This week, I got an email from LinkedIn with a few updates from my network. Some of my contacts had new jobs, some updated their profiles, and shared articles. This is all normal for LinkedIn emails, and it's generally how I keep up with what's going on in my network. This particular day in the "people you know" area of the email, I saw a former boss (see image above). The first person to ever fire me. I dropped a few four letter words at the screen, and wondered why of all people, would LinkedIn suggest this person as a possible connection. I don't have this particular role on my profile as it was many years ago, it was random. I looked at her profile, she's been successful, and had a nice career trajectory. She has no clue, how she impacted my life.
I sat and thought about it for a while, and mentally returned to January 2002.
I'm a public guy. I love to share. Some things I am very public about, and others, I am extremely private about. My wife had never heard this story until I told her after I read the email from LinkedIn. I had compartmentalized this era of my life as it was painful, and lead to a long early to upper 20s for me.
When I took the job, I was 21, I was married, was the proud father a super active baby boy, and another one would come later down the line. I was in school, I had a good job, my wife didn't need to work. I had solid credit, my IRA balance was way ahead of everyone else in my circle. I worked for an apartment community, so my rent was 50% off in a pretty uppity area of Ann Arbor- I had more money to save. Growing up, I had great role model and examples. My dad was a banker, and instilled the values of saving money, building credit, so I was well-versed in financial literacy. Life was sweet.
I began this job as leasing agent, and was quickly promoted, skipping the leasing manager position, to Assistant Property Manager. I split my time between two properties, which wasn't the norm for someone in my role, but gave me so much experience in working both the middle and high rental rate communities. I was known at the headquarters by name, and often called to float to different properties to help in times of need.
For whatever reason, I think my ambition and desire to climb the company ranks, I found myself out of favor with my manager. We never had any real issues, just some mentions of me needing to work on and a few things here and there-nothing major. One day my manager was gone on vacation and assigned a floater property manager to work with me. I had a great relationship with this manager, or so I thought.
Our standard operating procedure was to have a property manager sign off on move-in application packets, there was no way around this. I signed my areas as APM stating the process checklist had been completed, and I told the floater to sign hers. Apparently, she approved the file without completing her due diligence as PM, she never got everything she needed from the renters. We had taken their money, they were moved in. The manager never signed the application after discovering her error- she instead forged my signature, and told my manager, I signed off on it and she had never seen it before. Someone asking why I would pick this day, of all days to begin signing in the PM area, was never a question to the floater's mind.
Because of my title, this was a terminable offense. I was blindsided when my manager told me I was being terminated because of this oversight beyond my control. I pleaded my case, but remember, I was out of favor with her. She made up a few infractions she never spoke to me about, I had never been verbally reprimanded nor written up, ever. She had tears in her eyes as she politely told me I was fired, asked me for my master keys, and handed me a notice stating that due to separation of employment, my rental rate was going up to market rate, which meant 100% more than I had been paying.
At the age of 22, I had just been fired, my rent was going up 100%, I had to drop out of school for the time being, and my second son was due in 60 days. My appeals to reverse the termination were denied. I spoke to lawyers, no one would touch the case without a ridiculous retainer. As a grown man, I was no longer able to provide for my family- we had to move back to Detroit, and in with family while I tried to turn my life around. I'm forever grateful for my support system to this day. It could have been a lot worse.
I couldn't find a job, unemployment was a joke. I tried hard not to touch my retirement savings, but ended up having to withdraw half, and eventually all to survive. This sent my life into a spiral, that took many years to correct. My credit went to hell, my savings were gone, retirement account was being depleted, and I couldn't find a job. I had been paying my car note on my Jeep so inconsistently, I became familiar with the sounds of diesel engines at night- I feared every truck was a tow truck, coming to repossess it. The icing on the cake, 4 years later, I ended up getting a divorce. Out. Of. Control.
In 2005, I launched my business with Erik Stephens and Quinne Lowe, Crush Media Group. I made a pact with myself, that as long as I have a creative skill, I would never be broke again. Our company did well, everyone knew about it. We had developed a brand. I was developing the Kevin Davis Brand, and didn't know it.
In summary, I learned a few things from that experience back in 2002. 1) Coworkers aren't your friends. 2) Never leave your eggs in one basket. 3) If you have a creative skill, you should never be broke. 4) Never get so lost in your job, that it defines who you are, and without it you are nothing. 5) Always invest in yourself FIRST. When you know your value, and invest in yourself, you are more of an asset and folks know it. 6) Always have a plan B, and a possible plan C. Most importantly, 7) Stay prayerful, thankful, and patient. Never let your circumstances define you and deter you from your goals in life. Keep pushing, the time will pass anyway.
Why do I work so hard, why am I always talking about personal branding, why am I always talking about life goals, why am I always on the heads of young folks, why am I always talking about finances, why do I love my family and network so much- I have a story, let me tell it so others don't have to live it.
I'm from Detroit, nothing stops Detroit.