January 28, 2022

Archives for November 2021

Confessions of a Corporate Expatriate

Ten years ago today, I walked away from an executive-level job at a Fortune 500 company. I left a good salary, bonuses, a terrific benefits package, stock options, 401(k) benefits with employer match, etc.

I walked away after 34 years in the corporate world. I made a leap of faith, took a deep breath and launched my own boutique consulting company, Quinley Risk Associates LLC, doing litigation support work as a consultant and expert witness.

To say it was scary is an understatement. I left the amniotic warmth of a corporate parent who had always taken care of me. I paddled toward a new shore, landed and set fire my boat afire. It was an inflection point in my life and career.

No turning back. No more letting a corporation determine my monetary worth. No more letting an organization set boundaries on how I could fully use my capabilities. Me and Corporate America?

As Taylor Swift sang, “We are never, EVER getting back together!”

I’d done expert witness work on a “moonlighting” basis since 2004, but had to decline most opportunities. I had a demanding C-suite day job, a parallel career as a business writer, was raising a family and had only so much bandwidth and time available area.

I had no family history of entrepreneurship. My father was a Navy officer. My brother was career Air Force, then retired and went to work for the FBI. Nobody went into business and nobody started their own business.

When I said “Sayonara!” to reorganizations, office politics, quarterly budgets, Board (Bored) meetings, Home Office pronouncements and bosses who gave no feedback and then unloaded nuggets of “needs for improvement” at an annual performance evaluation. When I closed the corporate door, I had two expert witness engagements which were winding down. Within three weeks of launching Quinley Risk Associates in November 2011, I got a new engagement, involving alleged mismanagement of a workers compensation claim program by a large third-party claims administrator (TPA).

Since then, the decision to start my own company has borne fruit. For years, my wife, Jane, had urged me to set sail as a full-time consultant. I resisted, reluctant to leave the corporate womb. She had faith when I doubted myself. Despite the risk, she believed this vocational risk would pay off, despite no “regular” paycheck.

As usual, she was right.

I’m grateful to say that it has worked out. Today, please indulge me as I celebrate — and appreciate — a ten-year milestone.

As Thanksgiving recedes, I give thanks. I thank the attorneys and clients who give me an opportunity to “live the dream.” I get to work with terrifically smart people on complex cases and to blend my love of writing, analytical process and spoken communication in the context of insurance claim disputes throughout the country.

When I launched my business in the Fall of 2011, the worldwide headquarters of Quinley Risk Associates was in a garage, surrounded by paint cans, yard gear and kettlebells. (Isn’t that also how Apple and other tech companies began? LOL). We put up for sale our house in the Washington DC area; our realtor “staged” the house to maximize its potential selling price. So, my headquarters were relegated to the garage, to enhance our ability to sell the listing.

From such humble beginnings! Our kids were grown. We relocated to the Richmond Virginia area in 2012. We’ve never looked back.

Now, at the 10-year mark, I do look back. During my corporate years, when I wrote hundreds of articles and ten books on insurance and risk management, gave hundreds of presentations, I had no Grand Design to someday become an expert witness. However, some unseen force helped reconfigure those disparate puzzle pieces of abilities into a coherent picture, which now represents my vocation.

My years in the corporate world helped hone tools to do what I’m doing now. I don’t begrudge those years, but don’t miss them. They served their purposes during their time. For those solidly ensconced in the corporate world, good for you! For those, however, who harbor a vision of a different path and lifestyle, I encourage you to chase the dream, take The Long View and make it happen!

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