Firstly, we would like to say welcome to LABSgroup! Sharing our personal journey is a strange thing, it brings back to memory the monumental failure, desperation and hopelessness that we felt on the 9th December 2009 as we lost our business of 20 years. However, on the other hand it feels slightly victorious, as if we have won a wrestle with some of the most vulnerable areas of our soul – and lived to tell the tale! And so our story begins ....
We were in our mid 20s when our journey into business began. We had just moved from New Zealand to Australia, and it was in that first year that the opportunity to start a business in the field of telecommunications was made available to us. It seemed like such an exciting proposition, and our spirit of adventure propelled us into a self employed life. Initially we worked from home and our business consisted of one mobile phone (the size of a small house), one poster that had been given to us from our only supplier, and a handful of business cards with our self-designed logo! It was difficult but exciting times.
Paul had previously worked for a large national retail organisation and had benefited from an excellent corporate training program which had fast tracked him to high level management, and I had worked as a registered nurse and was now a full time mother to our 1 year old daughter.
Moving away from the security of a full time job to the unknown quantity of self employment made for a fair amount of financial stress, but we were young, energetic and determined. Paul would get up in the morning, put on a shirt and tie and sit in the spare room working 'on' the business whilst waiting for the phone to ring. To supplement our income we got involved in a multi-level marketing business or two (or three!), which no doubt kept reinforcing that 'You can do it!' attitude. We were desperate, and drew from as many sources as we could to keep our fledgling business afloat. We read ridiculous amounts of business books, motivational books, we listened to tapes and went to seminars .... we were armed and we were ready!!
Life quickly moved on, and with hard work and long hours our business started to produce an income. Sales were always a constant concern and for many years we put the business first to ensure its longevity. We had dreams - big dreams, not only for our lives but the lives of our four children. Both of us had come from working class families and this was our chance to make a difference. We had chosen the path of 'pay now and play later' and worked hard finding the balance of a great family life whilst building a business that would last and be of sustainable benefit for our children and their children.
Over the years our vision for our business never changed. It grew into a successful company and at its peak it was employing nearly 50 people over a large geographical area in the state of Queensland, Australia, turning over millions of dollars. We were acknowledged as the best dealer in our State as well as receiving a large number of industry awards many years in a row that cemented our place in the sector. We travelled internationally with our suppliers as the business grew exponentially. We thought we had the appropriate advisors helping us as we grew. So what went wrong?
For many years we dealt with the highs and lows of being in business. The challenges of cash flow, sales, staff and growth management were normal. However, what happened next was a series of circumstances that we couldn't seem to manage despite our now vast industry experience and business know how, and with one critical error - having all our eggs in one basket with our much loved company, we were about to pay the ultimate price.
This was our descent to rock bottom -
- The government owned telecommunications provider for whom we were a dealer changed the way the dealer channel was to operate, favouring their new self labeled retail outlets forcing us to change the way we conducted our business. (It was like shifting the course of the Titanic - a very costly exercise in an extremely complex industry).
- We changed the way we were financing our equipment to counter the changes and in doing so we were required to use our home for security to utilize this banking product. At the time we couldn't see any other way.
- We were also introduced to a 'highly motivated' buyer for the company from our dealer head at the same time as the GFC was emerging. We put the company into a holding pattern to enhance the potential sale which after 9 months of negotiating and discussions fell through. By this time our sales had dropped by 40 % due to the GFC and we were struggling significantly.
- It seemed like a number of factors were actively working against us. Not wanting to trade insolvently, we put the company into voluntary 30 day administration period. Within a week our telecommunications partner whom we had been a dealer with for 15 years pulled the pin on our dealership owing us hundreds of thousands of dollars. The value of our company was in this dealership and in the event of this happening the company was automatically liquidated - and that was it. After nearly 20 years it was over.
We watched as our staff dispersed, liquidators took over our office taking everything including our phones, desks, computers, intellectual property and everything we had worked so hard for. We were stripped of our decision making, security, and our identity as business people. We felt the weight of our children being displaced as we moved out of our beautiful family home that we had sold just prior. We felt alone, ashamed and broken and to top it all off it was Christmas! We could have not felt further from 'normal' as we did at that time.
The news spread like wild fire. Most people in our personal and business world soon knew our predicament, however there was a strange silence, often a hurtful silence. It is an odd thing knowing that your demise is coffee conversation with so many people, each having their own take on what went wrong or what we did wrong. In the midst of what felt like great darkness we were overwhelmed with some amazingly beautiful moments, one of which was some close friends who pooled all their resources and decided to give us the money they were intending on spending on Christmas presents. They came around to our home and we all laughed and cried together. We were humbled and blown away by their love and support.
Our business loss has changed us forever and we have the battle scars to prove it! We have re-evaluated our lives and worked out what is really important. We have dealt with the onslaught of emotions and reminders of loss and failure and are now in a place where our crisis has given us the opportunity to dream new dreams and build a 'different' future. If you are facing something similar, we want to help you. We understand the journey.
About a month after liquidation, we were crying together over our great losses and we decided we would set up a support group for people like us. It took over 18 months before we could even put a pen to paper with this idea, but out of crisis new ideas grow! LABSgroup has been designed to bring hope, support, insight and information for people who have suffered or are suffering under potential, pending or actual financial and/or business losses. It is to help you 'through' your journey.
We all have different stories. For us, our story, though briefly described here was extremely painful and profoundly life changing for our family and those close to us. Liquidation, administration and/or bankruptcy can be, and quite often is a very lonely road. It is our deep desire to see LABSgroup help you through, using the experiences of others who actually understand the pain, and the advice of professionals to help you navigate your way through financial crisis to a place of restoration.
Ivy Baker Priest (US treasurer 1953-1961) put it well when she said "The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning".
Welcome to your new beginnings ...
Paul and Paula Misipeka.