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The Story Continues
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Telling your wife that you want to quit your job and strike off into the great unknown is never going to be an easy conversation.

Me: “I want to quit my job.”

Wife with a smile: “Of course you do. Everyone wants to quit their job.”

Me: “No I really want to quit.”

Wife, smile quickly fading to terror: “And do what?”

Me: “Start my own company.”

There was a pause here as I recall. Conflicting emotions played across my wife’s face. I think on the one hand she was glad I wasn’t running off to join a Buddhist monastery. On the other hand…

Wife: “Doing WHAT?”

Me: “Making detergents, industrial soap, truck wash, car wash, grill and oven cleaner, degreasers. You know, the same stuff I’ve been doing for years.”

This was the beginning of a long dialogue that took place over several weeks, but the end was never really in doubt. I have been called obstinate, pig-headed, and opinionated—by my wife. I prefer determined, focused, and clear-eyed. It just sounds better.

The dialogue was not without benefit. There were a lot of things to consider, and the process of talking this out forced me to grapple head-on with a lot of issues. What were we going to do about health insurance? How long could we live on zero income? What exactly happens if we go bankrupt?

Then there was this strange question that I had trouble articulating for a while: What would happen if I didn’t do this? What does the rest of my life look like if I just stay where I am, keeping it safe and secure, and one day retire from good old Delta Foremost?

It was time to have another talk.

Me: “Okay, quitting my job is going to put the family through some difficulties. I realize that I’m asking all of us to make some sacrifices. We may go bankrupt and lose the house. I may have to start all over with a new job. We may even have to move in order to find work. All of this is possible, but I think we can pull together, and even if the worst happens we will basically be okay. We’ll still be a family, and we’ll survive. But here’s the thing, if I don’t do this; if I find myself on the front porch at the age of 65 staring out at the street and wondering what I might have accomplished if I’d only had the guts to give it a try—if I find myself in that place, I don’t think I can handle it.”

Wife, looking me in the eye and then off into the distance, “Right.”

Translation: “I still don’t like it, but I get it.”

There was one really big problem left: What about my NON-COMPETE AGREEMENT?

This was not a small issue. I couldn’t simply start doing what I had been doing without being sued into oblivion. At least two attorneys assured me of this. So I had to do something different for a year. Thus began the story of CTA Products Group; a company I formed with a friend of mine to sell products to the Log Home market. We actually had some astounding successes. I managed, against all odds, to get what is called a “me too” registration from the EPA which allowed us to sell a registered pesticide. I formulated a coating for cedar roofing which quickly gained a bit of market share.  I developed and patented a product using essential plant oils to impart an insect repellant property to paint. Things were kind of rolling along, but there was a painful lesson ahead.

Never, ever, go into business with someone who is more ruthless than you are. Since pretty much everyone is more ruthless than I am, this did not end particularly well for me.

Harrumph again! I sold out and lost control of the patent. (Just a note here. They are still in business and doing well as far as I can tell.)

On the upside my year of non-compete was over. On the downside I had already gone more than year with almost non-existent income. I took the money from the sale of CTA and paid off as much debt as I could. The very next month I paid my house note with a credit card. It would be almost two years before I could once again pay that note out of my bank account.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time for the continuing saga and relax! There is light at the end of this tunnel. It was a long time before I could see it.


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