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Turning a layoff into an opportunity

by Ana Lopez
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Valter Klug, founder of Samba Rock, an advertising and e-com agency. 25 years of experience working with global brands. Let’s connect on LinkedIn.

Many people say that Easter is about new life, a time of major life changes. That happened to me in 2015. I worked for an advertising group, for the agency’s top client. All employees working on that account were invited to a meeting. We were told that our client was consolidating their business with a single agency group, and they decided to go with one of our competitors. They gave us 30 days notice. The agency’s CEO told us that if we had another job, we should grab it right away.

We all went home early that day. The first thing I did was open my laptop, go online and start my business. I had the idea of ​​starting a boutique marketing agency, but I never had the courage to take the plunge. I had a great job, was paid quite well, was the sole breadwinner for me and my wife, and we had a good lifestyle. I was always afraid to risk everything for something so uncertain.

But now life decided to give me “a push” and I had 30 days to get it done while still employed or try to find another job. As we get older and move up the hierarchy, it can get harder to find a good job. So I decided it was my make or break time and went all in. That month I worked really hard, tapped into all my connections, friendships and contacts and was able to close two monthly retainers that would at least pay us bills.

Easter came and the next day my life changed. I was fired for the first time, together with my colleagues. It was bittersweet – I was ready to do my own thing, but hated that it wasn’t my own decision to leave. However, it was also the best thing that could happen to my career.

Even when it’s hard, just the fact that I’m in control of the outcome and know that I’m only dependent on myself (and of course my own team, which I get to choose and who are ultimately my responsibility) is worth a lot. less stressful than the kind of stress I had to deal with when I worked in a company.

So that moment when I was first fired, as horrible as it may sound, was actually a turning point in my career. Life gave me lemons and I knew exactly what to do with them.

What really helped me?

1. Have a plan.

I had the idea long before the layoff and never had the courage to implement it. Once I needed it, I had a business plan ready and a chance to bring it to life. Always be prepared.

I suggest keeping your ideas in writing, a simplified version of a business plan. There’s no need to get into too much detail as you’ll learn a lot once you start running it – and if you plan too much into detail it’ll probably all change in a matter of seconds. You will discover that some of your assumptions were wrong once you get your hands dirty.

But the skeleton of the idea, the DNA of what you have in mind to achieve, should not change. Entrepreneurship is the best MBA you will ever take.

2. Act fast.

I opened my business the day I heard about the problem. I didn’t wait for the layoffs to happen. I didn’t take a sabbatical to rethink my life. I just had a plan and quickly took action.

But acting quickly does not equate to being careless. That’s why you need a strong basic plan so that when the opportunity arises, you’re ready to take action. Have you ever had a conversation where you said something and a few seconds later you thought about it and said, “Oh no, I should have said this instead of!”?

Sometimes the opportunity closes very quickly, so the more prepared you are, the better equipped you are to make the right decision at the right time.

3. Make sure you have good connections.

My friends, colleagues and connections all helped me find the clients I needed when I was prospecting, especially during that first month, but also over the last 8 years. These are friendships I’ve built all my life, so I suggest always making friends no matter where you are.

You can’t wait until you need connections to make them. Do it now. Looking back, I wish I was more “more social” during my early career; I believe I could have cultivated even more connections. But that’s a never-ending process, and even as you grow your business, showcase the quality of your work, meet new clients, and hire new people, your contacts keep growing.

4. Embrace the learning curve.

I realized that I still had a lot to learn to manage my own business, from finance to administration and HR. Instead of avoiding these challenges, I embraced the learning process and acquired new skills, which ultimately contributed to my success as an entrepreneur.

Learning a new skill can be stressful. And sometimes we don’t have what it takes to do some of the work, so learning early on what and when to delegate is very important. Your time is precious and limited, so focus on the things you enjoy doing and what you are good at. For example, if you hate math, hire someone to do your books.

5. Think positive.

Many people feel desperate in situations like this. Take a deep breath, take a bird’s eye view of the current situation and take a positive attitude towards the problem.

By following these steps, I managed to turn a potentially devastating life event into new beginnings and a fulfilling career. Remember, when life gives you lemons, it’s up to you to make the lemonade.

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