In September 2001, Margaret and I were living in Austin and were operating our web design business out of our house. Things were going pretty well. The business was successful; Austin was exciting and fun; and we were a few chapters into the writing of a new book: The eBiz+ Certification Exam Cram.
On September 11, I woke up shortly before 8:00 and sat down at my computer to check my email before taking a shower. I opened Excite.com and saw in the newsfeed that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. “What a horrible accident,” I thought. I left a browser window open to CNN.com so I could check it out after I went through my email.
The next time I looked at the news, a 2nd plane had hit the World Trade Center. I ran downstairs to tell Margaret. We turned on the TV and saw the first tower collapse. For the next hour, we watched in total shock as the most horrible thing we’d ever seen unfolded.
Then my office phone rang. I saw on the caller ID that it was Joe, our real estate agent client. I had talked to him at 10PM the night before, several times during the previous day, and a couple times over the weekend. It wasn’t unexpected that he would call at strange times. But if he was calling now, it must be a huge emergency.
Maybe he had family in New York and wanted my help contacting them? Maybe he felt it necessary to call and tell me that he wasn’t going to be working today? Maybe he just wanted to talk to someone about what was going on and thought of me (we had been talking an awful lot lately, after all). I picked up the phone.
“Chris, I know what’s happening in New York right now is just terrible. But, we really need to launch the site today. We have a big e-blast going out tomorrow morning.”
I’ve been a professional web developer and owner of a web development firm for 18 years. I started the business in San Francisco in 1997. Margaret joined forces with me when we moved to Oakland, then to Austin, then to Sacramento. We survived the dot-com crash and the early 2000s lull. The great recession hit us hard in 2009, and we laid off 10 of our 12 employees. Margaret left the business to become one of the happily not self-employed, and I continued to run things for another 5 years.
This summer, I decided I’d had enough and started planning a slow wrap-up and shut down. That shut down completed yesterday.
The coming series of articles, and maybe book someday, will describe the history of my years as a small business owner, employer, and web developer. I don’t know how long this series will end up being, but I’m looking forward to sharing some of my stories as well as the small bits of wisdom I’ve gained. My hope is to figure out where everything went wrong with my first business, and to learn from that myself so that it never occurs again. I’m also hoping to educate the next generation of web developers and clients about what not to do.
I won’t bother you with my personal revelations (much). You’re here for the story, and I’m going to give it to you as best I can.
All non-innocent names have been changed to protect the innocent.