Waiting is not something that comes naturally to me. I would not describe myself as a patient person. It is something I have needed to get better at with time. My high levels of energy and ambition combine with my ability to see strategically into the future to make waiting a chore. What I lack in patience though, I make up for in empathy and trust. There have been many seasons in my life where I have wanted to drive an outcome that was beyond my reach, but my ability to understand other people and their position, and trust that their motives are true, has allowed me to hang in their past the limits I thought I had. My faith in the heart-driven efforts of those around me have allowed me to see that
The journey that Alec and I shared with That Repair Shop was one of the seasons that saw these attributes come in handy. We embarked on this journey with the same wide-eyed optimism that we had for all of our projects, and thought that we would enjoy the overflowing fruits of our labour within a year or two. We had a flow that really worked in our life. Alec had set some personal goals with his health and with our budget that saw him take up bike riding, while I was busy keeping up with the demands of my very young teaching career. We rushed the kids to the bus stop by 8am and then, with a skip in our step, we would each skip down the pathway of our shared plan. Alec would ride his bike to That Repair Shop and felt like the King of the World, and I bundled my books and folders into the car to get to my dream primary school job on time. Life was grand.
By the end of the first year Alec had built That Repair Shop to a steady flow of customers and had employed a technician and a receptionist to add to the vacuum cleaner repairs he offered himself. He was struggling with cash flow and would certainly have liked some relief from the pile of invoices that our start up business had generated but couldn’t pay for. With the positive outlook of a man driven by one-eyed passion, Alec decided to employ a second technician, thinking that this would enlarge the capacity of the business to generate income.
After the second year That Repair Shop continued to err on the wrong side of the cashflow balance. Alec’s plan of attracting additional business had worked, but the expense of expert technical staff and equipment was not adequately met by the extra income. We had a few ‘Where To From Here’ discussions along the way, but my gentle reminders to Alec about his commitment to finish up if we weren’t breaking even after the first year fell on the deaf ears of a man who “Just needed a little more time.” He could see the potential of the business and he could almost taste that juicy, juicy squeeze of cash that he had fixed so firmly in his mind. Above all else, Alec wanted to succeed at his dream. At the end of the day, I understood that. I mean, really, don’t we all? My empathy and trust that he was doing his best here kept me chipping away with Perseverance, waiting with Patience, and riding on the back of his Persistence.
He wanted to stretch further into a third year of trying to catch up. This saw him employing a cheap trainee to help push cash flow further into the right direction. It also saw him leave the employ of his own business, opting instead to take up a management position in the computer section of our local Harvey Norman store. He wanted That Repair Shop to work so much that he was willing to admit that his contributions there as a vacuum technician were not as financially rewarding as the wage and commission he could earn by putting his sales flair to good use. He appointed the head technician as the manager of That Repair Shop, and by taking on Saturday work at Harvey Norman, he was able to check in with That Repair Shop on Tuesdays.
I can’t emphasise enough how hectic this season was. We were both stretched tight, and it often felt like we would snap. The list of activities that our goals required was so long that it felt like we would never get to the end of it. Alec worked full time at Harvey Norman, and spent every spare minute taking care of That Repair Shop, all the while trying to continue to build his Nelson Vacuums eBay store. I worked as a full time teacher, and I was heavily involved in my local church with singing and other leadership roles. I too gave every spare moment to helping Alec with the online parts of our business. Of course, all of this work was done from the foundation of our family. Netball matches, and music lessons, and grocery shopping, and doctors visits, and birthday parties, and house cleaning, and play dates were all somehow squeezed in around everything else in a knotted up mess that often looked more like an entanglement of shoelaces than a successful, rewarding life.
By the end of the third year, we were exactly as you would have expected: Spent! The work had driven us both to the brink of collapse in every way. We were exhausted with not much to show for our efforts. We were still in love, but we little left for loving the life that we had created. Unfortunately, reality can be crude. One of the most crippling burdens we had created was not in our relationships, but in our finances. Working for three years at a business that cost more than it made had seen Alec robbing Peter more than he could pay Paul, and in the end all of these creditors were lined up at our door with their hand out. We sought advice from our accountant who gravely suggested that bankruptcy was a realistic option. We took the papers home and they sat on the desk for a few days. Alec was too devastated to even look at them. Both of us were too stunned to talk.
We had waited ourselves into a corner by blindly expecting the business to save itself, and now, we were going to have to wait ourselves out. While some tough decisions were urgent at this point, no one choice could make all of this go away. We were going to have to drill down into deeper wells of Persistence, Patience and Perseverance if we were going to make the next choices stick.