The failure of a small business

I feel kind of sad as I write this post. If you ever ran a small business that failed, you would know the feeling. Failure of a small business

It was not my business.

But, you still feel for the people who tried really hard and still failed.

The neighbourhood restaurant and bar had opened about a year and a half ago, just around the corner from where I live. I could see their decorative lights from the kitchen window of my apartment. In the spirit of supporting a local business establishment, my wife and I would drop by often for a quick drink, or bite.

Last Friday as we decided to walk over, I noticed that the lights were off. Not thinking much of it, I checked their website to see if they were closed for a private event.

I got this message.

Failure of a small business

 

 

 

 

 

When you run a small business, there are only three outcomes that you can expect – you continue to run it; you sell it; or, you take the least preferred option and shut it down.

The controversial Forbes article that said “8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months” seemed to apply to this restaurant.

It was a business that I thought would succeed.

The owners were not novices. They had run a few other successful restaurants. A fair amount of money had been spent on the décor and layout, giving it an upscale feel. The location could have been better but was certainly OK. You could argue that it was a little far from the real action of the city centre core. The abundant free parking made up for that. It was probably one of the better non-chain bars in town.

Over the past few months, I had gotten to know the folks who ran it – Brian, Faz, Andrea, Ryan, and Terry. A bunch of good people who worked hard to make their business work.

Yet, it didn’t!

So what went wrong?

Perhaps it was the identity crisis.

Was it a bar or was it a club?

Were they trying to cater to the 25-35 crowd while the patrons appeared to be older and looking for good food and a relaxing environment.

Was it the food? Should they have gone less fancy? Did they fail to adapt?

Was the business case flawed?

In the scheme of things, the answers are less important than the fact that the folks who ran it now have to deal with the fall out. I am sure they will take this as a temporary setback and bounce back.

It’s time to hit reboot on their lives.

When your child’s student loan is bigger than your mortgage

Betting on Education

We did the math.

After us picking up half the tab, my daughter’s student loan was going to be larger than the mortgage on our house. It was not a comforting thought — letting your child rack up debt of that size even before she starts working. Student loan is big - Reboot Social

My daughter’s first career choice was to become a ventriloquist. She was ten.

My wife and I went along with her choice, on one condition – become a doctor, engineer, accountant, or a lawyer first, then a ventriloquist. She seemed okay with the idea. Clearly, at that time our take on career paths was rather narrow; it was the Indian in us.

If you want to be a millionaire, it’s better to be a software engineer than a pro athlete.”

Betting on education was the norm.

I should know, I didn’t.

I found out the hard way, an undergraduate degree will only take you so far.

Financially speaking, I have not made a lot of brilliant choices. I certainly made some really bad ones — I held on to Nortel stocks until they got delisted; sold my house just before the real estate boom; passed up on opportunities that have gone on to do really well; and opted out of a guaranteed retirement plan in favour of a contribution plan. You get the drift.

But, I did make a couple of investments that I consider more successful than all of my follies combined.

I bet on education, twice – once for ourselves and once for our daughter.

Going back to school, when you’re new in a country, living paycheck to paycheck, is not a decision that you make lightly. But after being underemployed for a couple of years, it was getting to a “now or never” point for us to make a move to get out of the rut.

Considering that my retail store gig paid more than my wife’s factory job, we decided that she should quit and go back to school to earn some Canadian qualification. The fact that she held a Master’s degree in Physics from a university in India had not garnered much interest among companies that were hiring. Telecom seemed to be a good area to pursue since there were concepts of physics and electronics at play. A full-time, one year course seemed like a lifetime. Then there was the fees: over a thousand dollars which seemed huge at the time.

But, choose education we did, albeit maxing out credit cards and paying off minimum balances. Before we knew it, the year was up and the Internet boom was on. Telecom companies were hiring and finally, my wife had found a job that matched her skills.

In a year’s time, it was my turn. The Information Superhighway was on everybody’s mind — whether they understood it or not. So it was back to school for me too, even though the fees had doubled. Plodding through technical concepts completely foreign to me was not something that I had planned doing at forty.

And finally, I landed a job in a hot industry!

When it came to our daughters’ ambitions to study at a law school in the U.S., we didn’t think twice. She had managed to get decent grades that got her accepted to a few good schools. The shock came when we received the tuition schedule. We knew it would be more expensive than Canadian universities, but five times more? And three years of that? Additionally, there were living expenses to consider.

The university counsellor that we talked to tried to calm our fears. Getting in is the hardest part, she said. She went on to reason that the money spent would be well worth it. After much soul-searching, we decided it was the right thing to do. The banks would provide the required student loans on a personal guarantee from the parents.

Once again, we went for it. We bet on education.

At the graduation ceremony, we felt a sense of relief. Campus interviews and subsequent offers from a couple of reputed law firms seemed to make it all worth it.

The counsellor was right; the outcome justified the expense.

The note from the bank informing me that I was off the hook for my daughter’s student loan came as a pleasant surprise.

Betting on education had paid off.

Before I sign off, I will leave you with one thought. Higher education is not for everyone. Many extremely successful businesspeople were college dropouts. Here’s a post titled “8 Hugely Successful People Who Didn’t Graduate College” for some perspective.

Nothing says that your child won’t make the next such list.

Second Career: Careful what you wish for…

Second career - Reboot Social

Attribution: https://www.pexels.com photo-93398

When I missed it the second time around, I started to worry. It was my third week at the job; my second career – truck driving.

I tried to remember the instructions from the truck driving school.

Don’t let your ego come in the way. When in doubt, GOAL – Get Out And Look. Acting normal, I stepped out of my truck to figure out how I could squeeze my 53’ trailer into the tighter than normal parking spot. As luck would have it, a fellow truck driver offered to act as a “spotter” while I painstakingly backed up the truck into the space between two parked trailers.

For a moment my mind wandered to my previous job as a Credit Manager.

My office had overlooked a truck yard. Every morning I would watch the shiny rigs pull out of the yard and take off. I had always liked driving, and often wished that I could just hit the road like the truckers.

Careful what you wish for!

When I graduated from University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a career in truck driving was not even remotely on my radar. Business was my thing.

In a career that spanned nearly forty years, I worked my way up through the Commercial Credit/Accounts Receivable ranks of various businesses. The last few years were rocky as manufacturing companies were merging or being bought by foreign owners. Service jobs were being moved offshore to low-wage markets. The writing was on the wall when a number of my peers started losing their jobs. Then one fine morning I got the news. My services were no longer needed.

At first I looked at it as a temporary set back. I updated my profile on LinkedIn and reached out all my business contacts. Finally, reality set in. There weren’t that many Credit Management jobs around.

It was time to look at a second career.

Coincidentally, around this time I noticed an ad in a local paper for a job-fair for truck drivers. On a whim, I attended it.

I found out that most companies would not hire drivers unless they had a minimum of three years of driving experience. However, certain companies were open to hiring drivers who had completed training with a recognized truck driving school.

So, I decided to take the plunge.

With financial assistance from “Second Career”, a governmental agency, I enrolled in a twelve-week course with “Ontario Truck Training Academy.” Before I knew it, I had my AZ driver’s license and was qualified to drive tractor trailers.

Several trucking companies came to the school to make their pitch. Suddenly, I felt wanted; I was in demand again! The first company I applied to, hired me.

The company put me through an additional six-week course with on-the-road training with a “Trainer.” The training was great. But, I can tell you that living in a two-berth cab with another guy for six weeks is not the most enjoyable experience.

Finally, the training was over and I was on my own.

The work day was not all driving. There was a lot of waiting – loading/unloading at customers’ sites, border crossings, traffic jams. My first two winters were cold, with lots of snow. When the weather got bad, I didn’t hesitate to find a place to park for the night. Safety first.

Days were long, sometimes up to fourteen hours. By law we had to shut down for ten hours which included an hour for dinner, about seven to eight hours sleep, and an hour for breakfast. Then I was off again.

I quickly figured out that hitting the road for days on end required planning. I tried to eat healthy while on the road. I had a microwave oven and fridge in the truck. My wife would make extra whenever she was making a big meal and freeze dinner size portions in small plastic containers. Every week before I hit the road, I made a habit of picking up a couple of bags of chopped vegetables, fruit, canned salmon, bread, milk, cereal and snacking bars

I was self-sufficient.

Even though I kept to myself, I was never lonely on the road. When you drive, you come across all kinds of people, most were courteous; a few were jerks.

My biggest worry was making a wrong turn, or the GPS leading me to a road that was not truck friendly. If you are new to truck driving, it is bound to happen to you. Trying to work your way out of a narrow street with parked cars can be stressful.

I found out the hard way that the later I drove into the night, the harder it was to find a place to park. Truck stops normally fill up by 10:00 PM. You can’t park a 53-foot trailer just anywhere. I got wise. Many Walmart parking lots were known to be truck friendly. It was always better to start early and finish early.

The truck was my own little castle. I enjoyed the evenings once the truck was parked. Good food and a good book was all I needed. I rarely had any trouble sleeping.

Unexpectedly, my ex-employer called. There was an opening in the Credit Department – a contract position. After some soul-searching, I decided to accept it. I could be home every evening with the family.

My new office does not overlook the truck yard. But I am good.

Been there done that!

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Bob Jackson - Reboot Social


Author: Bob Jackson

Bob Jackson is a Certified Credit Professional who has worked as a Credit Manager in the Commercial Credit and Collections departments of various organizations.  When faced with job loss around four years ago, Bob made a dramatic career switch to become a Professional Truck Driver. Bob is a family man who lives in Mississauga, Canada.

 

Ten things about downsizing to a condo that you should know

 

In a sense, I had broken the pattern.Downsizing to a condo

While most of my friends were still considering upsizing or upgrading their homes, my wife and I decided to downsize to a condo. To me, it was sort of the next phase of our life.

People get curious when you break the pattern.

“Did you lose your job?” a friend asked when I mentioned that I was downsizing to a condo. It hadn’t crossed my mind that people associated downsizing with some form of change in status – financial, marital, health, etc.

I had read enough about the pros and cons of downsizing.

The benefits were obvious – reduced financial commitments, freedom to travel, sense of community, more bang for your buck in terms of common amenities – squash court, tennis courts, party room.

The major deterrents were also obvious – lower value appreciation, condo fees, privacy issues, less space…

However, some day-to-day aspects of condo-living were less apparent until we moved in.

Before I get into it, let me state that I am a happy condo-dweller and this post does not stem from buyer’s remorse.

So here are ten things about downsizing to a condo that you should know.

The fire alarm can be a pain in the neck.

When you move into a condo, you don’t give the fire alarm system a second thought. The thing about fire alarms is that they tend to go off when it is least convenient for you. Living on a high floor with a view can be fun and relaxing. But, walking down twenty-seven floors in the middle of the night gives you pause for thought. Plan for the fire alarm to disrupt your sleep once every six months or so.

Grocery shopping takes on a different meaning.

I did not give it a second thought when my friend Margaret gifted me a bundle buggy, just after we moved into the condo. Dragging a buggy around felt uncool, so I avoided using it. After having made multiple trips to the underground garage and back to bring my grocery and beer up, I am considering investing in a second one.

Scheduled building maintenance does not take into account your schedule.

In a well-maintained condo, there are a number of things that fall under this category. Whether it is painting parking garage lines, or carpet cleaning, you have very little control over what gets maintained when. You quickly realize that if you don’t pay attention to the Management Office’s notices, you may get stuck without water for a whole day, or be startled by a window washer dangling outside your window peering at you.

Your handyman neighbour can drive you nuts.

A power drill going off in the middle of a conference call with a customer can be a bit inconvenient or downright unsettling. Warning notices regarding repairs in adjoining units can be helpful; but, if you are a Teleworker and one of your neighbours is into a long-term renovation project, good luck!

Party rooms are great.

If your party winds up at 11:00 PM, party rooms are the way to go. Food and wine spills on the party room carpet can put a dent in your pocket if your insurance does not cover it. Now, if you are really into partying, you may need to plan for an after party in your condo. And, no blaring AC DC after midnight.

Things can be a little “in your face.”

Even a largish condo can feel a little tight when you have guests. If you are willing to cough up some dollars, guest rooms in condos can come in handy for guests who stay over. And, for those of you who are hugely into privacy, you will figure out ways to adjust your blinds “just so” that you can look out without being seen by your neighbour.

Recycling can be a bother.

Garbage disposal in a condo is real easy. Garbage chutes on every floor make it really convenient. No more hanging on to your garbage until your weekly garbage pick-up day. However, if you buy a lot of things that come in large cardboard boxes, or drink a lot of beer, things can get a little tricky. Your condo may not have recycling rooms on every floor which would entail multiple trips to the recycling room on the ground floor with hard-to-fold cardboard boxes.

Storage lockers are like home basements.

Most condos have storage lockers for stuff that you don’t use every day.  When you store stuff in your storage locker, you seldom go back to get it. When you need to find something in a hurry, you rarely can. If you are looking for that extension cord, you are probably better off picking up a new one at the corner store.

Elevators work just fine, most of the time.

When you move to a condo after having lived in a house for a while, elevators take a little getting used to. They work just fine, except when you are in a hurry or plan a big party. Funny how the elevators seem to go on service around the same time new owners/tenants move in or out.

Get a George Foreman grill

Barbecuing on the balcony of your high-floor condo unit does have an appeal. However, most condos have fire-related restrictions regarding what the balconies can or cannot be used for. Since I am not a big barbecue kind of guy, I don’t miss it.

George Foreman does just fine.

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A RIDE TOO FAR – A cycling tale

 You might be a hero in a morgue. But you’re still in a morgue. 

Reboot Social - A Cycling Tale

I crashed at the 190th kilometre of a 215 km ride.

Joey, my co-rider, told me later that when he saw my body smack the road and stay still, he was absolutely certain that I was dead.

I was relatively new to road cycling.

Knee damage had driven me to abandon the squash courts and forced me into a less joint-crushing sport

I’d just topped my 2-week old personal distance mark of 180km. I felt phenomenally fit and fresh. I figured if I kept this up, I could become the oldest Tour de France winner ever…

Then, “WHAM!!”

In my inexperience and inattention, I misjudged the damp rail tracks. Either I mistimed my steering correction or I touched my brakes a tad late or too hard. There was no warning wobble, no gradual slide, and no cautionary instant of instability. One second I’m gleefully rehearsing my victory speech, the next, my mind explodes with the thwack of my helmet’s collision with the tarmac.

The brief disconnect between my body and my brain was terrifying. My legs refused to obey my desperate instructions to get up and get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Fortunately, motorists were slow and nimble enough to give my inert body some berth.

Don’t ride alone. Having someone talk sense to you while your judgment is impaired is your first defence.

My legs and brains eventually resumed communications and I dragged the bike to the roadside. I hastily remounted and tried to pedal a few wobbly feet. Joey forced me to pause, asked a couple of questions, and shone a light into my eyes. He was too polite to yell that only a brain-damaged idiot tries to ride off immediately after a spectacular wipeout. Markham Stouffville Hospital was a few hundred yards ahead. He insisted that I go get checked out.

Get off the road. Even if following cars don’t hit you, there’s no guarantee that oncoming ones won’t.

I can’t fully explain why I rejected his perfectly rational suggestion.

A deep, dull throb ground through my left side – I suspected that bad stuff was happening inside my chest. But, my judgement was impaired by the endorphins flooding my veins. My adrenalin high impaired my ability to process my predicament and kept me stubbornly fixated on completing the ride. Testosterone didn’t help either — I felt profoundly embarrassed by my amateur error. I needed to reassert my masculinity by putting plenty of miles between me and the scene of my humiliation.

Acknowledge the hormones of confusion. The adrenaline /endorphin/testosterone cocktail is intoxicating. 

Joey relented and allowed me to test my bike and body over a couple hundred yards. We agreed that I would abandon the ride if either appeared to be seriously damaged. I wiped the blood off my scrapes and cuts, wrenched the handlebars back into alignment, wrangled my chain back into its sprockets and resumed pedalling as fast as I could.

X-rays later revealed that I’d fractured three ribs and my left lung had collapsed.

I didn’t know that then. All I cared about was finishing my ride.

You’re probably not OK. Even when you’re certain that you are. Don’t trust your own instincts.

It was a very bad idea. I suffered seventy minutes of escalating agony over those twenty-five excruciating kilometres. On the up-hills, pedalling made my teeth chatter, my eyes spurted tears. Every inhalation was a battle. As we entered the city and navigated denser traffic, I feared I would faint from the torture and fall under the wheels of the passing buses. But I pressed on. I refused to endure the double humiliation of crashing AND failing to set my new record.

Give up the ride. Finishing is not worth it. Especially if the ride finishes you. Don’t be a hero in a morgue.

I finished the 215 kilometres! 

A cycling tale - Reboot Social

Records to die for…

I was half-crazed with pain and near-paralyzed from exhaustion, dehydration, and hypothermia. All the intoxicating hormones which propelled me after the accident had worn off leaving me alone to face the consequences of my rank folly. I steered the 40-odd km home with my chest almost pressed to the steering wheel – I was unable to extend my left arm without agony.

En route, I phoned my 18-year old, “Meet me in the driveway in 10 minutes. You’ll be driving me to Credit Valley Hospital emergency”. I don’t know how he comprehended my babble through my chattering teeth. But he’s the thoughtful, silent type; the kind of buddy you want on your side when you need to bury a body. Or, drag your own sorry ass to the ER.

Use a live tracker connected to your GPS (Garmin ‘Live Track’ or ‘Strava Beacon’) to keep your loved ones updated on your location and progress

The emergency physician was unimpressed with my wisecracks. His scorn was palpable as he lectured me on the possible consequences of my misadventure. Riding with those injuries was potentially more lethal than the crash itself. Blood clots could’ve plugged my lungs. The broken ribs could’ve fatally aggravated the bleeding in my chest. I could have lost consciousness and crashed my car.

Don’t be too proud to seek help. Because you’re able to stand on your feet does not mean that you’re fine.

He injected a local anaesthetic, made an incision and pushed a drainage tube between my ribs. With growing horror, I watched the tube and its tank promptly fill with the blood which had accumulated in my chest. My lung re-inflated as the blood was evacuated.

I spent three days in the surgery ward confined to a bed marinating in my own stink. They don’t allow you to take showers when you’re hosting a chest tube.  In my morphine-induced haze, I even found some of my predicament amusing.

Recover fully before returning to your sport. Don’t shorten your healing time because you ‘feel fine’.

What was a little less funny were the two months it took my chest to heal. I was forbidden from all vigorous activity. THAT too. It gave me plenty of time to properly ponder the wisdom of defying pain and disregarding injury.

So, here’s some advice directed to cyclists, but also applicable to any sort of outdoor sports injury that you might be tempted to ‘shrug off’.

It’s not worth it. 

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Deji OdetoyinboAUTHOR: DEJI ODETOYINBO


Deji is a Toronto veterinarian. He is a former world-class squash player (in his own imagination). He’s a competitive Scrabble player and an enthusiastic road cyclist. His main passion is the documentation of unspoiled nature. He enjoys discovering remote wildernesses and capturing – in words and photographs – vulnerable wild species in their natural habitats. Some of his images are viewable at www.deji.ca and Instagram @dejiiam

 

A True Blue Aussie

I begin this article by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Who is a True Blue Aussie?

Not that hard to describe. For those of you who have watched ‘Crocodile Dundee’, Paul Hogan is the best fit. For others who have not yet had any friends, colleagues or a chance to experience Australia, allow me to take a step back.

True blue Aussie - Reboot Social

The general perception of Australia is a country famous for the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour Bridge, Kangaroos, Australian Footy, reptiles including the venomous ‘Funnel Web’ spider, a lot of beer guts hand in hand with a laidback attitude.

Well, Spot on!

What I would like to do though is introduce you to more of this fabulous country and the ‘True Blue Aussie’ and as migrants how we blended in.

The Aussie slang is probably the most intriguing for me. It is witty and adds a punch when used appropriately. Here’s what I mean – Aussies believe in giving a ‘fair go’ to everyone. This to us is being ‘Fair Dinkum’ (genuine).

Bump into a True Blue Aussie and you will be greeted with a “Good Day Mate” (‘Gday). Mateships develop from High school years and best mates hang around a lot, be it for a pub crawl, a game of footy, or even a trip to “Maccas”. McDonald’s accepted their Aussie nickname of ‘Maccas’ and some stores have their signage as “Maccas”.

It is always a good time for a ‘flat white’ (coffee) and ‘brekkie’ (breakfast) could be eggs with ‘avo’ (avocado), toasted ‘Vegemite’. My first experience of vegemite was disastrous. To be applied in seriously small quantities over bread, I loaded it like a jam spread and it took me a while to cleanse my palate.

At work, Aussies love to solve problems, are direct and accountable. However, being the sports crazy country that we are, most conversations start with a catch up on sports or pleasantries. Every profession is treated with equal respect, doesn’t matter if you are a ‘Brickie’ (bricklayer), ‘Garbo’ (garbage collector) or an ‘Ambo’ (ambulance officer).

This country is gifted with nature. Beaches are our standouts. A summer weekend, especially if it is a scorcher, people head to beaches, have fish ‘n’ chips for lunch or a ‘Chook’ (chicken). Boxing Day (26th Dec) starts with a 5 am opening of stores for our biggest two retailers ‘David Jones’ and ‘Myer’. Beach is the next favourite destination. And ‘Chrissie’ (Christmas) is always in summer here Down Under. Summer time calls for cricket and every year the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) hosts a Boxing Day test match featuring Australia and a visiting nation. When India plays, MCG turns into a deafening atmosphere with drums and celebrations.

Changing pace to wining and dining, Melbourne is the food capital. A recent survey shows women prefer white wine while men drink more beers. Craft Beers are very popular and a Pub Crawl is a must on your To Do List.

As for multiculturalism, we are a melting pot of different cultures. Everybody is identified with their origin. And it is never impolite to ask “so what is your background?”

So when we landed here a little over a decade as migrants with no family or friends, the challenges we had were to imbibe the Aussie way of life, work culture, and realising as quickly as we could that we are our sole helpers, be it chores, grocery shopping or childcare drop-offs and pickups.

So what did we do to blend in?

We embraced the Aussie culture, showcased our Indian culture (oh boy! they love our colourful costumes, curries, and passion for cricket.) We gave respect and earned respect. We did not bend their rules or rort their system, rather we demonstrated how genuine we were in our beliefs and deeds. Above all, we communicated well and shared our ideas and dreams.

And then, ‘Bloody Oath’ (that’s true), the fair dinkum True Blue Aussie reciprocated and to date we have never felt out of place. We are truly ‘Stoked’ (very pleased).

G’day!

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Ajith Kalliat Thazhath - Reboot SocialAUTHOR: AJITH KALLIAT THAZHATH

Ajith Kalliat Thazhath is a simple bloke with interest in husbanding, parenting, sports, fitness, music, books, beer, wine, spirits, and movies. A qualified Chartered Accountant, he works as a Banker and lives in Sydney with his wife Radhika Rajan and daughter Durga.