Archive for June 2011
I hope you all will please pardon the mostly personal post. Many apologies for the light posting lately. Many of you who check on this space know of the struggles I’ve had with my business in recent months and years, and it’s finally come to an end. As of a few weeks ago, I am no longer a business owner.
Without going into too many details, I was part of a franchise system. I used a national name, logo, procedures, and the like. I actually came into possession of the franchise as almost a fluke; right place, right time, did and said the right things, and there it was. Things were actually fairly good, relatively speaking, for a while, and at least the business paid for itself, with the exception of my labor. I started it with a partner, who after a while started to realize it wasn’t the gold mine we both thought it would be, and had the good sense to get away from it. Not me. Stubborn and resistant, I just knew the place had potential, all I needed was one more good week, one more good month, and all would be well.
So much for the hopes and dreams. True enough, it stayed afloat with no significant problems for several years, even after I was left with no employees and even less capital to work with. Granted, I have not taken home any profits in over three years, and truth be told, never got regularly paid by my own company for literally doing it all. But what came in was good to keep it rolling, keep the dream alive, and hope that my good service, honesty, and fair prices would be enough to eventually turn the tide.
But it was not to be.
The fall of 2008, when the entire economy nearly crumbled, was when the serious problems started. Bills fell later and later, business became scarcer and scarcer. Those that did frequent my establishment respected my work, and my opinion, but many simply could not afford what I offered. Still, even with that, I managed to struggle, holding one bill off for a month, paying another, catching up later, but eventually falling behind on all. The spiral started. Eventually, things got so overwhelming, it seemed that no daylight was even left to be seen, and I had no idea of what to do, besides hope, do my best, and I just knew that if I worked just a little harder (which, to be completely honest, became more and more difficult to even do), then things would turn around and I could just work my way out of the problems. Besides, there was still that pesky franchise contract that I had to fulfill, negating even the idea of walking away without facing penalties for doing so.
Finally, facing the real threat of eventual shutdown whether I wanted it or not, I had an opportunity to speak with the franchise company. Laid it out to their representative, plain and harsh. What I learned was that there was a possible way out.
Turned out, the Company has been acquiring and operating locations themselves, all across the country. Several, I have learned, were in similar situations as myself. Being a national company, they actually have the resources, money, and manpower to put into a struggling location, something that was never an option for myself, even when the partnership was still there.
As I have been told, my relationship with the customer base was one reason they liked me and my location. Maybe I cut a few corners, and maybe didn’t charge customers the actual true worth of my work, especially my time, but they were loyal to me. And, with the work performed, I experienced very few problems, proving I was good at what I did. All I needed was backing, and things would take off.
Which brings us to now. As I said, I’m not the owner any longer; I am actually an employee of the Company, running my place. I am grateful that the amount of money they paid to “buy out” my contract, while not much, was able to put a dent in one of the major late bills, and helped eliminate that one at least. And, I will actually be getting a regular paycheck, with opportunities for bonuses if certain goals are met.
It is sort of bittersweet, in a way; years ago, we literally started our operation on a wing and a prayer, with a little help and blessing from our families. The goal, of course, was to take that small investment, mix it with our knowledge and hard work, and turn it into a fortune. When my partner, God Bless, saw the writing on the wall, I should have also taken the smart route, and found my way out of it, while there was still a small amount to be taken out. And I really must thank the Amazingly Wonderful MrsJamesLee for standing behind me, even when it became apparent things were hopeless. No, honey, you were NOT a bitch about it, even though you probably should have been! And I love you for that even more!
The sweet part is that I have a job, the headaches of bills, compliance, taxes, equipment maintenance, and all that are now not my problem. And with the job, I have a wonderful opportunity to make, for my own pocket, at least as much as the entire company grossed in the last year. Plus, I get to be an instrumental player in actually proving what my entire goal was all along: Given the right circumstances, that place will work!
The bitter part, though, is that I am not on my own. On some level, I feel a little like a failure, with my business having to fold and give way to others, that I couldn’t make it on my own. Yes, I know that in end, logically, I could not have continued, and if I had tried, I know things would have gotten worse, and much uglier, than they even were. Still, a little bit of me, which honestly seems to be less of me every day, has just a little regret, and an ever-diminishing feeling of giving up (something I’ve always been too stubborn to admit). Just give me a little time, and this too shall pass.
Soo… things are good! I don’t get to keep up as much on my news and politics like I did, and don’t get to do everything my own way any more. But those things don’t mean much when you are down in a large hole. Now, it seems, the sun is finally coming out, and even my family and friends say I seem much happier than I’ve been in a long time.
Cheers! Embrace the changes, because sometimes the changes are most definitely for the best.