How I Launched My Business from a Jobless Community

In 1999, I lost my job. More accurately, I had a great job ripped out from under me because of incompetent, stupid management…but I digress.

As a corporate IT professional who had learned Internet development when the Internet was only getting started, I had some very in demand skills. It didn’t feel that way. I felt unappreciated, cheated and depressed.

That’s when I found a non-profit group called Back on Track. It was a support community for the jobless.  It provided job search resources and coaching to people looking for work. I owe so much to that group. It made that difficult journey in my life just a bit more bearable.

Fast forward to 2004, and I hit another unemployment speed bump. It happened just as my oldest started college, my expenses at home were the highest pushing my stress levels through the roof. I reconnected with Back on Track, got back to work and got involved. I served as a Back on Track coach working with people on their resumes and interviewing skills. I put myself through a coaching certification program. I led the effort to launch a Back on Track chapter at a new location. I was asked to serve as a board member.

Back on Track consisted of once-a-week meetings with a speaker, typically a coach, recruiter or someone in a hiring position, providing guidance, encouragement or support to the people in attendance.  The program provided some great resources and information but was limited to people who could attend these weekly meetings in person. We only operated in Miami, FL.

Given my Internet savvy, I got an idea, “Couldn’t we make these resources available online?” This is way before Zoom so running meetings online wasn’t an option, but could we make these available on the Internet so any job hunter could use them? I petitioned the board to get behind an effort to build an online Back on Track Resource Library, but there was no interest. The board chair was worried about oversite and control. The board raised other issues I knew we could overcome, but my idea got squashed.

Not being one to shy away from challenge, I started a one-man effort to build a prototype I could demonstrate to them. They did allow me to present what I cam up with to the board, but there wasn’t much interest.

So what did I do? I launched the resource library on my own as Career Jockey. The byline was, “Ride Your Career Hard So It Doesn’t Ride You.” I drew from my years working in Back on Track and tapped into the resources of many of our presenters. The presenters were eager to share what they had and were interested in getting that to a wider audience. I started blogging, doing book reviews, covering topics job hunters needed and providing inspirational articles. I even recruiting other writers to guest post.

It became a resource that I made available, free of charge, to people looking for work.

What happened next was that several Back on Track presenters came to me asking me to build their websites. Without doing any overt marketing or selling, I stumbled into a business.

Another big takeaway from my Back on Track involvement came from a presentation I gave several times to help people identify transferable job skills. I used an exercise from a classic job hunt book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles. The presentations required that I put myself through the exercise so I could illustrate the process. I discovered a few things.

I earned a Masters in Computer Science. My thinking at the time was that my strongest skills were my technical skills. I under played my people skills. The exercise helped me see how strong my interpersonal one-to-one and my presentations skills were. It helped me see that I had big potential in sales and negotiations that I knew would help me if I launched my own business.

Over the next few years, I kept building websites and online marketing solutions for small business owners to supplement my income. I developed my people skills further and even put myself through some formal sales training. That led me right into incorporating Larry Jacob, Inc. February 2011 and going full time with the business December 2013.

I’ve been on my own for eight years. It hasn’t been an easy right. There’s been a lot of learning in every part of my life, but the business is doing well. The Back On Track community was priceless in getting me started. It got me the support I needed when I was out of work and got me started in the direction that led to my launching my business.

I am so grateful and it only confirms the power of community to enable us to do things we may not have been able to do otherwise.

Share with me the communities in your life that have led you to better and better things in your life.