Personal Stories of America at Work

One Page Business Plan Author on How to Reinvent Yourself after a Lay-off

Jim Horan is a former Fortune 500 CFO who invented The One Page Business Plan and reinvented himself as successful entrepreneur. The One Page Business Plan is called “an out and out winner” by Tom Peters, author of Thriving on Chaos and co-author of In Search of Excellence. His book is recommended by Oprah Magazine.

The Working Chronicles: What has been your career journey?

"I think we’re all capable of doing a lot more than what we have done."

Jim Horan: I was fired from my job as a CFO on April 1, 1990. April Fool’s Day. It turned out that the joke was on me—I was unemployed for two years and then underemployed for the next three to five years as I explored entrepreneurship. But it ended up being absolutely the best thing that could have happened. I discovered a whole series of talents I had no idea I had. I think we’re all capable of doing a lot more than what we have done.
While looking for a job, I found myself becoming a consultant. I began to work with small businesses and discovered that business plans are not understood by damn near anybody.

Out of that came the idea of The One Page Business Plan. My entrepreneurial support group said, “Jim, you need to do public speaking.” I said, “No way. I don’t do public speaking.” They told me to get over it and just go do it. By the time I had spoken to the fifth or sixth group, audiences were asking for a book. At first I thought to myself, “I can’t possibly write a book! I got C’s and D’s in English. I’m a numbers guy.” Ultimately, with help from a professional writer, I self-published my first book.

So I became an author and a publisher. In a similar, almost accidental way, I became a software developer, and then a licensor and distributor. In the last eleven years, I have recruited, trained, licensed, and certified a network of over 500 consultants. I have become a public speaker who can make a five-figure fee for a talk.

I accidently became all these roles: public speaker, author, publisher, and licensor for this intellectual property called The One Page Business Plan. It has now become a global cottage industry. Ninety percent of the consultants in my network are in the US, with the others in Europe, Australia, and Africa.

I couldn’t see any of those roles coming, which makes me wonder, “What is coming next that I can’t see?”

Part of my message to people in career transition is that there are other things you can do. You have had a job for fifteen to thirty years. It’s gone now. Get over it.

TWC: How did you make the mental shift from “corporate guy” to “entrepreneur”?

JH: It’s hard as hell! For me, at age thirty-eight, my position was eliminated. I lost my title, my salary, car, bonus, office, and company stock. When all that disappeared, I wondered, “Who am I?” Getting over the loss of identity, the structure, the compensation, and all the psychological issues around that is very significant.

TWC: So your plan was to continue down the corporate finance path, and you spent two years looking for a position?

JH: Yes, and I had an outplacement company’s services, which cost my company a lot of money in those days. But I failed—I didn’t find a job.
I began to feel ok about myself when I started to meet real-life entrepreneurs whom I could help. Many were people who had never had a corporate job. I saw how smart and how human they were. I observed the lack of ego, and how they’re continuously looking for help to do the things they don’t know how to do. I began to realize that with my skills in planning, budgeting, and forecasting, I could help them.

People began to write me checks. They were small checks (I started around $100/hour), and someone might only buy two to three hours, but in that amount of time, I could go in and make a difference.

TWC: What were your career aspirations coming out of college?

JH: I was interested in business. Somehow I discovered accounting. I wanted to work for a big company for the security. I started in a rotational program in a pharmaceutical company—it seemed like a good way to get experience in a number of different areas.

TWC: Were your parents entrepreneurial?

JH: No, absolutely not. The antithesis. My dad was in the Air Force for twenty years. When he retired, he joined the Navy and did civil service for another twenty years.

Next week’s post will reveal Jim’s 5 Myths of Entrepreneurship…..

Jeff Rosenthal and Molly Rosen | May 17, 2011 | Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Job Search, Publishing, Small business, Unemployment | 0



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