I started Port-to-Port Consulting in 1991 with one of my best friends, Bob Beaty. As we did the research and planning to launch this venture, we got lots of advice from well-meaning people. Most of the advice was crap! We were told things like, “You can set your own work hours.” Sure, as long as we wanted to work all the time. Or, “You get to choose who you want to work with.” Sure, as long as they wanted to work with us, and could afford to pay us. Speaking of pay, my favorite was, “You can set your own salary.” That is, as long as you don’t mind actually getting a paycheck!”
Over the years, a lot of things have changed. We do have more control over our work hours now. We’ve been far more selective about who we work for, and who we hire to work with us. We’ve even been successful at cashing a paycheck for a long time now. It took years to get to the point that we were allowed these privleges. Only by persevering through the times when we had no choice in these matters have we been able to reach this point. Now, I’m finding that some of the other tenets we held dear are suffering for success.
Two other things Bob and I heard a lot were: 1) “You can wear whatever you want to work;” and, 2) “Your friendship is strong enough to make this work.” As each piece of advice in turn proved to be crap, I started to cling to the ones that were left. The work hours was first to go, then the pay, then the people we work with. Yet I held strong to whatever was left. Yesterday I bought a tuxedo. This spells the end to another founding tenet. I modified the wear what you want tenet over the years so I could hold onto it. In its latest incarnation, it has devolved to, “I don’t wear a tie.” Even with the tuxedo I still hold onto it, but I realize I’m playing games of semantics at this point. You see, instead of getting a tie with my tux, I got one of those little button covers that looks like a man-broach. I know that owning a tux certainly kills the spirit of the wear-what-you-want, but I’ll hold onto it anyway.
And the other great tenet? Well, Bob left the business a long time ago, and he took our friendship with him. After all these years I still wish I had found a way for us to separate as business partners and remain friends. Even now, I consider Bob to be one of my dearest friends. If he called and asked for my help today, I would give it willingly and happily. I know that he won’t though, just like I know that owning a tux is a clear violation of the wear-what-you-want rule.
But hey, the other rules have come back into being! These rules, perhaps, just need to wait their turn.