast business community.
Taking this job was also a lost-opportunity for other possibilities. About one week after I started working there I received a call from the county’s Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) office. This call was in response to traffic analyst position I had applied for prior to getting hired. MDOT was interested in “talking” to me. But I turned them down on account I already had a job. There were several other promising jobs I had applied for but did not follow-up on, until it was too late, on account of taking this first job.
What Might Have Been
My reality was that I wouldn’t find another permanent job for five months. That job was part-time (30 hours/week) with a government contractor working out of the Huntington-Ingalls Pascagoula shipyard, doing Information Technology (IT) and logistics work. I worked part-time for three months before the company got funding to make my job full-time. That job led into my present logistics career.
I’ve had a good second career. But I often wonder on the direction my post-Navy career would have gone had I not taken that first job.