After Jim’s ad agency didn’t thrive he had three more jobs, none of which lasted more than two years. Then he decided in 1992 to take a break from working. My company, Strategic Solutions, was doing pretty well, so I supported the family while he regrouped. His mom, Margaret, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and this was the last year that she was fully functional. So I was happy to give him the time to spend with his mama. However, it felt like a burden at times, particularly when he would self-medicate with wine rather than try to truly deal with his issues. Anyway, after that year was over and he didn’t seem to be any closer to going back to work, I asked him to join Strategic Solutions. He is a very creative guy and I was actually looking forward to working with him again, as we did when we first met.
He had worked with me for about six months when I got the call. Jane, a woman I knew from Women Business Owners, called and wanted some help in structuring her business. She had a small tech support company and really didn’t know how to handle the growth that she was experiencing. Jim was a perfect person to work with her. We set up a consulting arrangement, and Jim went about designing Jane’s company for explosive growth. However, after about a year of our working with her, it became clear that she did not have the business or personal skills to make this growth happen. So Jim had an idea. He would start a similar type of company but incorporate his very heart centered concepts of business management. And that is what he did in late 1995.
Of course, we got sued by Jane and spent the first 16 months of his new company’s life dealing with a major lawsuit. This was about the same time that I found yoga, and boy, did I need it. Having been a lawyer’s daughter and been taught to follow everything to the letter of the law, this lawsuit scared me to death. But we persevered and finally settled with Jane, which we had been trying to do all along. During that same time, the company was slowly growing and he was starting to make some money again. Once the lawsuit was behind us, Jim could then really focus on growing the company. He was able to cultivate a strong working relationship with Microsoft, and that was when “our ship came in.”
You will remember that back in 1997 technology was booming and it was truly the go-go years for that industry. This was before the government’s anti-trust suit against Microsoft and when Bill Gates was still at the helm. For such a large organization, Microsoft was run in a very entrepreneurial way, which worked well for Jim. He became what he called the CEO – Chief Entertainment Officer – and our clients and employees loved him!
The company started growing rapidly and it looked like the potential was huge. Although I was still operating Strategic Solutions, I started helping Jim build the infrastructure of the company and I handled all the finance and accounting functions. The responsibilities of both companies finally became too much for me, and in late 1999 I made a big decision. I closed Strategic Solutions and became the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Jim’s firm. However, with Jim’s fun definition of CEO, I didn’t want that stuffy title so I made CFO stand for “Cash Flow Organizer.” And believe me the cash was flowing! As usual, I controlled every penny but was kind enough to increase Jim’s “allowance.” You may be saying to yourself, “Martha was a real control freak,” and you would be right. Although we had certainly lived a comfortable life, this was the first time that we had made any real money and I was going to make sure to maximize it. Money had always been very important to me as a symbol of safety and, more importantly, freedom. At that point, I knew I wanted to be free but from what I didn’t know. I was soon to find out!