Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Those of you that know me know I got a job with a small, mostly Macintosh ISP here in the Bay Area. The company is small; there are 10 of us, and we’re quite a motley crew. I got hired more for my personality and how well I “fit” with the company than for my technical skills, and I’ve made very good friends with my coworkers. We’re like a geeky, wacked-out dysfunctional little family.
I love my job. I get up in the morning and I’m happy to go to work. The atmosphere is great, my coworkers are great, it’s laid back and friendly, and our customers genuinely like our company. We have a very loyal customer base, and a lot of the customers are “regulars” and we know them by name, know their personality, know their comfort with computers, and can tailor our support to their needs. They love this. We always have people coming in to make their payments in person, just so they can say hi, or thank us for doing a good job. It’s nice to be proud of the job you do. I’ve done support before in a big corporate call center (for Microsoft, nonetheless) and it sucked. This is so different. I love this company and the people in it. It’s so great to have a job that I like, and I realized how damn lucky I was to have this.
So, understandably, I was heartbroken to learn that we’re going to be forced to close our doors for good soon. Not because of money; we break even, but because the owner has family responsiblities, and just can’t handle them and run the business. His wife is dying of cancer, and is day to day. They have two children, 6 and 4. He needs to attend to his family, which is understandable. He made an offer to the three senior members of the company to take ownership of the business, but it involves them taking on a whole lot of personal debt. If the company fails, they personally owe the money. With heavy hearts, the three of them rejected the offer.
It looks like we’re going to get bought out by a larger company within the next week. That will give us 6 weeks until we close our doors. To make all this even harder, I’m not supposed to know all of this is up; only the owner and the three senior staff have been told, but I’ve gotten to be good friends with one of them, and he had to vent to someone, so I got to hear it all first. These three guys are crushed; they feel responsible, like they could save the company if they just were willing to take the risk. But they can’t, and I don’t blame them. It’s so hard to see the look on their faces and not be able to say anything. I like these people, they’re good, hardworking, dedicated people and they hurt for what they can’t do.
The next few weeks are going to be rough. We’ll have to find another company to take over our dialup customers, and set them up. People will be calling, all disappointed because they’ve grown to love our personalized service. It might sound lame, because hey, it’s just a job, but I feel like my spirit has been crushed. I found something I was afraid was too good to be true, and it turned out to be. Makes it hard to believe in good things…
I wish I was a business guru or that I could take over the company and run it myself, but I’m far from that. I’ve been trying to come up with harebrained schemes to save our business, kind of to take the sting away, kind of with the totally irrational hope that I’ll come up with something, anything. But I guess I need to come to grips and realize that I’ll be looking for a new job soon. I just don’t have to like it.