WARNING for short attention spans: Long story with no pictures. Well, one.
I probably shouldn’t but while I work from home (my normal situation), the news is almost always on in the background. With my wife now working from home there is the added commentary from behind me at each story. We were listening to and discussing the $2trillion stimulus being hammered out by the Senate to, among other things, prop up small businesses and individuals. While this is a noble undertaking by our government and generating a debt that our grandchildren will still be paying for, it had us thinking of a similar time when small businesses were laid low – the 2008 Great Recession. So I would like to share a story about a family, small business, and their experiences during and after.
The story starts around 2005-2006 in Upstate New York and involves a couple in their 50s. They had worked hard and raised their children to adulthood in a lovely suburb of a city on the shores of one of the Great Lakes. The older child was living in New York City making ends meet with various jobs while pursuing an acting career while her sister was waiting tables at a local diner as she contemplated her future. The husband worked for over three decades at a large, multi-national manufacturing company and the wife, after raising the girls, was gaining experience in kitchen and bath design. Her dream was to have her own custom kitchen showroom.
While attending a cabinet manufacturer’s workshop she met a guy from Central Florida, who had the same dream. They discussed forming a partnership, finding financial support, and opening a showroom in Florida. These negotiations coincided with the steady decline of the company the husband worked for. Stress from the on-going layoffs were mounting and making it difficult to focus on the work at hand. So a plan was made for the husband to take advantage of an attractive severance package and eligibility for early retirement to sell the house and move south. Along the way, picking up the NYC daughter, they headed for a new life in Florida.
Funding was secured, a storefront rented and built out and business started growing. He was now starting a new career that had him traveling for work. While things were still a little tight, the startup and new career seemed to be on the right trajectory. Then the inevitable crash of the unsustainable derivatives market brought the business and career to an abrupt standstill.
The future came into crystal clear focus very quickly and it was time to make a plan as every other overpriced house in Florida going into foreclosure. The husband, having skills in a rather small niche field, was able to secure a job rather quickly – the good news. The bad news, it was 3,000 miles northwest, but you do what has to be done. He packed his truck with essentials and hit the road, while his wife started the lengthy process of extracting herself from the business. Their daughter made arrangements with friends in L.A. and left to find work.
Trust me, I am getting to the point of this story. After being separated for six month the wife finally arrived out west along with all of their earthly possessions and a cat. They still owned a two bedroom townhouse in Florida that was now worth 1/2 of what they owed on it and she brought with her tens of thousands in debt from the business. The stress of it all put her in the hospital with a near-fatal illness.
Fast forward ten years…he is now semi-retired and she soon to be retired. Both of their daughters live nearby and one has given them a grandson. Life has been good with a nice home, job opportunities, and a comfortable future. There were no stimulus handouts (except to corporations, some of whom were responsible for the crash in the first place), no tax extensions, or interest free car loans. It was “suck it up buttercup” and they did. Paid off the debt, rented the townhouse until it could be sold years later, and fought their way back on their own.
And here is the point of this story: The world looks pretty bleak as we deal with a pandemic and a lot of people are suffering financially as a result. But remember it isn’t the end unless you let be. With a willingness to be open to opportunity and grasping it with determination you can have a wonderful life. It may be different from the life you had and not what you ever imagined, but you can make it fulfilling.