Now that Catherine is a full-time student, I can focus on getting back to a full-time job.
When we moved to Sioux Falls South Dakota, my rolodex became irrelevant. With no known firm behind me, no local experience and a plethora of avenues potentially open to me, I didn’t know where to start...or if it was even worth trying. After unpacking and clearing my dry-erase "deal board", I decide to replace the names of old clients and recently completed projects with the names of established local brokers, developers and restaurateurs who were likely here long enough to witness the beginning of Sioux Falls' boom first hand. The goal was to speak with 50 of the more successful business leaders to better understand from where Sioux Falls has come, where they see growth headed and what factors they perceive as potential obstacles in the way of continued growth.
Small towns and cities like Sioux Falls are typically "good old boys clubs". Getting to know who's who is not only important to gain insight on the local market and how business is conducted, but also to know where everyone's respective toes are so that none of them are inadvertently stepped-on in the process.
When friends and colleagues back East first learned that I was moving to the Midwest, the assumption was that: I would have the market and the consumer base figured out in a matter of weeks, open a few restaurants in the first year and negotiate several large deals in the first few months. Although Sioux Falls is 1/10th the size of Philadelphia, the market is no less dynamic. The failure to recognize that would be more a sign of arrogance than of ignorance. This city is small but its experiencing rapid expansion. The growth is visible everywhere. It’s like being on a college campus. Continuous construction is everywhere and the energy is palpable. Residential construction alone has topped $56MM this year compared to $20MM in 2012 and $11MM in 2011.
The most challenging aspect of getting back to full-time work after a brief hiatus...and a new perspective, is that there now seems to be more opportunities out there than I realized. Exploring the job market in Sioux Falls is like being in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. So many great things all going on at the same time... that the quandary almost results in inaction. In so many ways, moving to Sioux Falls is like starting over. So much so that I questioned whether or not hospitality and commercial real estate were really the right paths to continue down. Sioux Falls is a professional blank slate with the potential to bring one's skill sets to a myriad of professions from Design to Finance.
What I learned...or rather was reminded of, after speaking with many of the old guard here, is that given my druthers, I'd do what I've always done. Although I've often dreamed of trying my hand at things like marketing and advertising, I am a CRE deal and restaurant development junkie. Any fears I may have had about passing up alternative professional opportunities were laid to rest after having coffee one morning with a prominent attorney in town who spoke of his breadth of experience in various fields of law. He "would grow bored of any one specialty after 3 or 4 years so [he] would study some new disciplines and take on new clients to keep things interesting." This ability to regularly re-invent oneself professionally and succeed in doing so, would be impossible in any large city where most service related industries are dominated by tens if not hundreds of practitioners who take the lion's share of available clients based on their extensive experience alone.
This market seems to be one where the consumer is investing more in the individual than the size of their firm. A market where personal relationships and competence rule. A market where opportunities that exist today will likely exist tomorrow. With a 3% unemployment rate and companies losing more money because of their inability to meet staffing demands; perhaps getting back in the work force won't be as difficult as I imagined...but certainly not as easy as some may think.