I just had the most interesting conversation this morning. An old friend was interested in knowing what my ‘jump ship’ cost was to come work at his company.  He wanted my salary requirements – not a price to buy my company. Besides not being able to take the job because it’s many states away, his idea of a great paycheck to walk away from my own company was, uh, underwhelming. Poor guy fell out of his chair with my price (I heard a few nifty curses on his way down). Part of it is that I live in New Jersey, and it’s not cheap here and his neck of the woods is more frugal, but part of it is that as a business owner and entrepreneur I have almost unlimited earning potential.  Jobs do not.  After getting off the phone, I started to think about what it would really take for me to sell out.  Everyone has a price.  Here’s mine…

My price to CONSIDER selling out – $425,000 a year.

I honestly feel that I am worth the price that I would sell out for. I create positive opportunity and cutting edge business innovation for companies. I bring decades of solid, successful experience to the table.  I am worth EVERY penny. If a company can come and offer me that money, along with a very reasonable list of demands, I would seriously consider jumping ship.  Now that isn’t the number I gave my friend.  Since it wasn’t a real possibility I would take the job – I will not move my family and home – the number I gave him is pointless.  My list of requirements?

  • Must be able to remain where I live, I won’t uproot my kids (my husband may disagree with this one – especially for that kind of money…)
  • My position must report directly to the CEO
  • I retain complete ownership of my own company and keep it operational (or sell if necessary) to serve existing clients or roll them out
  • Start ups without at least second-stage funding need not apply
  • Restricted to 25% travel

Now, I don’t currently make $425k a year.  Now looking at what my ‘demands’ are what company on this planet would hire me? I’m demanding, a control freak, expensive, and to be honest, a horrible employee.  I’ve been a entrepreneur for longer than I ever qualified as a cube farmer.  I’m not sure being a worker bee, no matter how high up the hive, could be satisfying.  Granted, there are a lot of days I wish I could bitch up the line to a boss and have her handle client issues or schlep the responsibility of sales or human resources off to another department, but those tasks don’t dilute the passion for running my own firm enough to jump ship.

Not only would the price and conditions need to be right, the environment would have to be right.  My office has a 3 hole mini-golf putting green and a ping pong table.  It took a long time of holding out for office space to find the *right* office space.  We also work nights/weekends and haven’t had a proper vacation in 5 years.  It’s not just about the physical surroundings, but the attitude of the company that matters.  Take a look at Zappos, Facebook and Google.  Their employees work like dogs and give up a lot of their personal and family lives, but the company rewards them with a working environment that is open to innovation, progress, openness and risk-taking.  THAT is what I crave as an entrepreneur that behaves as if I’m in perpetual start-up mode, even 7 years later.

A lot of starving business owners / in-transition employees may look at this confession as greedy, but I bet a lot of successful business owners are nodding their heads in agreement.  (Unless of course they already make that kind of coin running their own company – and I know quite a few that do.)  Employees can sell out too, just take a look at some of the employees jumping around from Google to Facebook – it’s not all about ownership.

What would you sell out for?  Is it only money, or is opportunity, fame, a lifestyle change, a chance to do something bigger, or something else?

PS – If you live in Detroit – Ford Motor Company is hiring a Digital Communications Manager – but it’s NOT the friend I was referring to in this post.