It May be the Industry That Sucks and Not You


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Back in early 1991 I was really just getting starting in my career as a corporate tax specialist. I had recently passed a rigorous three day, 22-hour exam and was awarded the prestigious CPA designation. With that CPA in hand I was able to secure a higher paying job as a Tax Manager in a large cement manufacturing company that was on the precipice of going public (issuing stock to the public via one of the stock exchanges) in the U.S.

Along with my new responsibilities as a Tax Manager, I was spending 3 nights a week attending graduate school to get my Masters degree in Taxation. I was also working  15-20 hours a week part time as a tax preparer for a friend’s CPA firm in order to pay for graduate school.

I was burning the candle at both ends but I was happy because my future looked bright. Once my company went public, I stood to make a lot of money in the form of stock bonuses and stock options.

Then the recession hit. My company lost $20 million dollars in 1992 because of that recession. Upper management issued a company-wide memo, informing all employees that salaries would be frozen for at least one year.

I remember sitting at a bar with my boss shortly after the news hit. We had both worked so hard the past two years organizing our tax department, hiring the right staff and putting smart systems and processes in place. We invested our lives in our company, at the expense of family time. We were both very down and we decided to drown our sorrows with some beer. We talked about the situation we found ourselves in. I naively suggested to my boss that things would turn around and everything would eventually work itself out. My normally optimistic boss looked me in the eyes and said that the loss likely meant our company would not go public. Then he looked down at his beer, then back up to me and said,  “it’s the industry that sucks, not us.”

I learned an important lesson from that experience. You can be the best, brightest, hardest working person in your industry, but if that industry is shrinking and not growing, all that hard work and smarts doesn’t matter. Becoming successful requires much more than working hard and working smart. You have to work hard and work smart in the right industry. Hard work and smarts are rewarded in growth industries.

Just look at those smart hard working people at Google, Apple, Uber, Facebook, or Netflix, many of whom are now multi-millionaires. Then compare them to those smart hard working people who worked at Kodak, Blockbuster, Shearson Lehman, or Barnes and Noble. These companies were all in industries that have been disrupted by technology and are either bankrupt, shut down or in steep decline.

Success isn’t easy. You have to forge the traits, habits, thinking, work ethic and good decision-making of self-made millionaires. While all of those success traits are important, good decision-making is probably the most important. It requires that you make choices in life that offer you the best chance for success. One of the biggest decisions you can make in life is in picking the industry you will devote your working life to. Make sure that industry is one that is exploding and not imploding. Plant your flag in the right industry and not just any industry. Life rewards you when you make good decisions and punishes you when you don’t.



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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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