How my biggest f**k up ended up being a blessing

In Aug 2001 I started Fenix with a $20k USD project and a lot of uncertainty.

By October of the same year the project was complete, my freelancers were paid and I was waiting to receive the $20k payment from the client when I got the phone call: "we are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will not be able to pay you."


I told my hubby that I had just broken the first rule in business: get paid.

And not only was I not getting paid, but I had paid my freelancers out-of-pocket months earlier to keep them happy and motivated to continue working with me. Good business ethics. Or so I thought.

I thanked my client for the call, agreed it was unfortunate, but essentially hung up the phone. I told my hubby it was "time to look for a real job"; I wasn't cut out to be a business owner.

He told me very distinctly that I was not to give up, that I hadn't given it a chance yet. He said I owed it to myself to see this through.

Two months later, December 2001, that same client called me. He had an offer: because his company filed for bankruptcy they were unable to fulfill their obligation on a "multi-million dollar e-learning project" and he wanted to recommend my company to do it.

We did it.

The revenue from this project allowed us to get office space, hire our first employee, employ a selection of 6-10 developers on contract to get this work complete.

This project essentially set us up in business.

Sometimes what you think is the "worst thing ever" can become a valuable lesson once you've come through the other side.

I have never had it "easy" at Fenix. I don't get work handed to me; I have to work for every project we land. Perhaps this resilience early on was the best lesson I could learn. Perhaps if it had been easy during those early days I wouldn't know how to handle the tough times that inevitably get thrown at you over the lifetime of your business.

But this also taught me that even when you get bad news always maintain your comportment. Yelling and screaming at that client wouldn't have won me anything.

I have tried to stay true to this lesson throughout the last 17 years. Except for that onetime I lost my cool on a call. 

But that's a story for another time.