2008 was what many analysts have called the greatest financial disaster in a generation, perhaps ever. The sub-prime debt collapsed, corruption at the highest level left many destitute, governments around the world had to step in to save hundreds of thousands of jobs and to try to mitigate the complete unravelling of many of their nation’s peoples’ retirements. The markets collapsed and, not just personal, but institutional investments halved in value taking people’s long thought unassailable pensions with it. Health and insurance claims doubled as people came to terms with unemployment in a debt ridden, overextended economy. Jobs were hard to get, and large contracts were unheard of. So in retrospect, I’m thrilled that it was in 2008 that a partner and I chose to start a company focussing on multi-million dollar custom contracts for the insurance and pension industry.
In some ways … many ways … starting a company in a booming economy would have been a lot easier. Clients would have been easier to find. Clients would have been easier to keep. Income could have been high and consistent. And the insanity that came from companies trying keep their businesses afloat while facing contracts with people like us that they could no longer afford would have been kept to a minimum. I wouldn’t have had to, essentially, lay off a half-dozen staff. I wouldn’t have had to live on my savings for 8 months. I wouldn’t have suffered the emotional turmoil of questioning my own abilities and my value to my profession. But I also wouldn’t have learned as much as I have.
I wouldn’t have learned the value of a solid contract. I wouldn’t have learned that with enough money you can pay lawyers to snowball even the best contract. I wouldn’t have learned the strength to which I will hold to my values even in the face of those with a less well developed code of ethics. I wouldn’t have learned the value of friends and family. I wouldn’t have learned all the things a two year old can teach you when you’re just there to learn them. I wouldn’t have learned how important tax planning, insurance and patience can be. And in the end, I wouldn’t have learned how important a Universal Shareholders’ Agreement is.
I have carried on, failed again, and brought another venture to simmer. But in each journey I learn something new. It is said that you’re not a real cowboy until you’ve been bucked off a few times. Well, I keep dusting myself off and trying again. In the shockingly wise words of Joe Namath, “You learn you can do your best even when it’s hard, even when you’re tired and maybe hurting a little bit. It feels good to show some courage.”