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It's Time To Burn Your Parachute

Author: Selim Maalouf

Change is never easy.

That is something that everybody acknowledges in theory. But you never internalize it. When change is staring you in the face, you buckle under its immense pressure and you run back to your comfort zones.

I know I do. But in the few instances I didn’t, I managed to turn my whole life upside down.

The reason you’re seeing a new face in this boring bar is a direct result of dealing with the fear of change head-on.

My name is Selim Maalouf, and I’m the latest team member here at MakingChips. This is not an introductory article getting you acquainted with me and what I do at MakingChips. This is a story about risking everything to improve the things that matter most to you.

Leave the parachute at home

During this week’s episode of the MakingChips Podcast, guest Matt Gawlik, president of 3D Industries, dropped a nugget of wisdom that stopped me in my tracks:

“You have to be willing to go out of business to implement an ERP correctly.”

Taken out of context, it might seem like Matt is a reckless business owner that doesn’t understand the realities of business. If you felt the same, then you need to leave your parachute at home, and take a dive.

For Matt, that new ERP system (ProShop) was not a simple software upgrade, it was a cultural shift. It was moving his machine shop away from the subjective wisdom of the veterans to a solid data-driven operation. It was the key to taking away emotions from business decisions. And it worked.

Those of you who contemplated a similar move inside your machine shops understand the challenges that Matt faced. For those of you who don’t, here is the blunt truth:

Great machinists are hard to come by. And if your best machinist is standing in the way of your company’s improvements, some hard decisions need to be made.

Sometimes it works great

I am an industrial engineer by training, and I worked for 6 years both as a machine designer and a solutions engineer. At one point, I took a leap of faith and learned digital marketing on my own. 

Why? Because spending my whole career as a technical guy was not going to provide me the growth I sought after. I had two choices: sales or marketing. I chose marketing because it's a more fun career (Sorry, salespeople).

But that shift was easy, I stayed with the same company and kept my engineering salary, but now I had room to grow.

The alarms started blaring, however, when the economy of the country I was working in took a nosedive.

I knew I had to find a way to come back to the U.S. I had to land a job in an economy that was nearing an 8.4% unemployment rate. I had to land a job remotely when businesses are only hiring locals. I had to do something.

That “something” was building my personal brand on social media. At a glance, that doesn’t sound like too much of a task. But I needed results, and I needed them quickly.

I needed to create marketing content, I needed to distribute that content, I needed to follow-up with prospects and potential employers for interviews. That is a full-time job. That was time I did not have.

So I took my parachute and set it on fire.

I went into my boss’ office the next morning and handed in my resignation. In an economy that is struggling to keep its workforce employed, I chose to ditch a secured income.

And it worked! After a series of content collaborations, I was invited to a group of marketing professionals in the U.S. where I met Nick Goellner, one of the hosts of the podcast.

I flew halfway across the world and landed in our headquarters in Rockford.

This changed my whole life for the better, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn't burn my parachute.

But sometimes it doesn’t

It would not be a bold move if the stakes are not high. And that is what Matt Gawlik understood.

Angering your best machinist and having them leave puts a huge hole in your machining capacity. It puts you in a tough spot and might cause you to turn down some client work. You have to be ready to face the worst-case scenario.

This year wasn’t the first time that I had taken the bold move to submit my resignation.

Going back to 2018, I was feeling stuck in my job. Paths to growth were closing up and I had hit my head against a glass ceiling. The work dynamics had started taking a toll on my mental health and I had started looking for a way out.

One of the bigger computer retailers was looking for someone to help them clean up their act and make a push to become a national chain. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone.

So I joined their team as the sales and marketing manager, working with a team of two account managers, one media designer, and one e-commerce expert. It didn’t take much for me to notice the gaps in the process. So I buckled down and put together a plan of action.

It was a great plan, and I did everything I could to implement it, including threatening to resign if people didn’t listen.

Nobody listened, and I stuck to my guns. I went home that night feeling like a failure. And the next two months solidified it in my head. I took a dive without a parachute, and I fell flat on my face.

Luckily, someone from my old company reached out and offered me my old job back.

Leaders are forged in these situations

Manufacturing leaders are known for their grit and toughness to make hard decisions. Weathering the onslaught of foreign manufacturing and keeping the metalworking nation alive is not something that is taken lightly. You are built to face the fears, and it is time to burn the parachute.

I know I left mine halfway across the world, and if I hadn't taken that first leap of faith, I wouldn’t have succeeded in the second. I wouldn’t have joined this lovely team, and grown into the leader I am today.

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