I remember exactly where I was on the day I decided to shut down my company, Three Value Logic. I was about 2/3 of the way along my regular morning commute from Boulder to Denver. There was no one else on the road since I typically left the house somewhere around 4:30 or 4:45 to beat the traffic into Denver and hole up at a coffee shop to get my day started. At that time of the morning you could make the trip from Boulder to Denver in 30 minutes or less, whereas rush hour would cost you at least another half an hour of your life. I had started my company almost seven years before as an escape from the corporate world and had built it into something that I enjoyed and was proud of.
Nevertheless, I knew at 4:53 am that morning with the light barely starting to creep over the horizon from the east that I needed to shut it down and find a way to gracefully exit a business that I had grown to roughly 80 people that inhabited some fairly sizable office space in downtown Denver. It was a tough realization, but a clarifying one as well. I had been struggling for some time and persevering for even longer trying to put all the pieces together to make this bird fly. I had invested my life, my savings, any semblance of retirement funds, and most of my sanity in trying to make it work, and I don’t regret any of that investment one little bit because it taught me so much and ultimately laid the foundation for what was to come next.
However, unlike a lot of entrepreneurs, I felt like I needed to face the demon of failure head on, and I needed to figure out how to unwind this ball of string in a way that would do as little harm as possible to the people that I had brought on who had put their trust in me get the company off the ground. It was a tough morning making a decision about my company dissolution, but I also distinctly remember breathing a huge sigh of relief and feeling a giant weight was lifted off my chest because I could finally turn my attention away from frantically treading water and focus on something very tangible, which was landing the plane before we ran out of fuel in a way that didn’t kill any of the passengers on board.
Fast forward almost eight months to my last day in the office and everybody had gone. I had been able to ensure that most people found another place of employment. Some of my project principles started their own company and were able to assume any clients that we still had remaining business with or any contracts with. Even the phone vendor had gotten the call from me letting him know he should probably come and pick up all the equipment, phones and anything that was an asset of his before the doors were locked. I remember sitting there thinking that this was the day my primary investor had the ability to call default on my note. I somehow had this vision of masked and armed men descending on ropes in the roof, rappelling down and bursting through the windows to seize whatever assets we had which really were nothing at the time. Of course that didn’t happen, and I guess that was relief as much as it was a surprise. The whole process of exiting a company and dealing with debt and creditors threatening me with default taught me so much and helped me figure out what I wanted to do next.
I remember sitting there and just reflecting on the journey of the past eight years and even more than that the journey of my life that had gotten me there, and I was finally at peace. I had chased this dream of building a company, and just two years earlier I had made the decision to triple down and place some big bets on what this company could be. I had committed the sin that all entrepreneurs commit…the sin of believing in your own dreams, which is the force that ultimately makes you successful but can also bring things to a hasty end. This realization brought closure in my life, and I remember sitting there and walking in the office one last time.
We had this wall where a bell was hung, and around the bell were all these signatures of people that had come through our sales development program. You see we essentially ran a school for getting people into the career of sales, and the final ritual for graduates of this program was their ringing out at which time they would sign the wall with their name as remembrance that they had come through this program. This was in solidarity with all the other folks on the wall, after which they would then ring the bell and we would celebrate.
As I walked out of the office that last time I found a pen, finally signed my own name on the wall and rang myself out.
By Townsend Wardlaw