My son, who is currently 16, asked me why I no longer run a marketing firm with a bunch of employees.
At our peak we had about 16 employees and, as Wikipedia reports accurately, we were generating about $1.5 million in sales. (please keep in mind that top line revenue has nothing to do with how much money I was actually bringing home. But at our high water mark we were paying taxes on about $250,000 in profit. Again, not all of that came to me. But I also was living VERY comfortably.)
He wanted to know why I run a much smaller firm. My wife and I are the only significant employees. And we have a couple very part time people. We own a building (15 Broad Street) that we bought for our firm. But now I just rent most of it out and usually work from home.
The first thing that came to my mind when he asked me that was that I valued my freedom more than money. And I said to him that I saw a similar trait in him. He said he really wants to work from home in his career.
This was extremely disheartening to him. He likes nice things and, I could see in his eyes that he was worried he was going to end up living in a duplex with his parents always buying used cars.
As I thought a little more about it all, valuing freedom was not the full story.
How it really went down was that I got decimated in the Great Recession. Every client except for 2 left.
It wasn't just that other companies were suffering and they had to cut back. Some companies were actually growing. They just left to leave. And not only that, there were some companies that left that swore we were their highly valued partner and we really mattered to them. They left too.
The real reason I switched gears was because I was heartbroken.
On top of all this I had to layoff all these people in the middle of a huge recession.
It all just broke me spiritually.
I saw the truth of capitalism. It's ALL about money and nothing else truly matters. Even though people will lie to your face and say otherwise.
So in 2015 I ran for mayor. And then I found out that people were living in tents in Akron Ohio. I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. And as they said... The rest is history.
(The fact of the matter is, a 16 year old doesn't always understand how wealth actually works behind the scenes. I have never actually left business. I still am drawn to the thrill of the chase. I just am doing it in a different way these days. Entrepreneurship is in my blood. I'm much more interested in social welfare organizations these days.)
I have made a personal commitment to myself that I'm never going to lie to you or bullshit you. I may not be the most polished person you'll ever meet. But I'm trying to be the most honest.
This is how I remember the transition happening from being a straight business man to being an activist. It happened very gradually starting in 2008 and continues to this day.