Interview With My Dad: Lessons From 28 Years Of Corporate America To Running His Own BusinessJun 25, 2021
When I went back home recently to visit, I decided on a whim to interview my dad (Glen Carrico) about his career. All while my sisters and I were growing up he had a “normal” corporate career and it wasn’t until later in life he stepped away and became a small business owner. I figured he probably has a lot of insight and interesting stories about being a small business owner and thoughts on corporate life- I was right.
In the interview, you’ll find out that he worked at Keebler and yes, our pantry was often filled with cookies. We didn’t hate that perk :)
There was a lot of this I actually didn’t even know so I’m so glad I asked and got to hear him tell it. So here’s the interview… the exact questions I asked him and his answers. I even italicized some of my favorite one-liners.
CHELSEA: When you graduated from college, what was your first job?
DAD: I worked for Keebler. Well, I actually worked for them during the summer for two years while I was in school. And then the timing worked out that right after I graduated, there was a territory that came open right there in UK [University of Kentucky]. So I was able to go right into a sales rep position right out of college. So no licks missed, it was just a coincidence that it worked out. I had worked for them for two years during the summer, so it was like an internship.
CHELSEA: What were you doing for them in the summer?
DAD: Well, it wasn't technically an internship. It was called vacation relief. I covered people's vacations while they were on vacation during the summer because you had to take your vacations in the summer during those days. That was your only option. It wasn't like today where you can take a week here, a week there, etc. So I was a fill-in rep for them.
CHELSEA: So, how long did you work in the corporate world for Keebler?
DAD: Twenty-eight years. I originally started as a sales rep in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was a sales rep there for five years. From there, I got promoted and went to Little Rock, Arkansas, which is where you and Lauren were born. I went there as a district manager and took the job sight unseen. Never been to Arkansas in my life, packed the bags up and went.
CHELSEA: It was a promotion though, so you just up and went where they needed you?
DAD: Yep. It was a promotion, so I moved. A culture shock for both them and me. But I took the position to move blindly. I was a district manager there for five years. And then after that five years, I went to Memphis as I took a lateral move as a district manager. But pretty shortly after that, switched over to an account manager and was an account manager for five or six years or so. And then got promoted to the zone manager for Memphis, which covered Memphis, West Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the Northern half of Mississippi. I was over all of the sales reps and district managers and account managers for that area. Did that for, I think it was 10 years. And then I took the promotion to Cincinnati and was in Cincinnati for three years. So if you add all those numbers, they might not come up exactly to 28, but it was over the course of 28 years that all that happened.
DAD: And then I left Cincinnati. A couple of things happened. I was there for three years and you know the whole story there. I ended up in Cincinnati by myself, so wasn't real thrilled with being there. And the reason I went to Cincinnati was that I was looking for a way to leave Memphis and move somewhere you could change positions without having to relocate every time. And there were only five hubs in the US that offered that: Cincinnati, Philadelphia (which nobody wanted to go to Philadelphia), Battle Creek, Michigan (which nobody wanted to go to Battle Creek, Michigan), Denver (which was fine, but it was too far away from family), and Atlanta. And there just weren't any positions in Atlanta.
But being from Kentucky, Cincinnati was kind of close, so I went there. And anyway, after the three-year stint there, that's about the time I reached 50 years old. And once you reach 50 in corporate America, you're antique and they start looking for ways to get rid of you. But I had a pretty good record. They couldn't just get rid of me for no reason at all. But corporations restructure, reposition, then your job gets eliminated. They find a way to do things. But I was ready to go, too, and had even talked to HR about a way to get out. And I said, "Well, you know, I want to leave, but I'm not going to leave without some money."
So I ended up getting a severance package that paid me for over a year after I left. And then, of course, I still get to keep my pension and everything at a hundred percent. So that's when I moved to Nashville and started SpeedPro.
CHELSEA: Why did you want to start leaving in the first place?
DAD: Well, I had done about all that I wanted to do. The problem with it was Keebler and Kellogg's. They merged - or Kellogg's bought Keebler - and we ran independently for several years. And then all of a sudden, like the second year I was in Cincinnati, they started merging it into one division. So a lot of Kellogg's people and Keebler people were working side by side. They had merged into one building, and different people got different positions. And we both came from two different worlds. And since Kellogg's was the parent company, all the Keebler people were treated like stepchildren. We were the country cousins to them. We were what was called store door delivery, and they just thought that was blue-collar. And there was just a clash of culture.
But the real reason that I wanted to leave was my job had evolved into being nothing but an HR nightmare. I had over a hundred sales reps and distribution centers, and the folks that I worked with all reported up to me. It wasn't that way in Keebler but in Kellogg's, it was just HR corporate world that you lived in, and everything was PR oriented. And “we want to look like we're the world's greatest and the best in diversity. And we're the wonderful company to work for.” When the door got shut and the cameras were off, you lived and died by your results daily. Your job was threatened every day. If you don't hit this number, you don't hit that number, you're out the door immediately.
CHELSEA: That makes for a bad work environment.
DAD: It was during the meltdown of the financial market, and it was a top 250 company in the world. Kellogg's was living and dying by the stock price every day. And depending on how that was going, your conference call every morning changed. But when the door was shut, they were not very friendly. They were job threatening. So juggling that perception and the PR, and then getting the results that they wanted, was just like a no-win situation. The culture was very bad.
CHELSEA: And Keebler wasn't originally like that?
DAD: No, not like that at all. Keebler was a family-owned business that originally started in Pennsylvania when they merged three different small companies together. And then, they were bought out by a firm from Great Britain. And the firm in Great Britain owned them for years, but it was a private equity firm, and it was run like a family-oriented business. When Kellogg's bought it everything changed and not for the good. So now on the other side of that, I can't complain because I did have a good career. I moved up several times. And at the level that I was at, they were paying me a stupid amount of money to do what I did and great benefits and all that.
DAD: The stress is what did it because you were only as good as what you were going to do for me today, not what you did yesterday or the past 10 years. You were a number today and that was it. And this is the number we need today. What was worse than anything was that you were talked down to, and they really hacked away at your self-esteem. And that was their way of managing people behind closed doors. When the doors opened up it was all different.
CHELSEA: So you left, you started your own business, the print shop. Do you like being your own boss?
DAD: There are pros and cons to it. The pros of working for corporate America was you were going to get paid every two weeks a certain amount of money. You had great benefits that an individual or small business can't buy on their own. The company was going to make money with the product we were selling. The company was going to make money, no matter what we did.
As an entrepreneur, you only eat what you kill. And not knowing when your next check is going to be is an uneasy feeling. By the same token, if you're working in corporate America or working for somebody else, you're never going to have an opportunity to really grow wealth the way that you can as an entrepreneur or independently. So now I haven't grown SpeedPro the way that it should grow, because there's a lot of things I'm just not willing to do at my age.
And I'm not that public PR person, that's just not me. I'm not the networker, the schmoozer. And if you do that, you could probably do a lot better than I've done with this business. So the thing about owning your own business, you get to set your own schedules. You don't want to do something, you don't have to do it. But by the same token, this month may be great or you may be broke. So you only eat what you kill.
CHELSEA: You mentioned your schedule and making your own schedule. What are some of the pros of having your own business, compared to your previous life working with Kellogg's/Keebler?
DAD: As a business owner, nobody else controlled my time. I didn't have to be at a certain meeting, at a certain place, at a certain time. In corporate America, there are processes and procedures and stuff that you may think isn’t of value that you still have to go through the motions and do every day. You don't have to do that when you own your own business. You just have what's important and what needs to be done and not done, and you only spend energy and focus on those things. Working for somebody else, you're spending energy and focus on what they think is important.
CHELSEA: And building somebody else's grand dream.
DAD: Exactly. If you have an individual business and you're successful, there's a lot of pride in that, too - a lot of personal satisfaction. Whereas there wasn't in corporate America. I remember being with [friend’s name] and he said, "when you're working for corporate America, you could be out of a job tomorrow. But for the entrepreneur, if you’ve got a business and you’re earning a living, you’re not going to be out of a job ever if you don’t want to be."
But working for any corporate America, you can be restructured out tomorrow. Positions can be eliminated and new titles created, pay scales changed, benefits changed overnight, and you have no control over that.
DAD: When it's your business, you're managing your own people. And again, you get to control what you think is important and what the processes, procedures, or tactics that need to be done. So you can steer that in a small business. You control that every day. So you're doing what you think is important, not what somebody else does.
There's an old saying, "If you want to make more money in a business, make yourself more valuable.” And that's very true because when I'm signing a paycheck, I view that as that's coming out of my personal bank account. That's not coming out of some corporate account that I never see or don't know what the balance is or anything. When it comes out of my personal checking account, I feel it.
Those were all the things we chatted about! I learned a lot from this conversation and I hope it was valuable to you too.
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