Posts Tagged ‘Business’

If you have been following my blog, I am telling you a little bit about myself, my husband, my marriage and my son.  I have had an interesting life and I thought I would share a slice of it.  If you want to start from the beginning please read my post called Another story begins . . . 

Seeing our business fall apart before our eyes, my husband and I talked.  We worked hard but it was not enough to save the business.  I contacted an attorney to see what we needed to do.  Based on his recommendation, we laid off all of the employees, including my father and both of my brother-in-laws.  We locked the doors of the plant.  It was done.  And then I worked with the attorney to file for bankruptcy.  While this was happening my father and both of my brother-in-laws had found jobs, which was a big relief for me.  They took the whole situation pretty well and were fully supportive. 

While we were shutting down the processing plant and taking care of legal matters, I received a phone call from a Vice President at the company I had worked at when I was consulting.  She had a six month project and they needed someone with application testing experience and business analysis experience.  It was an all expense paid contract, including housing, food, and transportation.  Plus it was a great hourly rate.  My husband and I talked about the job and we had two issues.  First, there was a risk of the job only lasting six months, but six months was better than nothing.  We decided there was nothing to lose. 

We would have to move to another state, which brought us to the second issue.  I did not have enough money even to get us relocated.  We decided we wouldn’t close down our current apartment, which would reduce relocation costs.  The rate of pay for the contract would cover the rent charges, and since it was only a six month contract job, we had a place to come back to when the contract was done.  We also decided that we would take only what was necessary and what would fit in our car.  Even with this plan, I did not have enough money, for gas and food, to travel to Ohio.  So, I had to take a chance and I decided to contact the VP.  I told her a little bit about the circumstances and asked her if it would be possible to get a small advance so that we could relocate.  Luckily, I had been a good worker when I was working for them before.  Surprisingly, she didn’t bat an eyelash and said sure she could get me an advance.

Wow, miracles were really falling into place for us.  We were at the point of almost being destitute, and now I had a consulting job that was going to have a pretty good paycheck tied to it.  Yes, we had to move, but I think we needed to get a change in environment to rejuvenate ourselves.  It is really depressing to have a business fail and it hacks at your self-esteem.  I kept going over and over in my head trying to determine what we could have done to prevent this crisis from happening.  The only thing I could come up with is that you have to be very, very careful who you partner with, and if possible don’t even involve a partner.  Now that isn’t an easy situation to achieve.  Sometimes you need a partner to inject money into a business to get it running and obviously we didn’t have that kind of money.

Soon the advance money was sent to us.  We packed up our car with our necessities, which was mainly clothing and baby stuff.  We had a big good-bye with the family, and off we went.  We were headed for another adventure.

. . . to be continued

 

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A new business can be rough . . .
It’s a different world . . .
Change in career, another move, and starting something new . . .
Good-bye Chicago, Hello Columbus . . .
Chicago and a time of crisis . . .
A place of prosperity . . .
There are good people in the world . . .
Hard times: a need to relocate . . .
And another story begins .

If you have been following my blog, I am telling a story about myself and my marriage to my husband, the father of  my son J.O.  If you want to start from the beginning please read my post called Another story begins . . . ,  or to learn a little bit more about my son, read:   And then it begins.

So our business was off and running.  We started out in a cold warehouse, with no heat, tons of raw materials, a couple of blue portable outdoor bathrooms, an industrial scale, a packaging equipment & materials, a forklift and employees.  I soon developed relationships with the raw material suppliers, trucking companies, and freight companies.  I contracted with a woman who took care of all of the payroll things, including cutting the paychecks,and dealing with all of the withholding.  I soon had developed an employee policy manual, which was distributed to the employees. 

 Now all we had to do is produce.  We had some trial and error situations. In the beginning the flow of work wasn’t efficient.  The packaging was rough and messy.  Loading our first container was far from being efficient, both in the  loading process and in the quality of product.  There was much room for improvement.

Yet, when the first container went out it was a big milestone for our company.  Not only did we rejoice, but we had visitors from the local chamber of commerce, the mayor of the city, representatives from the bank and my family.  Everyone celebrated the first shipment. 

After a few months passed, my father approached and asked me if he could work at the processing plant part-time.  I told him he can, but he needs to understand it is a start-up business.  We were working hard to make it a success, but there was no guarantee it would be a success.  I said if he is willing to take that risk, the could definitely work at the processing plant.

So the importance of the business being successful got pretty serious.  It is one thing for my husband and I to take that risk.  I knew if something happened I could always get a job.  I worked in technology and there is always a need for a good business analyst.  Now my father is also dependant on this business being success.

It was going to take at least thirty days before the cargo ship would reach port in West Africa.  Once it was there our it was our business partner’s job to clear the goods from customs, get it to his warehouse, and sell the product.  Then he was supposed to wire the sales proceeds back to us.  For the first year this business was not going to make much profit.  For the first six months every dollar needed to be reinvested in the company.  After six months we would start having a true profit, and after that it would continue to build.

Before you know it a second container was shipped out, a third and a fourth.  We had really improved the work flow of the processing of the product.  By then the building construction was complete and we were ready to move into the structure.  We had built and area that was enclosed separately from the main warehouse.  This area included some offices, a break room, bathrooms, and the equipment used to process the raw materials.  By this time our new circular assembly line equipment arrived and it worked perfectly for our business. 

At about this time I was pregnant and needed some help at the processing plant.  My husband talked to his brother, who lived in Houston, to see if he would be interested in joining our business.  He decided he was very interesting in working with us.  Immediately he made plans to move his family closer to us.  Shortly after he joined, my other brother-in-law approached me and wanted to work at the plant.  Once again I went through the whole risk discussion, and he said he was willing to take the risk.  So now the importance of the success of this business was immense.  Four family’s lives were dependent on it.

Related topics:

It’s a different world . . .
Change in career, another move, and starting something new . . .
Good-bye Chicago, Hello Columbus . . .
Chicago and a time of crisis . . .
A place of prosperity . . .
There are good people in the world . . .
Hard times: a need to relocate . . .
And another story begins .

If you have been following my blog, I am telling a story about myself and my marriage to my husband, the father of  my son J.O.  If you want to start from the beginning please read my post called Another story begins . . . ,  or to learn a little bit more about my son, read:   And then it begins .

So now the work begins.  There was a lot to be done.  We needed to evaluate the processing plan and determine what changes would need to be done to the structure.  We did a walk-through of the building.  It was a huge warehouse which had been built recently and was located in the town’s new industrial park.  I took the dimensions of the building so that we could draw the changes.  It was our plan to get the processing plant open as soon as possible. To do this we planned on working as the construction work was being done.  This was tricky, but not impossible.  I determined what the set up would be in the interim and then drew a rough blueprint of the changes to the processing plant. 

Our next step was to order the equipment.  It mainly consisted of a forklift, an industrial scale and a packaging machine, which we ordered out of Texas.  I ordered the packaging materials, which consisted of plastic and metal banding. 

Our next big step was to set up the work flow for processing the raw materials.  It  was going to be very much like an assembly line type of set up.  My father came up with a brilliant design for the assembly line equipment, but instead of it being linear it was circular, which was perfect for our operations.  We really believed in using local providers when it was possible.  We took my dad’s design to a metal shop that my father had done business with in the past, and we contracted them to build this circular assembly unit.

Our next step was to buy the raw materials, which was pretty easy. In no time we had a semi-load of raw materials delivered to the processing plant.  It was a very competitive market for the raw materials and the prices fluctuated with the trends in this business.  We really had to be on our toes because there were bigger companies that were our competition.  So our bidding for raw materials had to be very frugal.  The one advantage we had is we knew the market in West Africa.  We had many connections to sell this product, and our partner resided there.

While the functional aspects were being set up, I started the interview process for hiring employees.  We decided we needed about six sorters, one person for packaging set up, and two people for operating the actual packaging equipment.  In addition we designated one of the sorters to also be the forklift operator.

There were not many requirements for the employees.   They needed the the ability to lift forty pounds,  the ability to stand on their feet for long periods of time, and hopefully just be a good worker.  We also needed someone who had fork lift experience and some employees that were used to working with equipment. 

The positions paid slightly above the minimum wage.  At first the only benefits we had were sick time and vacation time, which was awarded after they worked for us for six months.  Later we were able to offer them some medical, life and disability insurance.

Looking back on this, the saying “You get what you pay for” was exactly the situation we were in.  The type of people who applied for the job and eventually worked for us were the dredges of society.  Among our employees we had individuals involved with drugs and alcohol, victims of abuse, a girl who wanted to be a stripper, a woman who was mentally unbalanced, and basically individuals that couldn’t get a job anywhere else.  The one common characteristic each of them had was that they had been in jail at one time or another. 

Initially I had it in my head that I could work with them and make them good viable employees.  I started out with a very optimistic perspective.  I showed them by my actions that we were not a big, bad company and we cared for our employees.  Even though we were a start-up company we tried to provide the employees with full benefits including:  annual raises based on performance, vacation time, sick leave, access to medical, life and disability insurance. I served as their life coach.  It was pretty stressful.  I had been working so many years in major corporations, that I had no idea what it was like outside of that environment, and was a little bit shocked.  Practically every day one employee did not come to work.  Besides having my role as the manager of the operations, I played the role of  social worker, marriage counselor, psychologist, mother, boss, and drill sergeant.  I played this “social worker” role for about six months and then I gave up.  Their situations in life were much bigger than what I could help them with.  I also think I was more concerned about their well-being than they were.  My best employees were a retired manager of a grocery store, and a gentleman from Cuba.

 to be continued . . .

Related topics:

Change in career, another move, and starting something new . . .
Good-bye Chicago, Hello Columbus . . .
Chicago and a time of crisis . . .
A place of prosperity . . .
There are good people in the world . . .
Hard times: a need to relocate . . .
And another story begins .