Hope Is Not A Business Plan

Three months ago, I hit a new low. 

I was looking at my bank accounts online. My two business checking accounts totaled $40 and $20, respectively. My savings account totaled $30. 

You read that right: 40, 20, 30. Dollars. Mounds of coins you can cup in your hands. 

The goal for many entrepreneurs is to become members of the Double Comma Club. That morning, I certified my status as a proud member of the Double Digit Club. 

Maybe not a proud member. Then again, pride was pretty much all I had left. 

And arguably what got me into this situation in the first place. 

Never Again 

As for many people, the spring was difficult financially. Projects that I thought would come in were delayed. So cash that I counted on would also be delayed. One of my clients had the foresight to pay me three months upfront, which was a necessary, if not a sufficient, boon. 

The pandemic came on the heels of two big artistic investments for me 

  • the inaugural FRINGE MARFA in January, which I spent the last 6 months of 2019 working on at the expense of the rest of my business 
  • the debut of my first solo show in March at the Fresno Rogue festival, which swayed my earnings attention in the first quarter 

I've mentioned this in other posts, but throw in 

  • my divorce 
  • my relocation across the country 
  • my choice to move in with my aging parents to help them weather the pandemic 

Even before all the New Normal stuff, my year was not destined to be a business-as-usual- hunker-down-on-the-homefront-and-look-after-my-and-mine year. 

I had already set the bridge on fire. 

Life Among the Ruins 

Before I left my adopted hometown and the home that I created with my husband and my dogs, I was explaining how I felt to a few friends. I called this my Scarlett O’Hara period. 

That scene at the end of the first act where she’s standing on the smoldering ruins of her world. Starving. She grabs a frog from the ground and shoves it in her mouth and gags and drops to her knees and cries to the heavens "As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again!" 

This was before 

  • my health insurance got canceled for lack of payment 
  • my business line of credit got canceled for lack of payment 
  • I left the house (which had no mortgage) to my husband in the divorce so my net worth was cut by 90% 
  • I told my parents that I was moving up to stay with them indefinitely (because I had no other choice) 

I knew I was scrambling. In February, I all but begged my local banker for an emergency loan of $2000 to keep the lights on—and maybe pay my attorney—till billables caught up. Then they didn't catch up. 

I kept doing arithmetic in my head, as if that would generate some income. I knew 

  • I still had a couple of modest retirement investments—so modest, though, that I'd be more in the hole if I cashed them out 
  • My sole credit card had no room—and by now, my credit score was so poor that I couldn't qualify for even unsecured debt–based solutions 
  • My personal checking account filled and emptied like a toilet 

All I was left with was 40, 20, 30. 

What Went Wrong? 

When I went out on my own in 2009—at the height of the recession, mind you—I set out to build a business. Little did I know, I merely built myself a job. 

I was shackling myself to wage work under the guise of a consultancy. I lamented that I priced myself out of the market years ago in My Sixth Episode of my podcast. It took a while for me to truly understand that my business model had painted me into a corner. 

I had to run out of money. I had to run out of time. I had to run out of options. 

What do they say? Hope is not a business plan? 

Tru dat. 

The good news is that was the low. That was the nadir. And that was months ago. 

This is how I am building back. Rest assured, there is Life After... 

Postscript: How important is this to remember? 

I thought about taking a screenshot to memorialize the 40, 20, 30 bank balances. Enshrine this low. This baseline benchmark. To remind myself in the future about how tough I had it. 

But then I thought why reinforce this? This is not something I want to repeat. I’ve been broke before. I’ve been broken before. 

Never again. 

#lifeafterwellness #entrepreneur #hopester #work


(originally published October 22, 2020, as an article on LinkedIn. Image: MovieStillsDB.com)

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