5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder
Authority Magazine Interview (published April 17) with Doug Noll
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom McMullen Jr.
It all starts with Tom McMullen Jr. (the heart, soul, and creator of ClipDifferent). Tom has always had an eye open for those who have to work harder for things that most of us take for granted. He learned this first-hand at an early age when his youngest sister came down with polio and he helped her with her stretches and find new ways to get through the day.
That became an incredibly important lesson when Tom’s wife, Trudy, was diagnosed with progressive health issues and Tom searched for ways to make her life easier. He again learned that some of the simplest daily tasks are nearly impossible when you have physical challenges or differing abilities. His sense of purpose and deep-rooted devotion to others has been the driving force and inspiration in the journey in developing ClipDifferent.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 20 years old, I dropped out of the engineering program at the University of Michigan (still maybe the best decision I’ve ever made) and went to work for my father in a family manufacturing business, gaining my initial experience in developing new products. By age 23, I was awarded two utility patents. At age 26, I left my father’s business and joined another local industrial manufacturing company. There, I had success in developing products and rapidly expanding sales.
After six years there I helped the owner sell his company, and moved on to work for a consumer products manufacturing company. After one year there, my wife, Trudy was diagnosed with a life-threatening health condition at 32 years old. I was 33 with three young children and had to assume very significant day-to-day family responsibilities and also be there for Trudy. Not being able to handle national sales for the company, a few months later I gave my resignation notice. The company gave me three months to hire my replacement and allowed me to get a running start as a self-employed business broker.
My intention was to do that for 2–3 years and then earn a living developing products. That 2–3-year timeframe became a 42 year career in what had become the merger and acquisition field. Over the years, I had new product ideas, but nothing resonated with me until one day, at age 40, I was clipping my fingernails. I looked at the fingernail clipper and thought “how does someone with a hand problem clip their fingernails?” It became a 35-year journey before I (we) came to market with our first product.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Three months after I started working on developing what I envisioned as a patentable, game changing fingernail clipper, Trudy lost most of the use of her legs, and at 39 years of age, had to start using a wheelchair. This certainly brought about significant changes to our entire family. In spite of all the medical challenges with Trudy, I knew that I had to be true to myself and continue to work on developing the fingernail clipper.
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