By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Shawn Collins became a successful entrepreneur. The end.
The audience, many of whom are already entrepreneurs, responded off the record with WTF? One participant, Cheryl Borrenpohl, commented: “Great story, but it left me hanging! Kind of like when your VCR just dies in the middle of a gripping movie and you never know the end.”
Escape from New York
The point of the presentation was that two intense events drove Collins, an affiliate marketer, into the world of entrepreneurship. One was 9/11 when he was working at a startup two miles from Ground Zero. He and his wife, who was home with a two-month-old and pregnant with a second child, decided he needed to come home. But his boss “forbade” him. Management had decided it was safer for everyone to stay at the company.
Collins took a moment to decide the best way to respond and chose, “Yeah, okay, bye.”
He ran outside, just in time to see the second tower fall. He made it to the train where everyone aboard cheered when it started moving, then froze when it stopped seconds later. After ten minutes the announcement came that there might be bombs in the train tunnels and everyone should evacuate. Collins followed the rest of his trip home which included boats and buses and hitching a ride. And when he finally returned to his car at the local train station he realized some of the owners of these cars might not return. In fact eight people from his town died that day. And yet his boss had insisted he stay.
“I don’t ever want to be in that situation again,” he thought.
You Die on a Today
His second story was about his father, who never chose the job that would have made him happy because he went for money and security. When a Madison Avenue job opened up that paid poorly but would have suited his creative skills, Collins’ grandfather admonished him “You’re not supposed to like your job. Go for the money.”
Their lives held a series of promised vacations to Ireland and a fantasy Cadillac in the future but the reality was motel vacations in nearby towns and a series of “beater” cars. All his dad looked forward to was retirement. Then he died at 61, months before it happened.
“A lot of people live for tomorrow. But you die on a today,” Collins said. To give his father one more “tomorrow,” he and his brother took his father’s ashes to Yankee Stadium in baggies in their socks and scattered them.
Then he went to a convention on a cruise and both he and another woman offered suggestions for changing the convention and were pooh poohed by the guy running the convention. So they decided to create their own convention and five months later put the other guy out of business.
Had he been speaking to a room full of lifelong IBM employees, it might have been more impactful, but in a room full of people already struggling to build their businesses, find customers and investors and wear a dozen hats, there was a dearth of practical advice.
Plus there was only light beer.