Miscellaneous Rumbles

At a crossroads again (seeking advice, I think)…

1

I thought I'd put this up here, as you guys have proven to be one of the more stable, level-headed and experienced groups of people I know (and on an individual basis, the few GDPers I 've met have always proved outstanding).

So here is the situ: I'm 52 and I run a risk consulting/detective agency in Poland (my own). It's been up and running for three years. Prior to that, I ran the operations of another agency and was a key partner, but new partners came in and it wasn't for me. Prior to that I worked at an app company for two years, and prior to that I was an editor at a major news wire and investigative journalist (mostly focusing on corruption, mafia cases, serious crime, etc.)

Anyway, I have extensive management experience, legal knowledge, consulting experience and serious conflict resolution experience (as in the other side has at times been rather dangerous crooks).

So with that intro out of the way, here we go:

1) I like the job, am proud of the company and what I've done, but I'm tired of the threats (both legal and not), but I am also a bit sick of working 60 hours a week and never, ever (and I mean ever) getting time off. Also, the admin is out of control (thanks in part to US tax laws getting worse for expats seemingly every year).

2) Companies are pressing down on rates to the point that it's insane. They seriously do not want to know the truth--funds that have millions to invest blanch at a few thousand euros and ask for just a quick press review. But honestly, journalism was gutted years ago--a quick press review is not going to tell you much of anything. But hey--it's not their money.

3) Other clients more and more want info that is plainly illegal. Criminal records, medical records, hotel stays, you name it. Obv, as a detective, we are not paid to be saints, but (especially US companies) think that we are paid to steal.

4) At the same time, you have European GDPR and other secrecy laws that are frankly only being created to protect the rich and corrupt. Yet the penalties are insane and the paperwork even worse.

5) Finally, we are being swamped with regional "suppliers" who do only slightly more than a google check and sell "reports" for pennies. Then you have the big four who say they do what we do (they don't), but they do have a stamp that goes a long way on the face of a report.

The end result has been that while we did quite well last year, this quarter has not been ideal. I would love to say it's a blip, but considering the above (and much more), I have my doubts.

And damn, it was tough to get this running. I'm middle-aged, have a family (and two dogs), don't have huge savings and needless to say, it's not ideal.

The funny thing is that whenever I am placed in a company (in this region anyway) I wind up running it. I'm the guy that can absorb huge amounts of info quickly, solve outrageous problems and manage foreign staff (in various languages). But more and more I'm understanding that I will probably be seen as an old greybeard on the job market--and while there are jobs out there, my age is not going to make it easy to start over. Possibly, I could start something new, but I am hardly flooded with capital, etc.

Then the question is whether I actually should start over or hold the fort.

I know nobody is going to have a simple solution here, but I'm probably not the only one in this boat (or not the only one that has been in this boat). Any advice welcome.

K

2

One bad quarter could be a blip. Two bad quarters in a row could be a good warning.

Three bad quarters in a row..........a serious change is needed, one way or the other

3

Just and Old Cowboy,

In my biz it's hard to say. We were not as busy in November and December as we should have been. January is always dead here, but we bounced back a bit in Feb and March, but still it's not what it should be. I've had to loan the company money for the first time since the start (and we have late payers), although I should get that back in a couple of weeks, but it's not ideal.

But yeah, maybe it is serious change time.

K

4

I would say take a little time, and go somewhere where you can do some serious thinking, kick a few rocks around and re-charge your batteries. You've got 3 years and $ invested, so come back all charged up and give 'em hell. If things don't change, then start looking at an exit strategy, as well as trying for a soft landing somewhere. You don't need to take a lot of time off. Just a day or two, just enough to re-think and re-charge.

Additionally, I would say, if things don't improve, don't wear yourself out trying to make it go. If it ain't there, it ain't there. You still need the gas for your next venture, if that is what is in the cards.

Good luck.

5

Good advice. I probably do need a couple of days to rethink.

K

6

I'm with both them fellers. Stress is cumulative, and it piles up gradually while you're young and barely realize you're stressed, taking it for the normal condition of life. When you start noticing it, you tell yourself to grow up and take it and stop being such a pansy. Then it reaches a point where its impact is exponentially greater than it was - and you can't shake it off or pretend you can just keep going. I think there's actually something like a lifetime dosage. When you exceed it, it's ridiculously hard to get back much resilience.

but I'm tired of the threats (both legal and not), but I am also a bit sick of working 60 hours a week and never, ever (and I mean ever) getting time off. Also, the admin is out of control (thanks in part to US tax laws getting worse for expats seemingly every year).

These are the indicators with the needles in the red. I know you're an adrenaline junky, but shielding off and pretending to ignore actual threats has to be at least as (if not more than) stressful as simply feeling daily work pressure, interpersonal conflict, deadlines, and responsibility (for others) as threats. 60 hours a week is a brag for an immortal 30-year-old. At some unspecified - but real - point in life, unless you flat love 55 of those hours and you're "flow"ing in your "passion," 60 hours a week becomes a death sentence. And the tedium of out-of-control admin overhead (whatever the details) is a slow but sure soul-grinder. In the last job I had where I worked for someone else, I knew when I was spending more time on inhouse bookkeeping than on customers that the ship had hit the sandbar.

I get generally liking what you do, being good at it, gaining satisfaction from doing it well, and being proud of the accomplishment. No one wants to put down a good horse - but there's an art to knowing when a horse is dead. I'm 64, and well into feeling useful hours of remaining time being drained away by inconsequential, repetitive, and boooooring job-associated overhead like driving, dealing with the same people over the same issues over and over again with no progress, and endlessly walking the same familiar tightropes to the same destinations. Even knowing I always make it to the other side - and taking some satisfaction in that - at some point no longer compensates for the time and the stress.

Give yourself a soft deadline - say end of 3rd quarter - to see both how the business progresses, and how you're feeling about your commitment and investment of time. Meantime look around to see where you might land. Skills are transferable from one industry to another.

It sounds to me like it's time for you to come to terms with the inevitable processes of maturity. (I'm trying not to say "aging.") 52 isn't old - but I've been there. I'd like to go back. I'm not saying I'd do anything differently, just that time is all we got. Don't waste it, and don't jeopardize the likelihood of having more of it. Stay out of the competitive boxing ring. And get out of the line of fire.

7

Third quarter coming up. Also the question of what else to do to make ends meet.

K

8

You have two considerations running at once. One, the long hours versus benefit (cost/benefit and burned out) versus second, the recent financial performance.

I expect the latter has caused the former to come more into focus.

I'm exactly your age and I am acutely aware that I have been on more than one occasion the oldest person at the place I work. I know in my gut that I only have one more run with a start up, mezzanine company. So I empathize with you.

I don't let the ever growing grim prospects of age discrimation get to me, as I was in the hospital 1/2 of last year with leukaemia and all I yearned for was for things to be normal. So now they are and per my recent experience, I am at peace with that, however fair or unfair that reality may be. __ As an aside, I'd be interested to know how the GDPR only protects "the rich and corrupt". I currently work for a company with a retail client base and I've found that these clients know just enough to be dangerous. I have had to dedicate a lot of time to fight outrageous data demands that the GDPR has enabled from vexatious clients and fight data regulators in the UK and Ireland who automatically defer to these time wasters. None of these customers has been "rich" in the sense you speak, and while they are almost invariably a$$holes, I've seen nothing to suggest they are corrupt.

9

What the other guys said. Reflect a bit. Try for a limited time. Thin about a plan to move on if it’s not what you want to wake up and do every day.

10

Knavel,

Let me get into GDPR tomorrow--eyes shot. But yeah, funny how a down quarters makes you think about the risks you take on the job.

K

12

Looking at your original five points----

Is it really worth the aggravation?

I worked 60+ hours until I got to my 60s and it took a serious hit on my health, such that I had retire early. I enjoyed many aspects of the job, yet physically keeping up with 20 year olds tore me up.

Companies don't want to pay for what the service is worth, and will take a lower quality service from others? They really don't value you at all. They want you to do what is patently illegal? No way in Hell. Not your monkey, not your circus. Tell 'em buzi dupa.

I'm not sure about US tax laws regarding expats. Are you planning on coming back here? If not, what's Uncle Sam going to do to you?

If the powers that be---GDPR---are working against you, or are undermining you, it isn't worth all of the effort, is it?

On top of it all. you're not a kid anymore. You've got more than yourself to worry about. You've got skills that could easily be transferred elsewhere.

To thine own self be true.

13

Proteus, Thanks for the comments. I don't get the "maturity" bit, however. If you are implying that I'm immature, please take that comment elsewhere. I'm the one they bring in to solve serious problems, and again and again I see the big, all-powerful CEOs or fund managers literally trembling in fear because they don't know what to do. And generally they worked quite hard to make the messes they are in by employing "key persons" who were patently corrupt (and who then ripped them off). Again and again I see the "big bosses" who have kids with three or four women wondering out loud how things go the way they are. (Try using a condom).

Stepping into the boxing ring was maybe not the smartest thing I've ever done but 1) I wanted to do it because I'll be too old to do it again later 2) because it was for charity and we helped put a charity on its feet and 3) because it was a good PR move locally. All proved to be true. I was hit straight in the back of the head, which left me out of it and basically defending myself with my hands down for the rest of the rounds, but boxing can be like that. I still stunned a kid 25 years younger than me that had been training for two years straight (actually, according to amateur rules, there should not be more than a 10-year age difference, so I got a bit screwed there), and even though he jumped on me after a couple of shots from me, I probably would have gotten him out of there had there been another round, as I hit him with four hard punches at the end of the fight and he was in trouble, although you have to watch the second film to see that.

But honestly, at this point what's a boxing match? The fact of the matter is that I arrived in CEE with USD 800 in the early 1990s. I had no money because there were no jobs at home and nobody was inclined to give me a break despite having a master's and working on a doctorate. I learned Czech, Slovak, translated mining texts, held four jobs and then took over a travel agency in Prague where I made good money. I moved to Poland, learned Polish and Ukrainian, ran out of cash (in part due to devaluation of money) and wound up basically homeless. I worked four or five jobs, got back on my feet, got back into journalism, broke one mafia or corruption story after another and beat everyone who sued me or tried to throw me in jail in court. And dealt with multiple assaults. I moved into detective agencies and ran 200 plus cases a year and at my own I've run 70-plus, and my work has been instrumental in solving two of the longest running civil cases in Europe and North America, one which saved a client more than USD 50 mln.

I've been threatened, attacked, sued, dragged down to the cops, etc. and dealt with all of this, basically alone, and successfully in a foreign language for years.

To be honest, I have never met anyone that can do the things I do, and I almost never meet anyone with any kind of "maturity" at all. Everyone thinks they should have everything because they always have. I am usually the person that proves that wrong (sometimes for both sides).

Really, I don't say that much about the things I do or have done or have had to deal with because Americans never believe them anyway.

However, the one absolutely undeniable fact remains: if you do not start with anything, it is very, very difficult to actually gain any kind of stability, and forget about personal wealth. I've been fighting an uphill battle for years and years. Big Four (whom I actually don't rate very highly, as I keep needing to clean up their reports) would never hire me because I'm simply too old and not brainwashed. I'm not an accountant or a lawyer, although I constantly am the one coming up with solutions for such firms, but they are certainly not going to employ me. I don't have a background in fund management, capital or contacts I grew up with, and US companies will not hire expats for upper-level positions. They bring people over for those.

This is reality. I have people tell me it's not like this, but I've been dealing with it since 1990. I've also still managed to have a home and a family, raise a kid, two dogs and I'm still married to the same woman.

I'd love to "slow down," but here is the second reality. Closing a firm here costs a lot. I can easily be down USD 25-50k during this process and it's not money I have to lose. Either I need to turn this around (which may not be possible) or find another job and still shut it down. No, it was not supposed to be like this, but most of my life was not supposed to be like this either. I have not had more than four days off in more than 10 years. I think I've been mature enough to face that as a fact of life. I know plenty of other people like that, but most are from another strata that certainly has no access to high-end guitars.

Wabash, it's not. Obviously. It's fun sometimes, but most of the time it's not and never has been. People don't really understand what we do. Although sometimes, yeah, it's amusing. I'm scanning for options right now, but I dunno.

Crowbone, you can check out the fight. Before I got rabbit punched in the first round it was pretty easy work (but somehow they still scored that round for him). After that, I was frankly out of it and fighting through a heavy fog. Anyway, here it is, warts and all. I'm in black.:

https://www.facebook.com/13...

14

However, the one absolutely undeniable fact remains: if you do not start with anything, it is very, very difficult to actually gain any kind of stability, and forget about personal wealth. I've been fighting an uphill battle for years and years. Big Four (whom I actually don't rate very highly, as I keep needing to clean up their reports) would never hire me because I'm simply too old and not brainwashed. I'm not an accountant or a lawyer, although I constantly am the one coming up with solutions for such firms, but they are certainly not going to employ me. I don't have a background in fund management, capital or contacts I grew up with, and US companies will not hire expats for upper-level positions. They bring people over for those.

This is so correct. I've lived out of the USA for 20 years and I can't count on one hand how many of the well to do I've worked with didn't have some sort of leg up. The few who are self made are also my closest friends!

People might also miss the bit about the cost of closing a business. I don't know about Poland obviously but I actually managed to turn this same cost in France (€1.5m in that instance) into a pretty good money maker for my board of directors, since circumstances were very unusual in that we had the power to shut the business and leave someone else with the bill. Such circumstances would never occur in the USA.

This is one reason why it's very hard to run a business in Europe--the labor favoring laws and costs of having employees makes even the USA look like a bargain.

I'm still looking forward to that GDPR info--not as a "gotcha" but I welcome different points of view as maybe it's some angle I haven't perceived that I can put into practice. Given your line of business I could see it being used by people whom you are investigating as a way to do cheap discovery (in the UK "disclosure") at your staff time and expense. This is a problem I have and the Irish regulator I have to deal with simply refuses to believe that we have a legal right to withhold certain data under such laws as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Is your business one that someone would acquire? That is the exit strategy where the shareholder cashes in and probably still keeps a job while laying off all the risk (save as regards earn out provisions) to the acquirer.

15

Knavel, It's not something a business would acquire (most consulting businesses are not), as it's really just me and my guys/our experience and expertise.

Re GDPR--you hit the nail on the head with the cheap discovery angle, but the real issue is that we know who lobbied for this (a Big Four company with the knowledge of another) and that it really how it came to fruition. They are currently lobbying behind the scenes in Poland for more prosecutions. The angle was to make life difficult for literally every mid-size and small consulting and accounting company out there--and they did.

This is not conspiracy theory--I can't divulge project work (by law), but have a think about it as follows: has the EU ever done anything for the public good without lobbying and cash behind it? Ever? Especially in similar biz law? This happened as there was a push to make it happen, and it was not from people hit by spammers or scammers. There were already endless EU and national laws on that. And I defy anyone to show me a single case where GDPR prevented a scam (and I certainly get as much spam as I always did).

There are also a host of laws a la "the right to be forgotten" law re the net that pretty much only protect those exposed for criminal wrongdoing. That is the EU for you. Locally, there are plenty of laws that are targeting journos and detective agencies (GDPR makes our life incredibly difficult) and now in many jurisdictions you cannot see even who shareholders are in limited liability companies--so you could employ a direct competitor and simply have no idea. Pair this with laws limiting investigations (and criminal libel law for journos and investigative companies) and we are not moving toward transparency in any shape or form.

I could write more, but at the moment I'm on a minor deadline. Speak laters.

K

16

*Crowbone, you can check out the fight. Before I got rabbit punched in the first round it was pretty easy work (but somehow they still scored that round for him). After that, I was frankly out of it and fighting through a heavy fog. Anyway, here it is, warts and all. I'm in black.:

https://www.facebook.com/13...

Oh, I saw that.

You're a braver man than me, for sure. I've had my cage rattled when I was much younger and gave that up in my mid 20s.

Regarding a career change, if you're not happy in a soul-sucking job, get out of it.

I don't know how or where you can apply those set of skills you've acquired over the years, but I know there's a thriving business in private security, be it within the corporate world, protecting celebrities, or assets.

My brother in law did it for years.

All depends on what you want out of life I suppose, and I'm not sure that's going to be another job where you feel this way again, or something fresh.

Good luck finding what you're looking for.

Most people I know don't ever find that, but they do great things along the way.

17

Yeah, I "soul searched" for that perfect job for a very long time.

I finally found it last year. I retired.

Looking back, all I can say is find something that is reasonably acceptable for finances needed, and that won't have so much BS that it drives you nuts.

Every job, regardless of the level, has its' level of BS. Find one that you can scoop the daily crap to the side, and smile when you head home every day.

You will live longer and be happier.

18

I've never had the luxury to find that "rewarding job." I honestly think that is one more bit of bs pushed on us by those with a leg up (mostly rich parents).

99 percent of us in the real world do not have time to think about this. We are hustling from day one and when we do have time to send out resumes it's generally because we are out of work and shooting off CVs to whatever we see first.

Crowbone--thanks. Fort or unfort, I'm not in personal security. Slightly different sector (with it's own craziness), although I have cooperated with many who are. One reason I did not go for a concession here though is to keep out of that sector--long story and not meant for general consumption.

Or let me put it to you this way: "fun guys if you know you are not going to get hurt." (That's a quote from one of my favorite writers ever, actually. A symbolic prize if anyone picks up on it.

K

19

QUOTE: I've never had the luxury to find that "rewarding job." I honestly think that is one more bit of bs pushed on us by those with a leg up (mostly rich parents).

99 percent of us in the real world do not have time to think about this. We are hustling from day one and when we do have time to send out resumes it's generally because we are out of work and shooting off CVs to whatever we see first. :QUOTE

Konrad, I have to disagree with your thinking on this. Rich parents have nothing to do with an indivual's motivation for happiness in a career, or life. My experience has been that each person finds his own happiness, or sorrow in life, regardless of wealth, or lack of it.

In my lifetime, I've met numerous very happy people, in every income bracket. Wealth, or lack of it, did not make their happiness. Mindset was the key. They got where they got themselves.

I've also met numerous unhappy, even miserable people, from every income bracket. Again, mindset was a key on their outlook of life.

One thing that I've observed over the years, is when someone says "I don't have the time to think about something", they are running SO fast, that they're ready to hit a wall that's right in front of them, and they don't see it.

Just trying to share some things that may assist you in your situation, and get you on a better road in life.

Best to you man.

20

Sell franchises, of course, to people who thing private investigator is romantic.

21

Cowboy, I don't mean happiness--i'm generally quite a happy person. I mean dream job. In my experience these are given to the advantaged. Sometimes the rest of us earn our way into them (or so I've read--i've never actually seen this in person).

K

22

Hi K, Sorry to hear of your stress and troubles. I can relate. ...I'm 55 and have been unemployed/under self employed for the past 3 years. At my age I'm dangerously on the cusp for employers of passing the line from great experience and insight to past my prime lol. Also have a journalism background and tried to parlay that into a PR/crisis communications/ biz comm consultancy which has been hit or miss- primarily my own shortcoming as I love doing that sector of work but hate hustling for clients. I grew up in Europe, then toured there a lot in the 90s and eventually want to settle back there. Would love to work for you If your biz was better and you were hiring lol.

I'm not fully up to speed on the intricacies of doing your line of work in Europe, but I get a sense that the crisis comm work I've done and what you do has some overlap , so a few random thoughts /questions come to mind...As others have posted, you have a unique skill set that should be transferable. All of this may take a little bit of personal or company rebranding but it could be possible...

Different sector of clients?

Corporate for-profit sector isn't working for you it seems and I get that the security sector is a no go for you. But what about NGOs/watchdog /oversight /regulatory agencies? If they don't want to work with an agency can you take that kind of work as a personal freelance independent the business, and just let biz go dormant without the expense of shutting it down?

Politics. Nasty field but lots of money for people doing oppositon research.

Outside of re thinking the sectors, there's good old networking. I know this seems obvious and I'm not being patronizing, I just often overlook the obvious when I'm stressed so I'm offering this in that spirit. Any past clients , partnered organization s that youve worked with that could use you, or do they know of folks who could use you?? I hear you about our odds at our age but well connected people who can vouch for you Is a good resource set.

How diificult is it for your company, on a regulatory/bureaucratic level, to take clients based in other EU countries? Its been a while since I've been over but Eastern Europe has always seemed ..."slippery" in a sense. If the economy/politics/corruption there is a perfect storm youre fighting, are there cleaner biz climates to get to ? Berlin, for example - which I got to know very well in the 90s and am setting my sights on for permanent relocation in a year or two - seems thriving right now with tons of high tech and media startups. Is there business to be had there?

23

I don't get the "maturity" bit, however. If you are implying that I'm immature, please take that comment elsewhere

Not in the least. Never even entered my mind. I was talking about aging, using "maturity" (in quotes) to mock the American euphemism for it. (As in AARP's Modern Maturity magazine.)

Carry on.

24

Prot, all good. I'm obv being over-sensitive today,

Mustafa--good points. I'm going on a surv job so can't write much, but I will respond.

K

25

Konrad - Analyze and record your thoughts in writing.....obviously what you have posted thus far puts you in great position to understand "your position".

Go to work and "feel the days". Record your thoughts and feelings like one would in a diary as I think this will help alternative options surface.

At 46, I need to keep my nose to the grindstone and tough it out as I am stuck in a loop of consulting/contracting jobs. At the moment, I am in one that really is brutally stressful, BUT the pay is awesome and as I get paid weekly, I know that I have to find a better way to deal with my feelings towards the on-job politics and other stressors.

Very few decisions are made quickly so be patient these next 2 months and collect the data that comes and you take note of. I also know the need to "produce" we have very little in the savings also but keeping your spirits up are paramount to finding the right solution.

I wish could provide more advice but hope the little I gave helps. Good luck and health to you Konrad.


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