Well, I did it. I went and told The Indy Star to print something that won’t be popular with everyone. Dumb, dumb, dumb… WAIT! NO…. smart! Very smart.
See, the past few days has taught me something very important: the opinions of lunatics simply don’t matter. Reddit hates me. Yeah, so? Have you SEEN the losers losing their minds about me on Reddit? I mean my gosh, in the words of Andrew Kirch, “if Reddit loves you, you’re doing it wrong.”
And I truly believe that now. We spent a few years employing several people who just weren’t cut out for this, and every single one of them has departed under one circumstance or another. But agreeing to part ways and recognize fundamental differences isn’t a BAD thing. You know what IS a bad thing? Ignoring it. Allowing problems to fester, especially when all the time and work in the world isn’t making the situation better. Allowing cancer to rot a strong business from the inside out without taking the hard steps and telling people what they don’t want to hear.
At this point I want to make clear that I am not naming names ON PURPOSE. If you’re one of the Reddit goofballs out there spewing hatred about your time on my crew, you know it. If you’re simply a former employee and we are not at odds, you know that too. Specifically, one very important guy with us parted ways not due to anything other than he and I simply were never going to see eye to eye, and it was as important to recognize that as any other problem any other employee had.
So. What in the HELL am I even talking about? What did I tell The Indy Star? I’m talking about making the tough calls. Whatever they are. You can’t be successful in life or in business if you’re afraid to make the tough and unpopular calls. Absolutely they must also be the RIGHT calls — if you intend harm or if you’re incompetent, you shouldn’t be making ANY calls in my opinion. But to avoid making calls based solely on what people will think about you is ludicrous. If people want to hate you, they’ll hate you even if you donated more than your annual salary to a charity for the homeless. Ask me how I know!
Now… now that I’ve got your attention, I’m going to tell you something I think you have a right to know. In fact, it’s something I can’t stand you NOT knowing. It’s part and parcel of who we are, how we do what we do, and why. And it’s going to stir even more controversy, but I’m sorta over it. It goes like this:
We have never ever been delinquent on employee payroll, and never ever will be. At ANY expense and trouble, our employees are our first and foremost obligation.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that when times get tight, as they did over Thanksgiving (two days closed!) and Christmas (two days closed!) and New Year (two days closed!) and the snowpocalypse (two days closed!), with slow business even when we aren’t closed… we need to make a decision. Who is the most important payee? It’s the employee. Each and every time. My average employee, though paid well above minimum wage, STILL lives paycheck to paycheck. Seriously, who doesn’t these days? I will never be the reason an employee can’t pay car insurance or rent or buy groceries.
Household income? Not priority #1. We’ll skip our payroll before any other bill. Have done so, many times. It’s rarely easy, and it’s never comfortable, but that’s the cost of doing business. Of OWNING business, rather. That’s OUR burden to bear.
It’s not my child support from a previous marriage, either. Make no mistake: I pay, and I pay well and I pay regularly, but I’m in month 210 of 216 now, and everything there is working out and is going to end well. I’d never choose to simply keep the support money, but when it’s not there, it will just have to be there the NEXT week. I can’t print more. I have to earn it like the rest of you. It’s a hassle, court appearances in Michigan and so forth, so I keep it to a minimum, but it happens, and again it’s MY burden to bear. Employees deserve their pay.
So, sometimes the income has been SO low that even with trimming our own personal needs, we still have a deficit. Here’s where I’m about to say something outrageously unpopular. I STILL pay the employees before I pay any other bills. It’s extremely rare, but it happens. And the thing is, we have other payees who are used to weathering storms. Payees with budget cycles that are (1) longer than a two-week pay cycle, and (2) not dependent solely on our check. Is it fun, having to choose? Absolutely not. But I’ll still pay the employees immediately, and defer on things that logically can wait a short time.
And so, with the winter of 2013/2014 being the cesspool it has been for all businesses (ourselves included), we deferred more than we wanted to on a few state obligations, and we got on a payment plan. No worries there. It’s another bill, and nobody likes bills, but bills get PAID. It’s what happens to bills.
Here is where I will quickly correct every naysayer out there. Until you know — until you DO — what we do… don’t judge. Shut it. I don’t want to hear it. We didn’t “line our pockets”. We didn’t “double dip”. We didn’t “fleece the community”. What did we do? WE PAID OUR EMPLOYEES. And not ourselves. Hell, we’ve run right up on the risk of losing our house, just to make sure we ALWAYS PAY OUR EMPLOYEES.
Do we pay them a little more than we need to? Yes, we do. But not more than they’re WORTH. They deserve every dime they earn. I’m only sorry I can’t afford to do MORE for them. And they couldn’t live on less, and I’m offended at the suggestions that they try.
So how did all of this blow up like it did? Pretty simple. We missed a payment on the IDOR payment plan. Accidentally. And before you say there’s no way we couldn’t know… shut it. You have absolutely no idea the amount of stuff clamouring for my attention every day. You don’t know my reasons for making the decisions I make, so I don’t want to hear it. Shut it before I send Miah Akston to pay you a visit you’ll never forget. O_o
Anyway… so yeah we missed a payment. And in the ensuing chaos of playing phonetag and deciphering the multiple, contradictory, and even ridiculous mailings from IDOR, we were unceremoniously shut down on Thursday Jan 29, and told to pay $145,000 before we could reopen. No, we don’t owe $145,000. Never did. The actual amount (as proven by the fact that we were able to pull it off) is about $30,000. That discrepancy, among others, is part of the problem. Not to mention the simple logic of “Pay $30,000 — which we know you don’t have because you’re on our payment plan — and what’s more, do it with no further income. Good luck!”
I think it’s a ludicrous system, and one riddled with flaws on every level. Did we make mistakes? Absolutely we made mistakes. But the hatred out there about how we handled those mistakes and what we’re doing to make up for it… absolutely incredible. Threats AND violence against those who offered to help us? Are you kidding me? Do we live in a third-world country now? “You should pay us for protection. You know… because you never know when you might have an accident.”
I’m not going to be bullied into submission. I’m proud of what we do, I’m proud of why we do it. I’m proud of the folks who help us do it and who we do it for. It’s a great and wonderful community, and Reddit can just go ffff *cough* (a little Sherlock humour never hurt anyone).
On a closing note, while I’m talking about obligations… they go two ways. We have an obligation to our employees, and they to us. They work hard to help us be successful, and we pay them. I guess I sort of have the same expectation of any government collecting taxes. They should work hard to help us be successful if they want to get paid. These past three years have seen them working very hard indeed… AGAINST the success of small businesses. It’s time for a performance review.
[THE MORE YOU KNOW]
For what it’s worth, our fundraising appears to have stalled just shy of completion. We’re hopeful that it will reach the full goal before our first major payback date of Feb 28 (long story, but the short of it is, we paid the $30,000 up front, while raising funds. Now we need to pay back the $30,000 by Feb 28, and THEN we begin making regular charitable donations to a local charity for the homeless). So, if you’re interested in helping out, I covet your love and generosity. There’s free food in it for you if you’re so inclined. Please, if you’ve already helped out, accept our sincerest thanks. (FUNDRAISING INFO – CLICK HERE)
We JUST received a new phone call from IDOR. Apparently, they “made a calculation error” during our meeting yesterday. Completely ignoring the fact that our attorney made it clear yesterday that their system was such a mess that we required concrete, unchanging, clear and concise amounts of what is due and when, they called today and said that because of their mistake, we needed to pay an additional $3000 within one week or face closure once again.
Needless to say, I immediately called our attorney. I call bullshit. I’m tired of trying to hit a moving target. Our attorney, who is nothing short of amazing, called us right back to say that she helped IDOR see the error of their ways, if not their calculations.