Just Keep Driving On

They can’t take it from me, if they tried, I lived through those early days. So many times I had to change the pain to laughter just to keep from going crazed
— Paul McCartney

This has been a rough summer at Lightburn. In our 18 year history, we’ve had them before, of course, but this one has been especially rough. You see we’re busy. Really busy. We’re also doing our best work ever. Our team is fantastic and our clients are awesome. Sounds horrible right?

The problem is, through the magic of progress invoicing, our cash flow was dreadful. Far too many projects wrapping up and waiting to send that last “on completion” invoice. We’re finally on the other side of it now, but it was painful. Really painful.

As the “CEO” (a title I despise in a 16 person company) I probably felt the stress more than anyone. I saw our cash balance staring back at me every morning, yet I never let it get to me, at least not for too long.

While going through the thick of it I had more than one person ask me how I deal with the stress. “How do you stop worrying?” A question I would often respond to with “I just stop.” Pretty helpful huh? Normally that’s enough for me. Normally when I’m worried about a project I can “just stop.”

This summer was a little different. I couldn’t just stop worrying. As any business owner knows, cash flow problems are the absolute worst. It’s the oxygen that keeps you alive. Without it you start to panic. Yet, even in the worst of it I never did. For that I had to dig a little deeper.

When things seemed their worst I simply remembered where we came from. Lightburn was started with virtually nothing. The company was literally started in my brother’s closet. I didn’t even own a computer. I did most of my work on university Apple Quadra and saved to a pile of floppy disks. Our client list had one name on it.

“Let’s just keep driving, we’ll be alright”

The memory that always gets me to stop worrying is from very early on. Chasing a small project, Andy and I drove 90 miles south to a glue company near O’Hare airport. In the pouring rain. In a car with no working windshield wipers. Andy, being the mad scientist he is, had attached two small eyelets to the frame of his very beat up car. He then tied fishing line to each of the windshield wipers, through the eyelets and into the car. For most of the trip we would need to alternate pulling on one side to make the wipers go up, then the other side to make them go back down. It wasn’t pretty, but it got us through.

Going back to that day works every time. Sure, there were some scary moments. Sure we thought it might end horribly, but we never stopped. We literally kept driving on.