Karen Barbee | Corporate USAA

Breaking the Law – Part 2

“Think of me what you will. I’ve got a little space to fill.”, Tom Petty, You Don’t Know How It Feels, 1994

I remember a few things about the 12 years I spent working in Corporate America at USAA. For example, I remember the size of the Employee Handbook.

HANDbook”, hell!! It was too HUGE for a hand.

HandBOOK, hell!! It was a massive binder.

Every single employee had their own “Employee HugeBinder”. And we would receive periodic updates with instructions: “Please remove page 1 from Section A.2.iii.c.13-Q8.3 and replace it with New Pages 1-12.”

Karen Barbee | USAA 5-year bracelet


It wasn’t until I opened my own business – my own TINY business – that I realized that EVERY FUNDAMENTAL RULE IS MADE BECAUSE SOME IDIOT TRIED THAT THING OR SOMETHING LIKE IT. I also realized that it was likely that the replacement of page 1 with Pages 1-12 was the result of someone deciding that it was a priority to refine the contents of page 1; of someone taking the time to think it through a bit further – thereby creating some caveats and exceptions; of someone with some authority realizing that maybe sometimes something that seemed unacceptable IS OK and maybe EVERYONE isn’t an idiot.

My studio is smaller than it used to be. There are currently no PUBLISHED rules.

But my favorite published rule when I had the large studio was “Please do not take dance class while wearing JUST your underwear.” Yes. Someone did that.

New Pages 1-12 in MY handbook – if I wanted them or had an entire department whose job it was to come up with them – would be something like “UNLESS it is a required rehearsal and you forgot your workout clothes and you didn’t have time to go home after work and/or the A/C at the studio is out and/or you are menopausal and having hot flashes AND you have asked all of your fellow dancers and they are fine with the idea AND you are not wearing a thong.”

In a subsequent addendum, perhaps around page 14, I would also provide some clarity about thong width – having hired a person into the HR department with prior work experience at Victoria’s Secret. BTW, page 14 would come MUCH later. Those details are not a priority.


Thong Options | Karen Barbee


I believe that all former corporate employees who later open their own businesses bring a wealth of experience and an enhanced level of confidence and commitment to their new career. I also believe that they, more than most, have problems with other people telling them what to do unless they fully understand the command/rule/ordinance/edict – and trust that it’s been adequately vetted.

By “other people”, I mean people like bosses with less experience but great people skills… and elected officials. By “fully understand” and “adequately vetted”, I mean New Pages 1-12.

  • We tiny biz peeps know every aspect of our business.
  • We know how to think critically; how to weigh pros and cons.
  • We can be trusted to have our clients’ best interests at heart because we deal with them personally, face to face, and often.
  • We have few or no minions. If we mess up, we lose big. It’s quite simple.

SO – after the broad-sweeping “Stay at Home” order was issued for non-essential (as defined by “other people”) businesses in San Antonio, I felt certain that New Pages 1-12 would be coming quickly. SURELY there are employees at the city whose job it would be to work on that from the start. Surely it’s a priority.

I expected the new pages to say something like “Stay at home UNLESS you are the SINGULAR, SOLE, ONLY employee of your business AND you conduct business with no more than X (5 would be good) people in your space AND those 5 people can stay 6 feet apart because of the square footage of your facility AND you’ve been in business for over Y (30 would work for me) years so you must know what you are doing AND you believe that all of your clients are intelligent, critical thinking people who are ALSO capable of reading and listening to the latest information and making an informed decision for themselves about what is best for their lives AND you will take no unfair actions against clients that are not comfortable with your business at this time AND you will find innovative ways for including them to show that you respect both sides of the debate AND you make clients sign a document saying that it’s not the city’s fault if they get sick AND you can prove via financial statements that over 50% of your tiny biz is going to crumble if you abide by only page 1 for more than a month.

You know what I mean. Something like that.

A month passed. Y mas. New Pages 1-12 didn’t come.

The tiny business that I built from scratch, that I work on 8-14 hours every day, that I think about constantly, that has mentally and physically helped – and in some instances SAVED – thousands of women (mostly San Antonians), and that I have nurtured for over 3 decades is not on the radar of the power players. My tiny business – and others like mine – are not a priority to my city.

This was the conclusion that I drew last month while sitting on a bench in the hot sun waiting for my husband – who was at a doc appointment in a building that I was not allowed to enter.

Hmmmm. What would Daddy do?

Breaking the Law – Part 3 (the FINAL part) coming soon…


Internationally renowned professional belly dance instructor, Karen Barbee Adkisson is the founder of Karavan Online and Karavan Studio in San Antonio, Texas. She is the creator of the Karavan Online Masterclass and believes in the power of technical precision, soulful innovation and cultural respect for the art of belly dance. Find out more about her online belly dance classes — available wherever you are, whenever you want — at karavansa.com.