Monday, December 14, 2009

A silver lining in a bad economy

By all accounts, 2009 was an amazingly successful year for me. You probably didn’t expect to see an article start with those words. Let me explain. After 30 years in the fire service I hung up my boots. Not being even 50 years old yet, those who did not know me well were confused and bewildered by this move. Those closest to me knew it was all part of a plan I constructed almost 10 years ago.

One component of my plan was to go back to school to earn my PhD. I started that journey in 2004 and completed it in 2008. That was an amazing experience for me. It was time consuming, difficult and expensive for sure. But it was also very rewarding and worthwhile.

It was now time to put my education to use and start sharing my knowledge with the greater fire service community. I have been teaching fire service leadership and safety classes since 1992, so the concept of sharing my knowledge was not new for me. However, the concept of earning my living and supporting my family by teaching, coaching, consulting, and writing certainly was new.

Naysayers told me I should not retire. Not now! Not in this economy! But to say that opportunity was knocking would be a gross understatement and I was anxious to start this new chapter in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being a fire chief too, but the idea of being able to use my education and experience to help develop future fire service leaders really jazzed me up. But the economy!?!

Turns out, much to my surprise, the bad economy has worked to my advantage. Many departments have been told that out-of-state travel is restricted (or eliminated). But these departments still had training dollars in the budget. They just weren’t allowed to travel out-of-state. This led to some incredible opportunities for me to provide training for these departments. They decided if they could not send their members out-of-state for training, they would bring in the out-of-state instructors and teach their members in-house.

I had no way to anticipate there would be so many opportunities from visionary leaders who found creative ways to continue the professional development of their members. Some departments had me provide three sessions over three days and train their personnel while on-duty, saving overtime costs. This is a creative solution and often times I’m told the cost of the program was less than what the overtime would have run.

Other departments opened up the classes to regional attendees and charged a fee for the program. In many cases, this allowed them to no only recover the entire program costs, but to make money. Instead of using the excuse “we don’t have the money in our budget to train” some used my programs to make money for their training budgets. Again, this was something I would not have anticipated.

I count my blessings every day. I am blessed to have a very supportive and caring family. I am blessed to have spent 30 years serving in a vocation I absolutely loved. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to go to school. And now, I am blessed with so many opportunities to share my knowledge and experience. I am so thankful.

The economic downturn has certainly been challenging for many departments who have seen reductions in budgets and staffing. That is very unfortunate and I am hopeful things will improve in 2010 for our economy and our nation’s fire service. In the meantime, I have employed a personal philosophy to not dwell on all the negative news that’s out there. Rather, I am focused on seeking new opportunities to make a difference in 2010.
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  1. Congratulations on taking this bold step! There is always opportunity in adversity if you know where to look.

    Stay Safe,

    Bill Delaney

  2. Congratulations on taking this bold step! There is always opportunity in adversity if you know where to look.

    Stay Safe,

    Bill Delaney


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