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Friday, November 03, 2006

I will never forget that day in 1991 when my life turned around.

I had been struggling with the first real slump since going into buisness for myself in 1988, at age 35. Now, at 38, I surveyed my life, and it didn't look very good.

I was single, living alone in a virtually empty apartment in a less than opulent suburb. My 'wealth' was tied in a piece of real estate that could be compared to one of those purple squares on the Monopoly board. (I obtained an eviction order after one tenant, after a cocaine binge, fired a shotgun out the back yard. He denied it when police showed up. The next day, I asked him if he had fired the gun -- and he showed me the empty shotgun casings. When I told him I was going back to the police, he caught my neck in a choke-hold; a neighbour hearing the commotion, freed me and, indeed, I wasted no time heading to the police station.)

Now the property stood partly empty, with a big mortgage, that I couldn't pay.

I was single. No girlfriend. No money. And my small business was losing so much money I thought there was no way it could continue. Hopelessness.

That day, on returning home after telling my staff we would need to close the business, I recalled the advice of motivational guru Brian Tracy that I, and no one else, is responsible for my own problems. I can't blame my mother, my employees, even the drug crazed guy who tried to throttle me (though obviously he has his own problems to solve).

So I set out to pull myself up -- only to find, over the next year, even more angst and frustration.

My computer died, and I didn't have money to replace it. As I took the broken computer out of my car, a food bank truck slammed into the open door in the parking space next to me. The insurance rules deemed me 'responsible'.

Then, to add injury to pain, I encountered the con-artist

This guy had signed a full page advertising contract for an occupational health and safety service. Seemed okay to me. We were planning a theme on health and safety. Then I received a call from the credit department of one of the city's daily newspapers asking if I had checked the customer out. I said I hadn't, but would keep myeyes open.

Two months passed, without payment. My sixth sense told me something was wrong. So when I wrote the feature about occupational safety, I made a brief alusion that there may be something wrong with the advertiser's business.

The next day he sent me a registered letter accusing me of libel and demanding an immediate retraction. Without any money available, I visited the city's best known libel lawyers. "Do you have proof that he did something wrong," they asked. I said "no". They responded: "You may have a big problem."

So I arranged a meeting with him, again, ironically in the lobby of a luxury apartment building in a complex that would become my home just two years later. He said: "I know the laws about uttering death threats". "Don't think you can get away by skipping town because I have connections across the country." "I would like you to sign your business over to me."

Ugh. What to do. After a sleepless night, I decided to make an exit -- south. (It is a story for another edition of this blog, but I had secured just a few weeks earlier a U.S. immigrant visa, otherwise known as the Green Card.) First thing in the morning I went to the police station to file a report, just in case my body turned up with cement shoes at the bottom of the Ottawa River.

Then, at 10 am that morning, my world changed.

I picked up the phone. It was a reporter from the same daily newspaper whose credit manager had called me some days earlier. "Mr. Buckshon, do you have any comment about the arrest of Mr. (name removed here) this morning." The reporter faxed me the police press release. It seems the guy indeed had been charged just that morning for fraudulently representing himself as a government agency -- in other words, I 100 per cent correct in assuming he had been dishonest.

A few minutes later, as I was absorbing this news, the con artist had his secretary put a call through to me. Then he took the line. "Mr. Buckshon, have your reached a decision about our business discussions yesterday."

I enjoyed the sweet revenge by asking: "Mr. (blank), do you have any comment about the Police news release this morning saying you have been charged with five counts of fraud."

I called the libel lawyers. "You must have providence on your side," the surprised lawyer said. Indeed, I had reached what I now realize is the 'inflection point'. These times defy logic and predictability -- and I think are marked by suprising extremes that just don't logically fit into business plans or ordinary life. I knew my problems would soon be over, and they were.

Two years later, I married the woman of my dreams, who I had known for several years. She had some money, so my standard of living skyrocketed. She has taught me much about business, and I started growing the enterprise to the multinational dream of my visions.

Then the tmore recent business contraction, failure, losses, and that point arriving when it looked like we were nearing the end. "I accept responsibility for myself", I reminded myself as things continued their slide, realizing that things were in no way as bad as they were that time in 1991. (I now share my life with a wonderful woman and amazing nine year old boy, for example).

So, this inflection point doesn't have quite the drama of the last one, but it still feels wonderful. There are no guarantees, of course. But I know we have turned a very big corner.

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