Jan Marino has been downsized, right-sized, oversized, and undersized, and she finally had enough. She realized eight years ago that she needed a consistent boss who would not jerk her around. Who did she decide on? Herself.
A personal branding and management coach and founder of High Gain Companies, Inc., Marino is dedicated to taking her clients from where they are to where they want to be. She helps them learn to brand themselves, teaches them how to succeed in a business selling and pulls them out of their comfort zone and pushes them into personal success.
Did we mention she’s also an author? Marino wrote “Take Back Your Career,” a must-read for anybody joining the workforce or reassessing their career path.
We sat down with this busy entrepreneur and talked about the importance of getting fired, why Oprah (should watch her back), and the road to a $50 million company.
What was your inspiration for starting High Gain Companies, Inc.?
I started High Gain Companies because after my fifth layoff I thought, “this is stupid.” I thought about what was happening in the market. What do people really need? The average job lasts two years and at the rate the economy is going we’ll be working until we’re 90.
My husband and I have relocated a lot for his job. I’ve lived in Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, California, Ohio, and we finally settled in Illinois. Each time we moved I had to reinvent myself, buy a new house, get a new job, and worst of all: find a new hair stylist!
We need to be flexible, be able to change, learn to look at market trends and employer needs. The job market is always changing and High Gain Companies helps people deal with that change. In this world everybody has to have their own personal value statement ready to go at any time. I pull my clients out of their comfort zone and make them face the music.
What does your typical workday look like?
I wake up at around seven and I’m online most of the day—I see what’s going on in the world, I send tweets, I’m on LinkedIn. I have three different blogs and I’m writing four or five blog posts at once so I never have to scramble for topics. Even if I’m taking a break or watching TV, my laptop is always on.
I usually work until about ten or eleven at night, but the payoff is very rewarding. Sometimes I go to networking events and people I’ve never met will recognize me, come up to me, talk to me about my book or about a blog post they’ve read. It really helps me see the value of my work.
It’s not hard for me to stay on schedule and maintain discipline. I broke my leg and had to telecommute for two years at another job, so I’m used to the isolation. Not worrying about having a messy home also helps!
What was the lowest point of your career before you started your own company?
One night I couldn’t sleep and I heard on the radio that Bank of America, where I worked at the time, had been sold to Nations Bank. None of us had ever heard a thing about it until that moment. I knew it was going to be a huge change—those companies could not have more opposite work cultures.
I thought to myself, I’ll wait it out and see what happens, but almost immediately the work environment shifted. People stopped trusting each other, people stopped communicating, and it got really ugly.
Shortly after that I was laid off, and I thought to myself: there’s got to be a better way.
I think being fired is good for the soul. It teaches you what you want, who you are, and most importantly, to trust your gut instinct. If you have a voice inside your head telling you something’s not right, TRUST YOUR GUT—it’s never wrong.
After Bank of America, I never looked back. My parents were both entrepreneurs so I had a good background for it. I knew I could do it. It took longer than I thought it would, but I did it.
What do you do to unwind?
I love to paint. I paint mostly abstracts like Jackson Pollack. I haven’t painted in a while, unfortunately, but I do love it.
I love to take long walks too, but painting sounds better so I’ll say I paint.
If you could give 16-year-old you one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would say the same thing I told myself at 16: DO NOT MARRY A FARMER. There’s nothing wrong with farmers, but I grew up in a small midwestern town of 700 and everybody was a farmer.
My father owned a pharmacy and was one of the only businessmen in our town, so it was drilled into me from a young age to go to college, do big things, be somebody.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m working on my second book right now. It’s called “Diving for Olives.” I’m a recovering alcoholic and the title comes from diving for the olives at the bottom of martini glasses. It’s about how to deal with all the crap that happens in your life. It’s about looking at a situation and instead of thinking, “this is awful and I’m going to let it keep me down” you look at your options and go from there.
After I write my book I want to have a TV show about the same thing. I don’t want A-list celebrities on it; I want regular people. I want good stories about good people who have done the same thing as me: overcome a huge obstacle in their lives. I think I can help Oprah in the Chicago market!
In five years I want to have a $50 million company. I’m successful now, but I am going to be mega successful.