Are Startups the Anti-Drake? Why I chose to go from 100(k) to 0, real quick!

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Chris Snoyer, who is a member of Founder’s Only and occasionally guest posts here.

TL;DR - Startups take time, you’ll start from the bottom and be there longer than you might think, but it will all be worth it (even if you don’t make any money).

I just finished an application to enter our startup, Spiffy, in a pitch contest with a prize of $100,000, and I had a funny thought…

If you look at my LinkedIn profile, you’ll see that I cut my teeth as a sales professional at a company called TELUS, which is also the place I learned that I could have quite a comfortable life as a sales guy (and I have some of you to thank for that).

Some stars aligned for me to get that job out of school, and I was fortunate to join TELUS at an amazing time, and on a crazy-good team! I learned a TON from the rockstars around me, and we propelled each other to become one of the best teams in the country! As a result, we all earned some pretty good coin. Not Ferrari money, but enough that my mom told me to “F off” when I showed her one of my juicier commission cheques (with a smile on her face, of course!).

TELUS also happens to be the company putting on this pitch contest, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that I’ve put myself in a position (by choice?!) where I’m now a long shot to WIN $100,000 from my old employer, who would have happily paid me that amount of money every year to be a member of their team.

It was a great company to work for, and I still regularly suggest that people seek employment there, so why am I not fighting them for one of those open roles? How am I so OK with the decision to take my earnings from 100 to 0, real quick? As you might expect, it wasn’t such an easy decision at the time…

“You’ve got ONE year, Chris, ONE!” - me, to myself

This sounds like my parents scolding me, threatening to kick me out of a rent-free basement apartment at casa di mama, but this was a personal goalpost I had set. When I traded in a six-figure sales gig for one with a few less zeros (a grand total of one zero, to be exact), I told myself that if I couldn’t sort it out in a year, I’d go back to a corporate sales gig. As I negotiated with myself, I thought this seemed fair.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cover of Forbes just yet… Fortunately, I broke my own promise. I don’t think I was more 3 months into the journey before I told myself I was never going back. Why?

  • I’ve developed a far more diverse skillset on this journey than I ever could have in a comfortable job, with a largely singular focus. The skills and increased confidence I’ve gain have been well worth the time invested.
  • I have a strange appreciation for my new tax bracket. I have no doubt that the financial stress I’ve “welcomed” will pay dividends in the future. Being forced to optimize professional and personal output on a shoestring budget has taught me a lot about the inefficiencies in my life.
  • I am far more self-aware, and I love it! When you have to wear 98 hats to move a business forward, you really gain an appreciation for what you like/don’t like doing, and where your strengths lie. With a socially-acceptable two-year stint at each career-type job you take, that kind of self-discovery could take decades!

Looking back at my one year timeline, I can only laugh…

I read about too many “overnight successes” and fell into the trap, but I guess I am thankful I was so naive. Taking the leap would have been so much more difficult if I had known my earnings would have started at the bottom, and still been here…

You can’t pay rent in hopes and dreams (I tried), so I’m not suggesting we all quit our jobs tomorrow, but I will implore you to spend more time out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself in new ways (socially, financially, professionally).

Self-awareness can be, and personal development absolutely should be a lifelong journey, but I like to think I’ve accelerated that curve in a big way! I think if more people focused on learning, rather than earning, they’d be pleasantly surprised with the results (socially, professionally, AND financially…)



Written by Chris.