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Posts Tagged ‘30th Anniversary’

Tomorrow, the company I started out of a spare bedroom in 1987 celebrates something of a milestone: 30 years in business.  We’ll spare you the “long, strange trip…” metaphors, but you have to admit: that’s a long time to do anything — let alone the same thing.  Yet, here we are.  Any business that makes it 30 years has some bumps and bruises, and a few stories to tell.  Here’s a bit of ours…

Starting out as one guy in a back room, I bootstrapped a little software firm that came to be known as “PMI.”  Within a few years we were adding customers in need of custom software, spreadsheets and accounting applications, while also adding a motley crew of smart, energetic people to satisfy those (very patient) customers.  We did good work and over the years won industry awards and business accolades – even the Small Business of the Year.  We earned national software awards like “Killer VAR” (we’re a Value-Added Reseller for accounting and manufacturing software solutions), “Technology Pacesetter” (many times), and a “Family Values in Business Award” (for being ‘a company that never refused an employee a day off for any reason’).

We grew for 20 years until one day I thought it might be time to move on – maybe even retire –when a case of misplaced trust and questionable judgment led me to turn the business over to a few key employees who proved utterly unfit to run it.  (You can read a quick synopsis of that story here, first published in 2009 in a post on ‘integrity’.)

The sale was a disaster, economically and emotionally.  Within a few months my successors had nearly destroyed the company and threw in the towel.  I came racing back from the Caribbean to pick up what pieces remained.  I still remember that first day back in April ’07 as I gathered together the handful of my earliest co-workers – the ones who had remained loyal and would meet with me that morning.  There were some glum faces in that room as I explained how we’d been bled and left for dead.  Over the next few months we started sifting through the wreckage to see what we could rescue of our little outfit.

But here’s where it gets good.  Out of the ashes of that disaster arose PMI’s successor “PSSI” (yes, we did briefly consider naming it “Phoenix Software”) which I’ve had the privilege to lead for the past 10 years – so, 30 altogether.  Of course, on the heels of that 2007 debacle came the Great Recession, when business mostly just froze up.  We worked hard scrambling around for enough work to keep our team afloat.  That rebuild – these last ten years – has really defined us.

Today, all those awards noted earlier don’t mean that much.  Don’t get me wrong – they were very cool to receive in their time.  We felt honored, and more than a little proud.  They were mileposts on the road to what became a pretty successful business.  The little idea that started in a back room of my house in 1987 turned into a nearly $3M enterprise with over 25 employees at its peak.  People did good work, they got rewarded for it (often handsomely) and we all felt a part of something that was growing fast, a leader in the tech sector.

But it’s those glum faces in that room ten years ago – the ones that stuck it out with me all these years – those guys are the reason we’re here today, and therein lies the deeper meaning of our thirtieth.

In that first month back, I told the team that I wasn’t even sure how I was going to make payroll at month-end.  They mostly nodded, shrugged it off and went about their business.  But here’s the thing: not one person, all that dark cold month, ever once asked about their paycheck.  Not once. They just did the work, trusted in our mission, and at the end of the month trusted the money would somehow be there.  It was.  After that, we just kept putting one foot forward after the other…  a day, a week, a month at a time.

That team is still with me today (you know who you are), and they’re the real reason we are able to celebrate 30 years in business today.  Like most small business owners, I owe everything to those employees and customers.

I guess in the end, sometimes you just persevere because, honestly, you don’t know what the hell else to do.

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