As I get older I often spend time thinking about the way my life has gone. I started with many advantages; I was born in one of the richest countries in the world during the most interesting… or at least fastest moving… times in history. When I hear stories about the obstacles people from some other countries have to overcome just to make a living or feed their families I realize just how truly lucky I am.
I have also been fortunate enough to be able to travel to other places and meet people with different perspectives. So many people in the United States have never been out of the country, or if they have its to “safe” places like Canada, Europe or the touristy parts of Mexico.
During my travels I have often met people who didn’t have the same view of the US or its people that I do. Some see the US as a big bully that gets involved in too many other countries affairs. They think of Americans as lazy and wonder why, with so many advantages, Americans aren’t smarter, more world-wise or more driven and successful. At the same time, many would like to come here to live, or at least work.
I think people are generally the same throughout the industrialized world though. There are hard workers and lazy people everywhere, people with a larger worldview and those who are small-minded in every country. This country has become a microcosm of the rest of the world with more diversity than just about anywhere else. I feel really fortunate to be just where I am, that’s why I am a little reluctant to change many things…
I am pretty satisfied by and large with what I do. I teach PLC programming and other industrial classes about 15 times a year for about a week at a time. This allows me to visit a lot of places here in the US and meet a lot of people. In the past year I have been to the following places for work:
Raleigh, NC – Spartanburg, SC – Merrimack, NH – Cookeville, TN
Philadelphia, PA – Atlanta, GA – Miami, FL
Boston, MA – Ardmore, OK – Evansville, IN
Chicago, IL – Eldon, MO – Detroit, MI
Denver, CO – Warrenton, MO – Cleveland, TN
Some of these places I have been to several times as they are consulting and integration jobs. I feel like I have learned something at every place. Sometimes its technical stuff; in Miami, I work at a juice-making and bottling plant. I just returned from there last night and worked on a bottle-blowing machine (Siemens S7), a juice mixing process system (Allen-Bradley SLC with RSView and DeviceNet), and a rebuilt palletizer. In Evansville, it was a 15 machine system for American Axle that made gearing systems for automobiles. All Allen-Bradley ControlLogix and tied together with a big SCADA system.
Very cool stuff and I enjoy it a lot. I honestly don’t ever see myself retiring from this, though I am slowing down a little.
You see, I also like to travel. In addition to working I have also been to Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong this year. I am going to London and Amsterdam in October. Went to California, Oregon, Florida and South Carolina this year also. And then there was my mid-life crisis trip to Central America a couple of years ago…
As my business becomes more established I am getting more opportunities than I can handle. I don’t want to stop teaching for Automation Training, and that takes up probably thirty percent of my time. This job in Miami looks like it is going to be a pretty consistent thing for the next few years since they need a lot of help and don’t seem to be able to find other good resources, at least not in the area. At the same time I am starting to get more calls from other potential customers.
When I went back into business for myself I was determined not to hire people and make things more complicated. I am still not planning on getting back into machine building and all of the associated equipment, but I am re-evaluating taking on employees. There is an engineer in Florida that my wife worked with that could be an excellent resource. He lives only three hours from the plant in Miami and speaks Spanish, English and Japanese. He also does mechanical design and programming. The problem is, as with anything else, I would then have a responsibility to ensure that he always has something to do, even if the Miami plant didn’t need him that week. This requires additional sales efforts. Taking on employees is a big responsibility that I remember well from my old company. Things also tend to snowball at that point; more sales requires more employees which requires more sales, before you know it I am back to managing people which is NOT what I want to do.
I would love to continue teaching and consulting while at the same time getting the opportunity to visit manufacturing facilities and help them with their problems. I don’t enjoy long-term projects where I have to be at the same place for months, but that is a big part of what I do. It seems like there might be a way to grow my company while continuing to do what I am doing, but of course that would mean getting back into the whole “responsibility” thing again.
Anyone have any thoughts on the subject? I am also looking for others that may be in the same kind of situation, business owners, consultants or entrepreneurs that are interested in discussing opportunities.