Yesterday was my 2nd anniversary of being a permanent employee of a company in which I held many responsibilities. I was first working as a general laborer, someone who would go out to the job sites that the company was servicing as a general contractor and property maintenance company when it was discovered that I had far more technical experience than I did labor experience ( no shock there, I’m sure ) and so they asked if I could perhaps build a database for them that could make their estimating easier. There should be no surprise that I was in fact happy to do this for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that it meant I was not going to be required to do the physical labor that I had taken to largely out of desperation during a recession that hit my field of expertise pretty hard. The second reason being that I am exceptionally fond of numbers, and seeing them work does in fact give me a sense of pride and joy that I’m not sure anyone outside of a pure mathematics field [generalized] might understand.
Happy to have the opportunity, I said yes, and asked a few basic questions about what it was they needed, what the goal of the data collection was, how they would like it represented, if it should scale, and so on. It was not the first time I have done something like this either professionally or personally, and I had a fair understanding of what it was the owner of the company was after once I asked my questions so it would be just a matter of time. The short version, I compiled a list of all materials and tools that the company might require as well as their prices at a major hardware retailer over the course of a few days, and the higher ups were so impressed that they determined my talents were better used in the office as assistance to the administrative staff. I was quickly trained on how estimation worked so that I could assist with invoicing; taking the costs of what was actually used on the job in combination with the labor rates and various other expenses to determine the total job cost and by extrapolation how much we should be charging the customers for the work completed. Each work order was a little different, every job and customer had it’s quirks, and soon enough there was a position carved out for my talents.
As the company grew and new opportunities developed, my role changed. My familiarity with coding lead to my building their website by hand. I used a few tools that were not ideal, but they were free so that’s what I had access to, and it meant a lot of clean up work to get it published, but I did so. I’ve heard that it has gotten some compliments from various customers, so that’s nice, though I never took any direct professional credit for it because I happily did so as an employee of the company. Soon a new role opened up as we took on a completely different aspect of business, and I found myself being the only person who had the time as well as the proficiency to manage the expenses and payments for a multitude of property associations. While I was not responsible for their management, I handled the budget for a total of seventeen different communities throughout the span of ten months. Having been thrown into the deep end, I did all I could to learn the industry as fast as possible to ensure that no one whose units we were responsible for managing was unduly charged or neglected, and while the work was overwhelming at times ( there were a multitude of 60 hour work weeks, sometimes fourteen hour days even ), I enjoyed seeing the numbers work and count out as they should.
Over time it was deemed that the investment in that industry was too cumbersome for the company and while we sold off that aspect of the business I had proven myself capable at the bookkeeping required, and my new responsibilities would include doing the same for the primary company I was employed by. I resumed the mathematical aspects of our work orders, helped determine pricing points, and even created a rough budget for the entire company that was to help track our expected costs for the year with the goal of pushing towards a 2.7 million dollar sales year. I was proud of the job that I did. I was analytical, and did everything I could to equate every cent. The company hit a low point, but even through all of that I did everything I could to determine how the company could remain profitable. Of course all through this I assisted with reports, played the role of the “guy who knows computer stuff”, and wore many hats. Of course there were things I would have done differently through it all, but I am under no illusions that the same cannot be said for every job.
However, as the time went on, I noticed that the numbers– while they did add up –were not what they could be, and I did try to bring this to people’s attention. It was often brushed off with the explanation of how the customers just would not go for changes of that manner, or that I had a misunderstanding of the finer points of accounting, or that it was not as significant as a concern as I was expressing.
It is because of those things that I was so internally frustrated and frankly hurt when today I was called in to the owner’s office. At first I thought it was for my yearly review, and that we would be discussing my performance over the past year. I had a list of things that I had either suggested as responsibilities or changes to implement in how we processed information, but before I could open my mouth to discuss the future of the company and my role within it, the company’s owner told me that as the tax year had begun, he had some very long and hard talks with his accountants, and he was told that he would have to make some hard choices. Unfortunately, the first of those was that I was going to have to be let go.
I sat there in stunned silence, my mind blank for a moment as he explained that I would be getting paid for the week, as well as my earned paid time off, and two weeks severance pay. When he finished, I admitted that this was not the conversation I had expected, and mentioned that I thought it would be my yearly review, as my anniversary with the company was yesterday.
He hadn’t been aware of that.
He asked me for a list of passwords, accounts, all of the things that I had access to, as well as the keys, and any credit cards I had ( of which I had none; despite being responsible for the payables and receivables, one was never issued to me directly ). I spent an hour packing up my desk, all the while questioning whether the suggestions I had made that were brushed aside could have prevented this outcome. Was I overzealous? Was I just flat out wrong? Was this inevitable? Worse, was I right, and had my warnings been considered would I still have my job? In the end, I knew I would never get the answer to the question, and fighting through the adrenaline that was running through me at a rampant pace, I finished packing up all of my belongings ( it took three filing boxes and my bag ). During the time I was packing up my desk, it became obvious what had happened, and people were stunned. While our office is small, they treated me as an integral part of it, and no one else had been made aware this was about to happen, including my direct supervisor, or the account managers with whom I worked closely on many projects. So I carried my things out to my car and said my goodbyes to the rest of the office staff still there. I returned to the owner’s office, gave him the information requested, and then turned in my keys.
I do not know what the final outcome will be for the rest of the company, either the estimators, field technicians, or new account managers that had been hired so recently, but I hope things go well for them. I made friends there. Good ones. Friends that even though I do not see eye to eye with on every subject, I respect and appreciate for their capabilities and talents. As I move on to a new chapter in my life, I will be honest and say that I have no idea what comes next. This was very much out of the blue, and while the last few years have been full of turmoil, I felt like working with this company provided me with certain benefits that were very dear to me. I do not know if I will ever find all those benefits at another company, and to be frank I do not know that the role I have filled for the last two years is one that another company will have such a specifically relevant gap for me to fill.
The list of skills I acquired in the last two years– in combination with the personal growth I have attained –will hopefully serve me well, but seeing as I am still reeling from the sensation of having left the boat mid-sail, I think the only thing to do is start swimming. I just have to pick a direction and hope that land is near by.
But I sure wish I hadn’t gone in early today.