There are generally two reasons why a business ceases to exist. Either it went out of business or it was acquired by another business. In most cases, the founder would rather it be acquired rather than shuttered because at least that way you can say that you had a “successful exit”.
I’m in the former camp. The bad one, so to speak. And you know what? It feels freaking fantastic.
At the end of each year, I give thought to what I should do with Moon River Consulting and every year, I never seem to come to a solid conclusion so I end up simply thinking and thinking until the end of the year comes and goes. Once January 1st hits, it becomes significantly more difficult to shut it down due to tax reasons. Shuttering a business in the middle of the year is like stubbing your toe. For me, it’s like doing that twice.
The problem is that I have Moon River Software(MRS) and Moon River Consulting(MRC). Ideally, I’d move everything from MRC into MRS, thus combining the companies and it would be easy. But with taxes and the government, nothing is ever easy. In order for me to shut down MRC, I’d need to move my payroll to MRS. But if I do that in the middle of the year, then I have to pay unemployment taxes twice: Once for MRC and then again for MRS. So my best bet is to wait until the end of the year and then shut down the business.
What to do With That Business?
However there’s always been this lingering thought in the back of my mind: “what if I need that business entity?” Indeed. What if.
That nagging uncertainty is exactly the type of ailment that insurance is supposed to resolve. You buy insurance to help mitigate risk. If something bad happens, you’re reimbursed for it. And insurance premiums are based on the likelihood of that event ever happening. Funny enough, there’s no insurance for government ineptitude. Doubtless the insurance companies would go out of business.
But I digress. I’m here to tell you about why I’m happy to be closing my consulting business. The fact is that it has helped me to bring closure to a part of my businesses that I’m not particularly happy about. I’m not a huge fan of doing enterprise level consulting. I haven’t been for several years. The money was fantastic, don’t get me wrong. But the highs of any accomplishment are disproportionately tempered by the lows. Numerically, it only takes 1 low to outweigh 10 highs. I feel like I encountered more like 5 lows for every 1 high. Not a good ratio.
I suspect that part of this is to blame on the fact that I was good at what I did. More often than not, I was the resource of choice for overly challenging projects and overly challenging customers. Yes, they are different and yes, sometimes the two overlap to make for a “challenging engagement”. Not that I got paid any more for those types of projects, but that’s what happens when you make the choice to do independent contracting. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into until it’s too late.
Starting in January of 2010 and ending in June of 2014, I would travel for work an average of 30-45 weeks/year. I generally would leave Sunday evenings to fly or drive to my customer location. I’d work from Monday to Friday and then fly or drive home Friday evening. On rare occasions, I’d stay the weekend but I can count (barely) on one hand the number of times I did that. Typically, flying home simply wasn’t worth it because I’d get home, do laundry, and then have to fly out again to the same customer. I did this overseas a couple of times and in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona due to the length of the trip home.
While all this was going on, I was building AuditShark on the side. Needless to say, my life was rather “full”. I felt like I worked constantly, yet never seemed to really get ahead. Near the end of 2013, I could feel myself starting to break. Some of it was product related and some of it was “challenging customer” related. In either case, I knew I was severely burned out. I was about to ask for an extended time off when suddenly, I found myself assigned to another lengthy project for what I knew would be a challenging project. I could feel my motivation and my entire sense of self-worth and motivation sink.
I committed to the project but took the steps I needed to clear out my schedule once that project was over. At the end of June, I took an official sabbatical from consulting. For the next six months, I worked on getting AuditShark to the point that it was a marketable desktop application, rather than the unmarketable cloud based application it had been the previous year.
Coping With Burnout
Unfortunately, I was still recovering from severe burnout. I took time off. I stopped working. I started working again. I spent time with my family. I took a personal retreat. I did some independent projects. I started going to the gym. And various other things.
Coping with burnout isn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. It seemed like time was the only thing that might help.
Recently, things have gotten significantly better. My motivation has started to return. My will to persevere has strengthened. However, I still felt something was lacking but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
About three weeks ago, I began giving thought to how I would handle the problem of multiple business entities yet again. This time, I decided that I needed to make an intentional decision, rather than simply accepting the current situation. Was I going to move forward with two businesses or was I going to shut one down?
Ultimately, I made the decision to shut down Moon River Consulting. I didn’t see enterprise consulting in my future any longer. It wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing or continuing to do in the future. I checked with my CPA about the logistics and tax implications, knowing that anything worth doing, the government is going to make painfully obscure to do. Fortunately, if you do the homework and know what to do it doesn’t take all that long to do.
After filing the paperwork and paying the fees, Moon River Consulting was no more. But even before filing the paperwork, something interesting began to happen. My burnout seemed to be withdrawing rapidly and my motivation began to not only return, but to increase quickly. Previously I could spend days making relatively futile attempts to do work, only to have the end of the day come with almost nothing to show for it. Since making the decision to shutter my consulting company, what I want has come into focus in sharp contrast with what I didn’t.
Quite some time ago, my wife and I were reminiscing about how we ended up together. I remarked that when we got together, I was at an age where I didn’t really know specifically what I was looking for. But I was fairly certain about what I didn’t want.
It occurred to me that in shutting down Moon River Consulting, I was closing down a business that I knew that I didn’t want. It was like a bad relationship that I was ending. It was something I didn’t want. It was closure. And that act of closure created a sense of well-being and focus on the path forward. It’s something that I’m incredibly happy about.
Today marks the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Many people use the end of the year as an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and set their goals for the new year. I’ve done that recently myself. But it’s interesting that I also did the opposite by considering exactly what I didn’t want and feel like I came out better for it. I’m really looking forward to the new year with a lot of renewed invigoration because the path forward is a lot more in focus than before because I know what I don’t want.
Know What You Don’t Want
It’s documented that knowing what you want can be a powerful motivational factor because you have goals to work towards. Surprisingly enough, knowing what you don’t want can be just as powerful. So if you haven’t set your goals for next year, think about what you don’t want. It will help you focus on what you do.