Surviving and growing as a business owner has been a journey for me. I celebrate 18 years as small business owner this year and wow what a journey it has been! There have been some really high highs and some really low lows over the 18 years (just like every person experiences that starts a small business). It’s a rocky road being a small business owner, but it can be so rewarding too.
It’s easy to relax once you are over the first rocky years in business and everything is working well for you. You start to become confident that your business is growing well and you can start to relax…all the hard work is done, and then the storm hits hard, and it takes no prisoners.
My storm hit in 2008, and it hit me very hard. I was left wondering if I should continue in business or if I should just pack up and go back to being an employee. I was a speaker at prestige annual conference in my industry, and it had been going along really well. I had delivered my speech, and it had been well received. The conference dinner was a great night with lots of dancing, networking and I was oblivious to the storm on the horizon.
I woke up the morning after the conference covered in a rash. I knew it was an allergic reaction, but I didn’t know where it happened or to what I was allergic. My mum was a conference delegate, so I called her up and asked her to come over to my hotel room. I remember her walking into my hotel room, and her first words to me were ‘you’re being a little bit of a drama queen’ Her reaction changed very quickly when I showed her the rash to ‘we need to go and see a doctor immediately’ Unfortunately, the hotel didn’t have access to a doctor so off the two of us trudged to an emergency department that was just up the road from the hotel.
What I didn’t know was this was only the beginning… The next day I went to see my doctor and was given an injection to help fight the reaction. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough and by Sunday I needed to go to the hospital as I was getting worse and worse by the minute.
I remember sitting in Emergency on a Sunday night with the emergency doctor just about to discharge me for the second time that day. Just after checking on me he walked over to the central area so he could complete his paperwork before he discharged me from the hospital. Woo hoo, I was ready to go home and put this all behind me….
He was gone no longer than about 5 minutes, but wow it was one of the longest 5 minutes of my life. In that time I had what I can only describe as an attack. My entire body felt like it was on fire because it had become so inflamed and my temperature skyrocketed to around 40 degrees Celsius…all in less than 5 minutes. I was in an immense amount of pain, and this all started within a minute or so of the doctor leaving me. My mum was with me, and I can remember her saying You need to “calm down”. My only response back was ‘I can’t’.
The doctor returned a couple of minutes later and took one look at me and said: “we are admitting you” I had gone from just about to be discharged to being admitted immediately, clear skin and my temperature normal to completely covered in a rash from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet with a temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius. Not a great moment!
I spent four days in the hospital after being admitted. On Thursday, I was just discharged and sent home. Tired and just glad it was over. I was feeling sooo much better. I had been poked and prodded, examined by multiple doctors and I was ready to go home. I felt like the main storyline from an episode of House what with the number of medical students that came to look at me during that period.
After arriving home, I set myself up on the couch to rest. I started to feel a little tight in my chest but didn’t think much about it at this point. I just needed to up my medication a little, Didn’t I? So I called the hospital to find out if I could up my dosage. To say I was a little shocked at their response at the time would be a little bit of an understatement. I was told to get someone to drive me to the hospital immediately or call an ambulance.
On the way to the hospital, I quickly found out why they wanted me in an ambulance. I went into respiratory arrest on the way to the hospital, which is to say I stopped breathing several times on the way. A little alarming to say the least. When I turned up in Emergency, we found the Head of Immunology and two registrars waiting for me. Unlike me, they were taking this very seriously.
I was put on oxygen for two days and was in the hospital for another four days. Even then I was only discharged because I begged to go home and I was managing my medication by that time.
When I did get home after eight nights in the hospital, I was completely exhausted and unable to work. Even getting off the couch for 5 minutes drained me for hours afterwards. My immunologist specialist never determined what I was allergic to during my first stay in the hospital, only that it was likely to be the chest infection someone else at the conference had fallen ill with earlier in the day. My doctors had to kill my immune system to combat my allergic reaction which meant that if I did get the chest infection it was going to hit me really really hard and oh boy did it hit hard!
As you can imagine this had a massively negative effect on my business as I went from having a growing stable business to incurring $133,523 tax bill! I had to let my staff go and I was left with one of the hardest decisions of my life, do I close the business or do I try to turn things around and get myself out of the mess I had created.
I didn’t have systems in my business set up at the time so that it could run without me and I was suffering badly because of it.
In [Part 2] I talk about how systems not only saved my business, how I paid back the $133,523 tax bill in three years and grew my business into a 7 figure business within 5 years.