A few days ago, one of the Lexicans on the F/B page posted the story of a trucking company who suddenly declared bankruptcy, leaving its drivers – and presumably the goods they were carrying for their customers, stranded all over the country.
Their fuel cards suddenly would not work in the pumps, effectively stranding them. Leaving them to figure out how to get home to waiting families.
Then today I am reading about a British travel agency declaring bankruptcy, leaving up to 150,000 of its customers stranded around the world.
What I don’t understand is that the companies had to have known that they were in dire straits if not for many months, certainly weeks before the decision to declare bankruptcy.
Didn’t they feel some obligation to help those who trusted them?
While my small company wasn’t bankrupt, the writing was on the wall for some time, certainly in the last year. When you are paying off all of your employees and vendors and hoping there’s enough left for you, that is the time to make some hard, painful decisions.
It was a decision I hated to face, and one I didn’t want to make but the numbers didn’t lie, and either I had some latitude to make the decision now , or the numbers would make the decision for me shortly down the road.
The customer base had changed and shrunk considerably due to a number of factors out of my control. I tried over the years to find new markets but it wasn’t to be. Maybe someone else could have found those markets.
So the question became, How do you want to go out? How do you want to be remembered?
I was trying to find the letter I had sent to all of our customers, and one oil company, but it is not to be found.
We were one of the first companies to offer computerized customer follow up, and one major oil company liked our service so much that they would pay for part of our program with their dealers who used us. We had a long time (20+ years) relationship with them.
We had some customers for 20 years, and were known for our reliability and quality of service. Our service worked.
But we were getting pinched from all sides, continually rising postage costs, a rapidly shrinking number of service stations with service bays (when is the last time you have seen one today? They are all convenience stores!), and of course, more competition over a shrinking base.
The first letter I sent was to the oil company, thanking them for the trust they put into us. Telling them as of such and such a date we would cease operations.
The second letter was to our customers, thanking them.
Our employees were paid to the last day. The ones who were left, anyway.
I have had some regrets in life – don’t we all? Some things I would have done differently if ever there is a review of my life.
But that isn’t one of them.
That’s the way to go out, if you have to go.