Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ominfax Days (Part #1). . .

I remember like it was yesterday that first day at Omnifax. I was just one huge bundle of nerves and emotions, excited and anxious all at the same time.

You see, about six months prior to this all happening, my wife (by the way, the ‘wife’ at this time was my 1st wife, not Maryan, Maryan and I have only been together since 1999) and I were having dinner at “Captain Ahab’s” and the Omnifax building was across the street. That night as I looked out the window, at that building, I thought, out loud, that working there would be like a dream come true.

Now here I was, just a few months later, walking in the door as the newest employee and with a ‘sweet deal’ salary, bonus and benefits wise as well. Like I said, I was very excited, and yet incredibly anxious I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own reputation. Strange I know, but that’s how I felt all the same.

The first thing that happened, once I’d gotten the nickel tour, shown where my office was (yes I had an actual office!!) was that Chris, the president, and I sat down and devised an advertising campaign to fill up the classroom and begin earning us all some money.

The basic deal we’d struck about me coming th work there was that; I’d bring my customer list with me (and take it with me if I left) and do work for Omnifax customers as well, that work would primarily involve training (Lotus was the big package at the time and everyone wanted to learn how to use it), and developing applications in both dBASE and Lotus for those customers who needed and could afford it. I would also help the sales staff make appropriate hardware recommendations when required, but that was a very small part of the job.

I was to be paid a base salary of about twice what I’d been earning as a business school instructor (around $30K/year as I recall), and, would get 25% of the gross billing for the classes and custom programming. If all went well, the way I figured it I’d be earning about $50K/year, receive health, medical and paid time off type benefits, along with wonderful working conditions, including the latest and greatest computers to work on.

Things went very, very, well in the beginning. I remember spending about a month and a half,, every day, 5 days a week at Mutual of New York (MONY) training their executives in Lotus. Some classes would only have 2 or 3 folks in them, and that was because no executive wanted to be in a class with anyone except other execs at identically the same level on the corporate ladder. Sounds silly I know, but that was how things were, there, at that time.

So for six weeks or so, for $750/day, instead of “going to the office” I went to the MONY towers and spent the day training their upper echelon in the finer points of spreadsheet usage (keep in mind that 25% of day rate, a little over $185/day, was my ‘commission’ in addition to my salary!)

I was in heaven economically. I was finally earning like I’d heard you could earn in the IT/IS business… I was really feeling like I’d arrived. I wasn’t spending Sunday mornings reading the want ads and dreaming of earning $30K or more a year, I was living it! Life was good!

We used the money wisely as well. We paid off debts, fixed things around the homestead that had gone wanting for lack of funding, removed ‘patches’ and either properly repaired, or replaced things. I was finally feeling like things were coming together for me.

Yet, despite all the great things that were happening, I still felt this ‘hole’, an emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill. It seemed (to me) that the better things went, the bigger the hole grew.

I got up every day though; I was always the first one in the building in the morning, and almost always the last to leave. The only other guy there, who was ‘cranking it’ like I was, was Phil Roberts, the service manager. He and I became pretty good friends during the time I spent at Omnifax, often combining our talents to resolve customer issues quickly and effectively.

He taught me more about hardware, I showed him things about software, and we had fun, and were making money… how great is that?

Phil and I became two of the first Novell (one of the first networking applications for PC’s) certified guys in the NorthEast, and with the arrival of IBM’s new ‘PC-AT’ in 1984, networks were to begin playing a big role in the future of not only PC’s, but the software we wrote for them. Phil and I got Omnifax set up as a Novell authorized reseller (the first in Syracuse) and the very first network we put in place was at Omnifax itself.

We were all having fun, making money and working a huge number of hours. I remember though that with as much fun as we were having, no one was watching the clock.

Too much fun as it turned out.

Chris, well he got accused of ‘harassment’ by one of the women that worked there, and Rick summarily fired him. For what it’s worth, I never understood the ‘charge’ as there was plenty of ‘harassment’ going on from all sides, hell the girls would pinch my ass when I bent over the file cabinet! It was all in good fun, or so we all thought until this happened.

The next day, as Rick was explaining to me what had happened, and telling me his plans for a replacement for Chris, I looked him in the eye and said: “Well, I better start looking for another job now, if that’s your plan”

As I recall, Rick looked at me and said something to the effect that he’d wanted me for the role, but, he didn’t think I’d accept it. We talked some more, I told him I didn’t really want the job, but, if I wanted to continue having a job (I really didn’t think the other guy could do the job) I didn’t see any other choice.

So with that, I went from “Business Consultant” to became the “Director of Operations” for Omnifax. . .

What I discovered, and happened over the next few months next was beyond anything I could have imagined . . .

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Lorna said...

This is fascinating stuff, Bill, and I really admire both the ability to remember it in such vivid detail, and the way you're laying it out.

Bill said...

Lorna - I'm glad you're enjoying it. I've had some reservations about writing this up, as I've wondered if anyone else would find it interesting.

As for the memory... thanks :) I sometimes wonder why, I have trouble remembering where the car keys are, but not, what happened twenty years ago!!

Nina said...

I can't wait to read more. For what it is worth, I am really enjoying reading this and your writing is wonderful.

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

Oh no - - a "cliffhanger" - -

Quit teasing, Bill! The anticipation is killing me . . . :-)

P.S. This is VERY interesting reading!

Bill said...

Nina - Thank you.. and, it's worth a lot!

Liz - Heh-heh... my wife would say I tease too much too! I promise I'll continue this as quickly as time allows!

A lot happened for me, especially in the 80's, I'm enjoying the chronology process, as well as challenge in attempting to make it interesting, hit the important highlights, but not leave out some of the more 'human' side of things as well.

Firehawk said...

Ah, Bill, I sense a "Glory is fleeting" turn to this story coming up. I didn't fully understand the final part of this, where you told your boss that you'd have to start looking for a new job if you didn't replace Chris, but I suppose I should just wait, and you'll explain. Good story, bro.