What an interesting (or something) 24 hours it’s been. Or was. Whatever.
I’ve a client who runs a business she didn’t found. She came into it as an employee, and somewhat starry eyed as her employer had some good lines and tall tales of success — but I can plainly see that where he found them it was because they were easy pickin’s. Then one day he just said “fuck it!” and walked away. He told her that if she wanted to continue servicing his clients she was welcome to, but he was done. He’d just bilked at least one trusting client that I’m aware of out of tens of thousands of dollars without delivering anything useful, and he was done. And unless she picked up the pieces and tried to make a go of it, my client was unemployed.
It kinda sounds like a good gig, your employer just handing you the keys and walking away. The thing is that this here internet is like a boomtown, full of hucksters and con artists. Mine is a filthy, disgusting business. Not because of what I and others like me do, but because of what so many others do. Too Good To Be True is the order of the day when you step into the business world I inhabit — there are many who are eager to educate your money. She inherited a con man’s business and tried to run it honestly. Which is not to say that it can’t be done, but only that it takes a willingness to unlearn everything you learned as the con man’s lackey. Ever tried to unlearn a thing?
My client has spent 24 months trying to make a go of it, and profited in less than a quarter of those months. She’s been eating losses and struggling like hell to find a way to right the ship. Think Costa Concordia.
I received an email last (Thursday) night in which my very dedicated, big hearted, relatively naive client expressed that she was sick of subsidizing clients whose demands exceeded their payments, that her life (in her early 30’s) has already gone on too long, thanks for me being there and helping her so much, and saying she was going to miss our conversations because they’ve made her “feel like a real person”. She apologized for dumping her burdens on me, saying that she didn’t know who else to communicate her thoughts to because, as she put it, I’m one of the few she knows who knows how to read and write. There were many other words and thoughts expressed, but when you run those things together it sounds an awful lot like a suicide note, don’tcha think? Naturally, I called her. It was late at night but some things just shouldn’t stand on convention.
She was clearly exhausted, depleted, unable to see any reason to try any longer. I reassured her that the relatively minor technical problems she was recently facing and frustrated by were things I could easily enough fix, outlined my plan, and told her I’d let her know when my bits were done. She thanked me, but was eager to get off of the phone so our call ended somewhat abruptly. The bigger problems were left unaddressed. I figured that she just didn’t have it in her to look at them again at the moment, and fervently hoped that it wouldn’t be our last conversation.
I’m one of those who doesn’t make the distinction between business and personal. I know how I experience my own life: It’s ALL personal. It all affects me as a human being, even if it’s in a business context. If you reserve the right to go home at night and bitch about the rotten day you’ve just had, you know what I’m talking about. Those who don’t, as far as I can tell, have simply mindfucked themselves to excuse their own bad behavior as “just business”.
I spent most of today (Friday) on the phone with my client. We talked about the business, the details of it and the bigger issues surrounding it, but even more about all kinds of other things. I did some things that needed to be done on her server, and told her about those things — showing progress, like leading someone out of a cave. That person might be in darkness, unable to see her own feet, but she’ll follow that flashlight beam and trust that you won’t walk her into a pit.
By the time we were done, she was her usual animated, thoughtful, intelligent self. She was talking about plans for the future and things to be done, thanked me for giving and apologized for taking my time. But how could a feeling human being do otherwise than to give her that time? I was happy to help, and hearing her speaking positively of the future was thanks enough.
A while later, I received another email message. This one confirming an order she’d placed online, to be shipped to me, of the complete 12 volume set of the Foxfire book series. Totally unnecessary, presumably unwise given her current financial troubles, but very generous and something that will be appreciated for years to come.
I very much hope that she doesn’t end up missing the money. I might end up feeling compelled (by my own sensitive nature) to return some portion of the gift as discounts or unbilled service, but I’ll cherish those books and the appreciation they express to the end of my days.