You Have Help

I have been on this movie watching binge for the last three weeks. Thanks to Youtube algorithms, movies kept showing up on my list and I kept leaning into my intuition to watch them. Some were forgettable. Most weren’t. And the one I just finished stood out. It’s called All in Time. It’s a 2015 release, and gets a 5.4/10 on IMDB. So I guess, you won’t take a second look. So in case you haven’t seen it, I have the spoilers.

Set in 1999, a banker at Lehmann Brothers quits his job to follow his passion of being a band manager for the band that he has been a fan of for years. Things don’t pan out as per his plans. The band is about to split, and he ends up with a mortgage, a beaten up car, and no girlfriend. All this is despite a ‘great’ idea to have a time traveller concert – you know in which people pretend to travel back in time to hear a band.

Twist? It turns out that actual time travellers turn out for the concert, which of course is a runaway success, with his new-find singer, as well as his old band uniting to thrill the audience.

And then he figures out the the key people trying to support him through his shitty time are well, time travellers too!

That explains the 5.4. Yeah?

Not for me. I think it’s a great message for me today. That when you are going through your dips, your shit, your tunnel, there’s always help around. Well, some guys get lucky and have time travelers come to help them out. Some people like me believe in God, angels and spirit guides helping us out. And don’t forget, we get help all the time from our families and friends and random strangers.

Yet, when you’re in the tunnel, you’ll feel alone and helpless. But it’s only because you’ve forgotten that you are always being supported. This is the second time today that I have been given the message that I am not alone. So I feel compelled to write this post.

Think back on your hardest times, times when you thought you would die, times you thought it’d never end. What happened then?

About the time you thought your heart was splintering to pieces because the love of your life moved on? Sooner or later you learnt that you could love again. As passionately, as deeply. More calmly.

Do you remember friends who helped you through that time? The books you read that gave you peace? The lyrics that were the tuning fork for your tears to flow as you resonated with the music?

That was help.

Think about the time you cared for the elderly people at home and extended family, and then thought this phase would just keep going on and on? It ended, didn’t it? Some passed away, some are healthy and fit now. And all through, you did a good job.

Sometimes a neighbour helped, sometimes a family member, most times your home help put in more hours without even expecting to be paid for it. Sometimes a doctor at the nursing home called you by name and offered you food, as you prepared to be the bystander for the patient hospitalized. That was help.

What about the time you felt abandoned by a business partner and had to run the business all by yourself when you didn’t know how?

You just went to events and fortuitously found a person who got you into an entrepreneurship program, or met another person who would become an investor in your company. And then you would meet more people through them who would change the course of your business and life. You would find clients who support you and who send you notes to say that you’re a source of inspiration for others. You would find people on your team who will send you messages to say, ‘You’re my hero’, even after they have left your company.

And if you stuck with it long enough you’d even start finding evidence that the way you want to run your business (which is not what most businesses do in real) is the way ahead. And that’s because some people on the other side of the globe also think like you do. You’ll find help, even from the other side of the planet. And maybe, even from other planets.

So, in short, you have help.

But you may not even recognize it sometimes. In the movie, the protagonist is hell bent on winning his lady love back, when he gets to learn, if he did, he would only end up overshadowing her gift, never letting her find her place under the sun, however unwittingly. So he decided not to pursue her: he was helping her, even though her heart was breaking too.

Did you know when you were looking after the sick, you were learning how to be patient and compassionate? Which would stand you in good stead at a later time? Patience and compassion are good qualities to have, trust me on that.

Did you know when some people were ganging up against you, though you were in the right, was a help too? It made you see who was for you, and who wasn’t. Help.

We always have help. We probably don’t recognize it. And often don’t even acknowledge it, when it shows up, refusing to believe what the mind cannot comprehend.

We have help. We just need to open up ourselves to it and ask for it.

 

How the Odds Even Out

“Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you

When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right

And life has a funny way of helping you out when

You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up

In your face”

– Alanis Morissette, Ironic


Have you ever noticed that?

Earlier this month, I talked of coming up against cash flow issues. It was exacerbated by the fact that we were staring at three clients pulling the plug – well, pulling the plug is a bit extreme, but we like to be prepared for the worst. With a tight cash flow situation at hand, and more impending, things were looking, well, grim.

The first thing to do in such a situation is stop the plug pulling, of course. In one of my earlier posts, I spoke about my co-founder yelling at me, and him being right. It was him yelling at me to figure out ways to keep the clients, not let them pull the plug.

So while I head sales, I just had to double up as an operations person and save the game. And that’s what I jumped in to do, along with the team. Got down and dirty with the daily hands-on stuff. Got the team to chin up, and do more, better. Spoke to the client SPOCs, where required, to figure out the way ahead. My co-founder did the same. And we hoped things would become better.

The next thing to do with dire cash situations is to cut the expenses, and look for money to sustain (by quick sales, or beg/borrow; no, not steal!). So we looked at one of our big expenses, rent, and explored ways to bring that down. We explored co-working spaces; we asked one of our clients if he could accommodate us, as he has extra space. He agreed too.

But once we white-boarded it out, moving out from the current place didn’t work out to be a good idea. Then we looked at our most expensive SaaS subscription, and moved to a lower package, after much negotiation with the company. Some money saved, going forward, without letting go of key stuff we needed.

The focus then turned to how to raise some quick money. And as if on cue, the bank called and offered us a loan, far more than we need. We white-boarded the interest impact on the business, and that also didn’t turn out to be such a good idea.

So, sales it was. Well, for us that’s a 3-6 month cycle, and while many proposals and good conversations are on, the closing takes it own time. The only thing to do here is find more ideal prospects, and pitch more. And that’s what we moved on to do.

We did what we had to. With no relief in sight, not sure where the money would come from, or how the clients would behave.

But do – that’s what we do.

And like Alanis says, life has a funny way.

  • Someone close to the business offered money at no interest.
  • The SPOC at a client’s who was planning our ouster, became respectful of our work, nearly overnight. It’s because the head of sales at the company was convinced about the impact of our work on the business, and saw it as detrimental to the business if we were let go. So he stepped in and guided the SPOC to see the light. First save!
  • We did some new samples for another client, who liked them, and decided, we were the right people to have on his team. Second save!
  • The third client, is still WIP. But it has become clear that if this relationship ends, it will be because we walk out. So, a sort of save there as well.

And what’s more:

  • An old client came back for more work. Because my co-founder asked her for referrals.
  • An existing client, out of the blue, asked for a whole new project to be started, right away. Because he likes the way we have solved the same problem he has. He wants a different approach, though.
  • A prospect we had been working on for a year, gave us some quick work to do. And she has said we will sign up for a retainer in January.

So, for now, things have worked themselves out. We didn’t let the gloomons (a word Richard Bach uses in Running From Safety, to describe negative concepts) hit, too much. We thought through issues, knew where we stood, did the right things, and kept doing. And life worked itself out.

But you know, life also blows up right in your face, when things are going okay.

The year had started on a high. We had a superb team offsite which had charted out the year ahead for us. The stuff we would do, the skill levels we would reach, the number of clients we would have, the brands we would build. Ah, the high of it!

And within 45 of days that, I had separate instances of both the co-founders quitting. When we got out of that mess, and became a tad happy, I came up smack against serious inefficiencies and incompetence in the team. There were people unable to deal with conflicts and having serious resentment festering.

Sigh, I should have quit. And yeah, the thought crossed many times, as they do every year.

People resigned, were let go off or coached. The youngest members in the team laid the path for the rest of the team to follow by demonstrating willingness to learn, being efficient and productive and staying happy. Today, we are a far more efficient team. Maybe not the happiest, but we will get there.

The only thread through all this is the willingness to continue, to stay the game, to not quit, come good or bad. And if that thread is held up, life will do its funny stuff. And the Universe too. After all, as they say, the odds are heavily stacked, in your favor.