NPR Interview with Mr. Handyman Franchise Owner

We're looking back at the collapse
of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which went bust five
years ago, this coming weekend. That was the moment when the horror
set in that the unraveling of the real estate boom had triggered
the worst financial disaster since the stock market crash of 1929. We'll be examining the lessons from
various angles in the next few days. Today, it's the former Lehman executive
who left Wall Street for good. Do you need caulking? You need some outlet that doesn't work. There's tiling that's broken. There's a mailbox you
need to have installed. Silicon caulking, ceramic tile? Five years ago, David Ambinder was
senior vice president of global business support services at Lehman. 500 people reported to him. He worked in Lehman's fancy
building in Midtown, Manhattan, amid stints of international travel. Now 53-year-old Ambinder
runs a successful Mr. Handyman franchise, headquartered over an
Italian restaurant in suburban New Jersey. You need a toilet replaced
or some new countertop? He's the man.

His team of seven does the
hands-on and binders of the boss. Are you any good at fixing stuff yourself? No, I'm terrible. You never want me in your house, but,
you know, I think my skillset is more aligned with being a good manager,
being someone who's well-versed in marketing, well-versed in financial
management and building a business. And when I was at Lehman or Goldman
or Solomon in my financial career, I was always in positions where I
managed areas that I didn't know a lot about and sort of loved the
challenge of learning new things. And you know, that challenge
certainly was here. But you must've been smart enough to leave
Lehman with some kind of seed capital, some kind of savings to start a business. Well, you know, I worked on Wall
Street for a long time and I think of myself as a fairly conservative person
in the way I live my actual life. So, when Lehman went under, you know,
it was certainly a financial blow because obviously, the stock, which
you get paid in a large percentage here for your pay was worth nothing. But, you know, I had a savings and we
decided that this was worth the risk.

Banking

And regardless of what everyone
told me, I did it anyway. Okay. Did you get buy-in from
your spouse on this? You know, if you look at this move, I
recognize that it's somewhat drastic and it's somewhat very, very different from
what typically you see people doing. So my wife, who is just incredibly
supportive, you know, I recall initially was like looking at me like I'm a little
crazy, but I had both my kids in college. Right as 2008 is happening? Yeah, it all converged. So, you know, I had to kind of
make decisions very quickly. I thought in order to make sure that
as this whole thing unraveled, I would have some way of income, and I didn't
think it wasn't banking anymore. 'Cause I thought the consolidation was
too much, and I thought that the landscape was going to change related to how people
were paying on Wall Street, where, you know, maybe it wasn't worth it anymore.

If another boom started building
in financial services in New York, would you leave this career at Mr. Handyman and start going back
into the city and work in banking again do you think? It's a question that I've actually thought
about, but I could never see myself on that train to Manhattan anymore. Why do you think, David? Why? You know, I had great opportunities
while I was on Wall Street. I did amazing things, but
I can't do them again. I don't want to relive them. I want to try new things. And there are some people who are
very uncomfortable with change. I have to be more comfortable and almost
seek change in the things that I do. David Ambinder was named Mr. Handyman Franchisee of the Year in 2011. We'll be pulling together all of our
coverage time to the collapsible….

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