Daring Tales of Corporate Escape — His and Hers Edition

January 18th, 2009

christitedToday, you get two daring tales of corporate escape from the amazing husband and wife team of Christi Smith Scofield and Ted Scofield (Christi gets first billing because I met her first). 

Christi is the President and Founder of PFF Entertainment, the company that makes the party game Sexy Slang and lots of other fun products, and Ted is both the firm’s COO and a talented novelist.

Sexy Slang is a combination of charades and Pictionary, featuring racy PG-13 slang terms. It’s a great way to break the ice at a party and expand your vocabulary at the same time.  When she came up with the idea, Christi was a technology sales executive with  no experience creating or manufacturing games, but she believed in her idea. It inspired her in a way that her corporate job never had. So she started working on the game in her spare time and named her new company PFF  (Project Financial Freedom) Entertainment, looking forward to the day when she could leave her day job.

Today, Christi’s day job is history and Sexy Slang is sold in more than 1,000 stores and has inspired a line of apparel and other games. You can read more about Christi’s success story  in her Escape Artist of the Month profile.

Meanwhile, Christi’s husband Ted was cheering her on all the way. He left his job as a high-powered corporate attorney to help her run the company and pursue his passion for writing. You will be seeing Ted’s first novel on bookstore shelves soon (I can’t say more right now, but am looking forward to announcing the details when it’s time to go public).

Christi and Ted had some major advantages beyond being bright, creative, and resourceful (as all entrepreneurs must be). Both also gained valuable business experience in the corporate world, which helped them navigate the challenges of manufacturing, licensing, distribution, and marketing (to name just a few).

They also had each other.  Each has put in countless hours of time and energy to support the other’s dream — through hard work, moral support, and evangelism. If you can find a partner like that, you’ve got a priceless resource (thanks to my husband Alex, I feel fortunate to speak from experience on this one). Even in the face of financial insecurity and obstacles, you’ve got a valuable asset.

I asked Christi and Ted my standard five questions for corporate escape artists and they shared their his-and-hers advice.

1. Tell us a little bit about your corporate career path. 

Christi:  I worked in technology sales and sales management at Tech Data, Compaq and HP for 12 years.  I was calling on Fortune 500 companies to sell  high-end technology equipment and services. 

Ted:  From day one I saw myself as a “big corporation” guy.  I assumed, and was taught, that I’d be a Sherman McCoy “master of the universe” in law/business/medicine.  So I did all the right things.  After college, I worked for a few years and then returned to Vanderbilt for an MBA and JD.  Upon graduating I went to work for one of the largest law firms in the world in the New York office.  I was “Associate No. 34920,” or so it felt at the time.


2. What made you decide to change careers? 

Christi:  A couple of things.  First of all, let me say that as far as large corporations go, Tech Data and HP are two of the finest.  However, when corporations get that large, they lose a certain appeal to people with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit. Along my career path, I decided that I despised large, corporate-style management rules where I had to fit people in a ridiculous bell curve.  I wouldn’t have hired them if I didn’t think they were good.  Why would I want to put good people at the bottom of a bell curve? 

Then I decided to leave management to go for a more high-profile individual contributor role.  I realized how depressing it is to work your tail off and see how your “individual contributions” just barely make a blip on the radar of a $100+ billion company.  The third reason, which is really the most important reason, is that I finally realized that I was just in it for the money.  My heart was not into it which made the day to day become so monotonous.  Being surrounded by so many creative, entrepreneurial people in New York City game me the confidence I needed to take a leap of faith to a career path that fit my personality and interests.  

Ted:  For me, it was a DNA shift.  I realized I had to write books.  And I hated working for faceless clients and a-hole bosses. 

3. What were your biggest career change challenges?

Christi:  Financial security. No question.

Ted:  Psychologically, I had to “change my DNA.”  That is, I had to convince myself that it was okay to pursue a “non-traditional” way of life that ran counter to everything I’d been taught in 20 years of private education.  Money was/is also a problem, of course.  I walked away from a big salary/bonus, with really no idea how I’d make it up. 

4. What are the best and worst things about your new career? 

Christi:  The best:  Everything.  I could go on and on. The worst: Lack of  financial security.

Ted:   Cliche answers here.  Best — freedom, sense of accomplishment, lifestyle.  Worst — lack of regular salary.


5. What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck in an uninspiring job? Do you have any success secrets to share? 

Christi:  If you have a concept, do your best to start it on the side so you can get your feet wet before you decide to take the official leap.  And don’t burn your bridges when you leave.  It has been a comfort to me to know that I have people from my old career path cheering me on in my new one but know that if it does not work out, that path is still an option for me. 

Ted:  Ask yourself, How did you end up where you are?  Why did you take an uninspiring job in the 1st place?  Then ask yourself what “job” would you never want to retire from?  I will always want to write; I’ll never retire. My Dad said, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”  Dad, I hope you’re right!

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