Second thoughts about returning to a once loved career? Unstable political climate causing job insecurity? Ask The Doctor

Address your questions at ASK THE DOCTOR to interact@exchange4media.com or to sandeep@goyalmail.com

Q. I was running a very successful design company for almost 25 years. I was then approached by an international firm who made me a really good offer for the business. I agreed to sell. I even agreed to a partial earn-out. The earn-out lasted three years but it was not a very good phase for me. The buyers dominated the business and the decisions they took were not always in the interest of the business. So, I made very little money from the earn-out. The only saving grace was the money I got paid at the beginning of the transaction, which had no strings attached except the transfer of my majority shareholding in the business.

The foreign buyers have run the business aground. In the last two years since I exited, the business has become loss making. Many of the big customers are gone. Most of the senior staff is gone too.

I have been approached by the top brass of the company out of their global headquarters to rejoin the business. My role will be that of a CEO.
I feel very awkward joining back the company I used to own. And this time as an employee. I have actually just got used to being on my own. I teach. I write. I have been travelling of late. Going back to a full time job will un-do all that I have done to unwind over the past couple of years.

I still love the work, and sometimes miss it. But having said good-bye, I am not sure how it will be to go back. I need your help and advice.
J. P.


Dear J. P.,
Yours is not an easy decision. One part is emotional. The other part is rational.
Let us first address the emotional part. Your major mind block seems to be whether to go back to the company you once owned. That one is easy. Steve Jobs also went back to work at Apple. In fact his second innings at Apple was a much bigger success. So, while it may initially feel somewhat awkward, you should really not hesitate to go back to the company you once built. The awkwardness will melt away soon as you spend a bit of time in familiar environs.

As far as being owner versus CEO is concerned, it should really not matter. As CEO you will be the boss. To the common employee, that is all that is visible.
As far as the question about having now built a new life … teaching, writing, travelling … is concerned, yes it will be difficult to give up and get ‘caged’ again. This is a very personal call and I cannot help you with it. The only input I can provide is that you can again get into the retired mode in a few years. You have already tasted that life and doing it again sometime from now will not be difficult.
Now to the rational part of your decision. If you decide to re-join the company, I suggest you ask for three very important clauses in your contract: 1. A fixed tenure where if the company shuts down or decides to ask you to leave, you will get paid for the entire tenure. For example, if your contract is for 3 years, and for whatever reason your employment is cut short earlier to that for whatever reason, you will be paid for the full 3 years. This is necessary because you say the company is in very bad shape and this is a protection you must insist on. 2.

Ask to be given a free hand as CEO. Ensure you can hire and fire. This will help you rebuild the team. And rebuild the business. 3. A substantial performance bonus. If the foreigners are bringing you back to turnaround the company, then they must be prepared to adequately compensate you for the effort. Please agree on achievable milestones and calibrate a performance bonus plan linked to those milestones. This will ensure that the bad experience that you had in your earn-out is not repeated.

Over all, my advice is to give it another try at the old company. Go back with positivity. Go back with enthusiasm. But make sure your employment contract is weighed in your favour. A second innings may actually be more enjoyable than the first. Go for it.

Q. I am based out of Qatar. I came here about two years ago to work in an international ad agency. The money was very good compared to what I was making in Bangalore. Also, the agency brand name was extremely good. I moved my family too to Qatar.

Work wise, Qatar is a dead destination. The political problems have further reduced the volume of work available. Frankly I don’t know how we all get paid. I go to work every day in the fear that the agency will shut down and I will have no job. So far it has not happened but it just may happen any day.
With the help of some friends I have found a job in Muscat. The salary is much lower and the family will not be able to stay with me.

I tried finding something in Dubai but nothing has worked out.
I have been in touch with my old employers in Bangalore but they do not seem to need any body right now. I am very distressed and very very scared. Please help me.
V. Y. R.


Dear V. Y. R.,
You are obviously in a difficult situation.
Qatar was a good place to work in. But, yes, the political turmoil of the past year or so, has obviously impacted the economy. I do not have ready access to the situation in Qatar but with oil bouncing back, all Middle Eastern economies are likely to revive, and some of the political tensions may actually ease out.
I do not know if you are overacting to the situation in Qatar. Having taken your family there, and with the very few options that you seem to have, why don’t you just take it one-day at a time. I am not sure your agency will shut down quite as soon as you make it out. Perhaps the overall bearish sentiment is getting to you. Qatar is a very rich country. They are not dependent on oil. Their economy is capable of taking some hits. Given your circumstances, I would urge patience. Sit tight.

Muscat is not half as good an option as Qatar. You have already said it that salaries are much lower and your family may not be able to move there. Dubai is surely a possibility because there are many many more agencies located there and the work is across MENA. I would suggest you continue to explore opportunities in Dubai. With Dubai 2020 Expo not very far, opportunities may multiply, and many more may open up in the very short run. In fact, I suggest you spend a few days post Ramadan in Dubai. It may be a good time for job hunting. Till then, I suggest you continue to work in Qatar. Do not psyche yourself into believing that all is lost and the agency will shut down tomorrow. Businesses in these countries have far more resilience.

Having moved your family to Qatar, show patience and maturity. Bank on hope. At least do not give up on hope. For all you know, your worst fears may not actually come true.

Our columnist, Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.
Address your questions at ASK THE DOCTOR to interact@exchange4media.com or to sandeep@goyalmail.com
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