The Difficult Choice To Give Up Teaching

Ramp suggested that I write a guest post about my recent decision to wrap up an academic career and focus on my business, ForwardView Consulting. It's not a decision that I made lightly. In fact, I'd been thinking about it and praying for guidance for several weeks before I submitted my resignation. Was my decision entirely based on dollars and cents? No, but the financial aspects of the transition gave me significant concern, as you would expect.

Until August 27th, I was an Adjunct Professor of Economics and Finance for Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and also served as a team leader with faculty training, coaching, and assessment responsibilities. Although I taught for a private school, I was still technically a contractor and thus received no benefits. As a real-life ramp user, around 1/3 of my faculty pay went toward medical and insurance bills. The income from SNHU was regular, though, unlike the rather lumpy revenue from consulting.

Adjuncts are paid about 50% as much as instructors.

On the other hand, my consulting business has grown 100% y/y. It’s positioned in a great niche, SMB and municipal government digital marketing and website design, and there’s almost no competition here in Southwest Virginia. Best of all, my phenomenal ForwardView team is more than capable of serving a larger clientele. That capacity gives me complete comfort to build the business nationally.

It’s a good time to own a small business that serves small businesses. But, where’s my moat?

Ultimately, it's not that I wanted to leave SNHU; it's that I've been called elsewhere. This year, I balanced teaching, my business, my health, my family, my spiritual life, and everything else. I’ve been working 60+ hours each week, and something had to give. I'm not going to sacrifice my family or my faith, and I'm not going to sacrifice my health (I tried that during my first earnings season in equity research and landed in the hospital for several days).

So, that left me with the need to let go of either teaching or my business. In my corner of Southwest Virginia, there's no one else who can provide my local clients with similar marketing and website tech services. If the clients were transitioned to a firm elsewhere, the fees would be 3-4x higher, which few clients can afford. My business is the sole provider of digital services for the three towns in my county, our Behavioral Health Services agency, our Chamber of Commerce, our museum, our community theatre, and many businesses. I couldn't end my business without hurting multiple rural communities that, frankly, aren't exactly affluent.

The past twelve years, six as a student and five as a faculty member (with a brief break in between), have been filled with the joys of SNHU. The University has been one of my greatest blessings in life, but I knew that it was time for me to make room for someone new. I will always be humbled to have been a professor. I mean, I'm just a country boy from an area best known for mountains, and I've been a professor and faculty team leader. I honestly don't believe it myself.

Although my mission with SNHU is finished, my business mission is seemingly far from over. I've cherished each day of teaching, though. It seems like just yesterday that I enrolled as a student. And I was scared! I just wanted to survive that first term. Twelve years later, I was afraid to resign from teaching and lose some security, but I knew it was time.

Onward in business!