He flies because he loves to. “I would pay [Delta] to let me fly,” he says. “It just so happens that that’s the thing I do for pleasure, and it pays me smile. “This was back when not everybody had a car phone.” Once he achieved that, his next goal was to have $1 million cash in the bank. Thompson, who earns close to $200,000 as a pilot alone, says he now has that, too, thanks to his entrepreneurial success.
“I’m a firm believer that there’s not much I can’t accomplish if I want to,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I can be Michael Jordan because I don’t have that gift. But most people succeed not on talent or gifts, but on perseverance. It took two years for me to open my first Subway. Most people give up after the first roadblock. I keep pressing, no matter what.”
As for the difficulty of balancing competing demands, Thompson, who got married in his late 30s, says he purposely postponed family life to focus entirely on his professional and financial goals. “The tough part is not juggling two careers, but juggling two careers and a family,” he says. “When it was just me and my wife, if I had to fly on Thanksgiving, she’d just come with me.”
Now that Thompson has two daughters, Taylor, 8, and Sydney, 3, his priorities have shifted again. “I used to be in the office by 8 a.m. Mondays. Now I take the kids to school first,” he says. “I’m at a point where I have the luxury of not having to do anything anymore, especially anything I don’t really get satisfaction from.” But even as Thompson contemplates liquidating some of his businesses, he is certain that he will continue to have a car
eer in addition to flying — possibly as a motivational speaker. “I don’t fly every day,” he explains, “so there’s still a lot of time to fill. I have to do more. It’s just who I am.”
A MODEL CAREER STRATEGY
While it may simply be part of Thompson’s fiber to burn the candle at both ends, others fall into parallel careers more by accident than by design. About three years ago, Charlotte Clarke, then a process engineer for Pitney Bowes in Stamford, Connecticut, began taking acting classes at night. “I thought it would help me in my corporate life,” says Clarke, 34. “I tend to be somewhat introverted. I thought this would bring me out, help with my presentation skills and communicating with strangers.” Beyond that, Clarke, who is single and began modeling as a hobby when she was 13, simply saw it as a spare time thing.”
She invested in a professional portfolio, but wasn’t doing much with it until she learned in early 1996 that her job was being eliminated. Although the possibility existed to land a new position within Pitney Bowes, Clarke was worried and for good reason. As an engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the late ’80s, she had witnessed