From 2005 through 2008 Matt was completely consumed with the business. The business was growing, which is a good thing, but we didn’t have the staff, systems, or infrastructure in place to operate as efficiently as we should.
The warehouse was too small, and I was happy when Matt signed a lease on a bigger space only five minutes from our home. I thought I would see him more often as he would now save an hour a day on his commute, but it didn’t work out that way. It was just another hour a day he spent in the office.
The holiday seasons were the worst. Matt would be at work 16-18 hours a day, only to turn around and do it again the next day. Even trying to find time to get a family picture with Santa at the mall became a scheduling nightmare.
Where is the flexibility in his schedule that Matt had promised when we first talked about starting a business? I sure wasn’t seeing it. Matt was busier than he had ever been at work, and I was just as busy at home. With three kids under the age of 10 and soon to be a fourth on the way, there were times I felt like a single mom, especially around the holidays.
Matt was always telling me that things would get better. He just needed to hire a new person, implement a new order management system, or fix an issue with a supplier. The funny thing is I think he really believed it when he told me that. However, I quickly learned that there would always be another system to fix, a person to hire, or a fire to put out.
As tough as it was in 2005 and 2006, it got even worse in 2007. On a rare spring break getaway with the kids, Matt started feeling sick. He went to a clinic near our hotel in California and they told him he was probably just dehydrated so he should drink plenty of Gatorade and follow up with his doctor at home. By the time he got home, he was feeling a little better, so he figured it had just been some type of bug. However, several weeks later he started feeling sick again and it didn’t get better.
Matt was still going to work as much as he could but when he was at home, he had no energy and just stayed in the bedroom. He didn’t feel up to eating and lost about 50 pounds. I was truly a single mom at this point in addition to taking care of Matt. I remember being in the delivery room with our fourth child and Matt laying on the couch in the corner because he had no energy.
After a year of seeing specialists, we finally found an endocrinologist who started narrowing in on the cause of Matt’s illness. I remember sitting in his office when he told us that based on all the test results, and chest x-rays showing significantly enlarged lymph nodes, the most likely diagnosis was cancer. I had worried for several months that it might be cancer but hearing the doctor say it hit me hard.
At that point, the company was the furthest thing from my mind. Fortunately, we had a good team in place, with Matt’s mom managing the day-to-day. However, over the next few days as we waited to get in for the biopsy surgery, I did start to think about the business. There is no way it would survive without Matt. The team could get orders out but no one else knew what Matt did. What would happen if Matt wasn’t there? Not only was it our only source of income but it was essentially our retirement plan.
Fortunately, the biopsy came back negative, and eventually, the doctor figured out that Matt had a rare autoimmune disease. With the right combination of medications, Matt was mostly back to his normal self within a few months.