My big career change came at the height of my former career. I had a calling, one that arose from my belief in opportunity and an innate trust in my gut instinct when it came to life-altering decisions.
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Big Career Change
I was 38 and chief operating officer/president of a medical imaging company in South Florida. A physician friend asked me if I thought our company would want to be one of the first to bring what was then new technology, the MRI, to the Caribbean and Latin America. Apparently, he was returning to his home island of Trinidad and Tobago to finish his career there.
I knew what he proposed would not be of interest to my current board of directors, but it certainly piqued my interest.
Within a week I resigned, secured a few investors, and spent the next 3½ years traveling throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. I built a marginally successful company, but not without a ton of adventure and a few scary times. I was held at gunpoint twice, once by the Sandinistas and once by Guatemalan rebels. I saw three criminals hung in Trinidad and Tobago, got caught in a riot, had the engine on my plane catch on fire, survived an earthquake, and much more. When my son was born, I knew it was time to change paths. It took about a year to bring myself to that conclusion, but I eventually sold the company.
I had made a little money, but certainly not enough to quit, so I started looking for my next opportunity while consulting and helping some friends back in Texas secure another medical imaging center. It was a “mailbox” money deal for me … or so I thought.
Many things happened, but the most devastating event was when the hospital we were connected to was closed, in one day, due to Medicare fraud. The power was turned off, and we were given 10 days to vacate the property and remove our MRI machine. If we didn’t get the power turned back on, the machine would be ruined. It was literally a ticking time bomb of physical and financial ruin. And if we did get the power back on, we still had to find a new place for the MRI machine to go.
On the ninth day of our 10-day notice, we pleaded our case before the Dallas City Council. The council members couldn’t have cared less, but a young man who worked for the city manager offered to help. The next day we had power and our own certificate of operations. We were back in business, although we were next to a closed hospital. But at least we had a chance.
In 2001, I moved my family back to Texas to focus my full-time attention on the company. By 2003, I was personally out of money but found enough in our business account to make a small distribution to me and my partners. I paid my house note, my personal bills, and took my wife and sons to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Then I went back to work the next day.
Focusing On Growth And Service
Ultimately, hard work and perseverance paid off. There were many more struggles and adventures, but over the next 17 years we built the largest outpatient medical imaging company in Texas with 28 locations. My partners and I developed dozens of operations across several specialties, including nine pain management surgery centers, two toxicology labs, and a host of other service companies. We have sold almost all of them, and the final sale is imminent.
We managed to become pretty well known in an industry usually made up of behemoth public companies, insurance giants, and mom-and-pop outfits. We did it by focusing on two key areas – growth and service. And we did it by having resilience. More than anything, my up-and-down journey illustrates the importance and power of resilience, which isn’t just about getting back up after getting knocked down. Resilience finds the way.
About James Webb
James Webb is the author of Redneck Resilience: A Country Boy’s Journey To Prosperity. His career in radiology saw him rise from a technologist to becoming a leader in the industry as the entrepreneur of several companies. After over 40 years in the medical field, Webb focused on the fitness sector, owning and eventually selling 33 Orangetheory Fitness® franchises throughout North Texas.