But two weeks ago I realized it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to my business that I’d been running since 1995.
I’ve passed by many storefronts that have closed up, only to be opened again occupied by a different business. Then that one closes. I’ve read in the paper about businesses with hundreds, even thousands, of employees being laid off, let go. What becomes of these people? My favorite jewelry store where I always had my necklaces and earrings repaired is going out of business; tomorrow is their very last day.
This time it was mine and I was the one on the inside, calling the shots. I’d been watching my orders steadily decline for a while, while still feeling responsible to be accountable and available if any new orders came in, no matter where I was physically. Now clearly the business, and my life, went past the balance point. There was nobody to send out pink slips to because I didn’t have any employees. So that pain I didn’t have to endure or inflict. But it was painful for me none the less.
When business dries up, if we have a home-based business we can hang on a little longer when business slows down because we are not paying rent to a landlord or wages, salaries, health insurance to employees, and so on. But still there may be one day when you realize that carrying an infrastructure – telephone, fax line, internet, websites, amount of time cleaning out spam from my email, URLs, having to change my phone message every time I’m away for a day or two – all adds up. It adds up in terms of money, time and the amount of thought that occupies your brain.
In my case, my brain’s space is becoming more and more valuable real estate as I age (and as I deal with my aging-even-more mother).
The computer software business has changed, as the method of delivery changes. School software budgets have mirrored city and state budgets, and with each dot.com bust or Wall Street financial crisis, schools have been less and less willing to purchase software vying, instead, to find online learning materials. We cannot go backward. We cannot go back.
So one day about a month ago I decided to take those first steps. I prepared an email announcement for each customer who had ordered multiple times, saving them all in my “Draft” folder and then when I’d written every email, sent them out, one night, one by one. Within a half an hour, the deed was done.
That evening I gave myself some downtime and watched football.
A few days later I began taking down all my files of customers, scores of binders with scores of customers’ records. One by one I went through and discarded shipping air-bills and other information, putting credit card info in a separate pile to shred, leaving only the names of customers and what they had licensed. This took days. The 3-ring binders went into a bag for recycling. There were hundreds and hundreds of these individual records and each one was like saying goodbye to a baby that I had nurtured. Each one evoked a memory, and represented hundreds of students who had learned English and improved their writing through my software application.
It was so bizarre. I never realized how far and wide my software had an influence. Canada, New Zealand, UK, Singapore, Chile, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, Qatar, the UAE, even Malaysia. I wanted to REACH OUT! and say hello, thank you, and goodbye just one more time. No. That would be a bad idea.
Soon the papers alone were tucked into expandable manila folders, just in case I ever need to look at them, and a shelf in my closet was cleared out where I placed these folders, out of sight. No, I didn’t trash them. I’m hanging on just a little longer, I realize. I have a fantasy that these schools are going to call and ask for one last upgrade, one last license. I’m kidding myself.
It’s starting to hurt, but it’s also starting to feel better.
Along with clearing out these files, and others, I’m making room for something else.
Some writing, perhaps? Another book? More film reviews? Building up my blog?
Next comes the telephone number. I was resisting this one for a while. It would be the final blow. I removed the phone number from my website. I have had such a great little number for my business. Then my husband and I get a great idea. Our home telephone number really sucks. It’s impossible to remember and there’s no really clear pattern. My husband loves the idea of switching the business number to our home landline. Verizon says it’s possible! Thank you Verizon for allowing me to hold on just a little longer.
Still I dawdle.
Yesterday morning I sat at my desk and waited, and waited, for a message.
The message arrived. It was: “You’re hanging on! You’re not letting go! This software business of yours is the past, not the present or the future.”
Quickly I phoned Verizon – bushwacking through their horrendous menu – and made the switch. It occurred so quickly that I was still on the phone with the technician when the business phone switched off; within another 10 minutes the home landline number went dead. I phoned my old business number and our landline rang. Prominently displayed on the caller ID was already, the cute easy-to-remember and easy-to-say new/old number. Glad it happened so quickly or I would have had time to think twice about what I was doing!
I’m in awe of the process of endings and new beginnings. I’m in awe of what it takes to say goodbye to the old and to say hello to something new. I know how many people – hoarders, people in dysfunctional relationships – struggle with this. Or succumb to the fear of the unknown and the new.
Today lots of books about editing and writing (and a few other subject matters) sit on my shelves, where my CD disks, mailers and info about suppliers used to be. The shelf is nice and neat.
And I love our new telephone number.