SimplySalesTalk: Retrenchment

Jes , 8 Comments

I was just talking to my company's Global Operations Director on his career.

He started out as a top graduate, landing the role to design the mechanical intricacies and piping of a production plant. Slowly, he worked his way up, moving to China to build a plant from scratch and was in charge of the whole production team of thousands. I was impressed but more curious how he managed to stay in the same job for the last 20 years.

He told me he loves his job. He likes building plants and seeing his actions translate into tangible, money-making machines. He also like to teach newcomers and showing them the ropes. Working for others is less stressful so he doesn't need the extra stress. He can go on vacations as and when he likes rather than tie himself to his own business. He has never thought of setting up his own business because he was too busy with his work.

There was never a great time or opportunity to do his own business.

And he has too much to lose. He needs the job to support his family and kids. He cannot just throw everything away. I just nod my head, thinking how all these are excuses. If he really wanted to do it, he would have tried doing something even though it might not work out in the end.

Sometimes, we think of many excuses to justify our decisions. Then we might just regret not trying.

Just 1 week after I spoke to him, there came the axe. At 54 years old, he was retrenched. It was really sudden and shocking. He came on that day, packed and left.

I think he does love the job and even the company but unfortunately, the company does not love him back. Everyone is dispensable and there is no role that cannot be replaced. No one is too important unless you are the boss yourself.

Even after working 20 years in the company, there was no warning at all before the axe fell. At 54 years old, he is too young to retire and too old to find another job. It seems really harsh to me particularly because he just told me how passionate he feels about his job. He was deeply embarrassed about being retrenched and left quietly.

3 months after he left, he came and told us he was starting his own company.

I am glad he is trying out. Some of us needed a push or a reason to be an entrepreneur but at least he won't regret not doing so next time.

I think it is likely I might get retrenched in the future. Most PMETs might face it sooner or later. Your salary is too high and the company can hire someone cheaper and younger. We can't stop the merciless corporations from axing people. It's more important to learn, upgrade and try new things.

Invest in yourself, it's the only way forward.

Probably part of a reason why I started SnackFirst. Like me on Facebook for more on my entrepreneurial journey. 


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  1. That's the problem with lifestyle inflation, keeping up with the Ah Tans, maintaining "appropriate" appearances, etc. It's much worse in a high cost place like S'pore.

    A senior colleague like yours, probably with good pay for 30 years, should have accumulated more than enough savings/investments if he & his family had lived a modest lifestyle.

    With just a little bit of interest in income / dividend investing over the years, he could have easily multiple streams of passive income put in place over the last 10-20 years.

    Now he is attempting a business for the worst possible reason --- to generate regular income for family living expenses. I suppose it's more of a consultancy / proj mgmt type of business in manufacturing/production plants & processes to capitalize on his knowledge & skills.

    In a place like S'pore, it's good to live & work like you're going to be retrenched at 40 yrs old. That means building up alternative streams of income and getting rid of large debts before 40. Otherwise have alternative "bolt holes" in other places of the world to continue living e.g. lower cost of living environments.

    1. Hi there,

      You have touched on many important key points here: On savings, passive investing, keeping up with lifestyle or lower cost of living. All very valid tips you have given but not many will heed.

      I agree with you fully too that he is going into business in a bad situation, but probably that was also one of his regrets in life.

      40 years old seems very young but I think you are driving home the message to remove large debts and build up alternative streams of income. I am trying to do that too, it's difficult especially when I am trying to do my own business. But I think it's worth a try and so, I keep my expenses low for the time being.

      Thanks for all the advice and reminders, I really appreciate it and hope to work towards what you have mentioned and be like you :)

  2. The way he started out seems to be the path i am on now. Damn, i wish i don't end up getting retrenched before i am prepared to stop working.

    1. Hi Leopard,

      Haha, I think you will be on a better path because you are aware about what could happen and will take more measures to be prepared for it. I am sure other companies will hire you anyway :)

  3. Jes,

    I must poke you.

    "I am glad he is trying out. Some of us needed a push or a reason to be an entrepreneur but at least he won't regret not doing so next time."

    Spear and shield moment:

    "I agree with you fully too that he is going into business in a bad situation, but probably that was also one of his regrets in life."

    Is this post to encourage entrepreneurship or is it to do all the "right" stuffs like modest lifestyle, building up alternative streams of income, etc; so we have the excuses to don't ever have to live out our entrepreneur dreams?

    I"ll play the devil's advocate by attempting to create a rift between you and the man with a brown paper bag over his head. (Its a man; women don't talk like that. Men like to "wah kali kong")

    Now imagine his comment was "well-meaning advice" directed to cofee tea or me and you when you both started your entrepreneur dreams ;)

    Cheerleader me.

    1. Hi Jared,

      Oh, what I meant about his regrets in life is to not be able to try entrepreneurship at a better time, sorry super unclear of me. I don't think he will regret going into business because it's like his only and last choice.

      Hmmm... it was not my intention to promote anything, but more to invest in yourself, learn more things and point out the harsh realities. Yet, encouraging entrepreneurship and the "right" lifestyle is the same - At the start, it's tough to make ends meet so, we will need alternative streams of income, like cutting down and taking on part time jobs. I am doing both and feel more like I am waking up from a dream, no more business class and MC days :P

      Hahaha, it's actually not so bad. It's not like we don't know the corporate life, the eat-snake-wait-until-5-collect-pay-and-slack is great but different phase of life need to try out different things. Similarly, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I might even fail and go back to working, nothing is certain but that's the fun part. Dying without trying is the scary part.

      Anyway, don't anyhow go around poke poke ah, LOL!

  4. Jes,

    My MSG poke brings out the passionate flavours in you ;)

    Exactly. I am equally conscious and prepared to return to fulltime work if my portfolio goes bust.

    Nothing is set in concrete - be it career, entrepreneurship, investing.

    Its all about having FUN!

    To have fun, anytime is a good time. There is never a "best" time :)

    You stay sassy and pretty!

    1. Hi Jared,

      Haha, I think you like to tickle me, test my response, so every time I reply you, I have to think twice about my actions, my paths, my decisions, my answers. That's damn helpful la, I appreciate it a lot!

      Eh, I think your solid portfolio is not gonna go bust unless it's a sudden, major crisis. In any case, I think you are still well prepared, having survived through many cycles. As you mentioned previously, both of us are into the 'now', enjoying and not regretting our moments. That's really living and not just existing!

      You continue to enjoy and ignore all those who advise otherwise. Thanks for your continued encouragement! =D