Over the past couple of years, our industry has experienced some of the worst wreckage in the past thirty years. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, hundreds, if not thousands of companies have filed for bankruptcy, and/or closed their doors for good. It’s been hard on a lot of people and their families, many of which are my friends and acquaintances. Being thankful is likely difficult, if not impossible for many this year.
However, as the year comes to an end, I remain humbled and grateful. Some say timing is everything. While it may be less than everything, it’s certainly played an important role in the roller coaster I’ve been on in the past half dozen years. I’m still standing, albeit with a few more scars.
In mid-2008, the company I owned, closed on a $16M acquisition, had six plants, hundreds of employees, and a tiger by the tail. Six months later, we had a $5M hole in our balance sheet, a crumbling economy, and no credit line. I was corporately and personally insolvent; in other words, bankrupt. Meanwhile, my wife at the time had left with our son on her hip, and our daughter in her belly. Life was shit. Dog shit.
Over the next four years, I got up and fought the fight, often times with whiskey on my breath. It sucked at times, worse at others. However, over that same period, I met my wife, Ashley; Cris, who is now my closest friend, and many others who helped me to navigate through some of the most difficult times I’ve experienced both professionally and personally. I sold the company my Father started out of necessity; to save it. It ranks high among the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. Although the sale was anti-climatic, what followed was not. I experienced grief, and as a result, resigned, was sued, and later settled, which forced me to sit out for 10 months. It was a much-needed time of reflection.
November 13, 2013, free of my non-compete, I had a choice. Exit an industry that had fed my family for decades, or pivot at 36 and do something different, which would not have been the first time. I chose the former, and doubled down. But, I had no money, no staff, no product, no customers, and was quite discouraged. However, with a few fans in my corner, namely my wife, my CFO, and mentor, I pulled up my boots and went back to work.
Today, I’m incredibly honored to have a team of highly skilled, talented individuals who are passionate about what they do; and a growing list of raving fans that appreciate our approach to serving them. For the first time in my career, I’m beginning to experience the dividends for doing the right thing in business for many years. A good reputation that precedes you is worth far more than any first impression, or PowerPoint presentation. Turns out, honesty is the best policy. It’s universal.
So, I leave you with this. Know that we all have a choice. To dwell on our past or current circumstances, or press onward and upward, visualizing what we want, who we want to be, and how we want to be remembered. The rest is action and grit. Our industry has been turned on it’s head, and as a result, is full of opportunity. Be thankful, be encouraged, and get ready for a ride, because I can feel it coming in the air tonight.
I’m thankful for the experience of grief. Without it, we would never know joy.