Choosing to close up shop.

It’s been a long time, a really long time. I didn’t even know how long of a time until I confirmed with my mom when she started our family cleaning business.

2002.

Thats 17 years ago.

Thats when they started, what I will finish on May 1st, 2019.

In 2002 my mom and my dad started cleaning the local Home Depot, for 3 hours each morning as a subcontractor for a larger company. They stayed there for a long time until they finally quit when the contractor cut their pay. I worked there myself many mornings in 2007 and 2008. We left a couple of years after that.

I’ve written and rewritten my and our history on this blog so many times that some of you may be familiar with my story a little bit. I try to stay truthful but I suppose the lens to the past does get foggy over time.

The company started in 2002, and gradually my parents took on more contracts and employees. For a little while our company was bigger, in 2008 we got a big contract with a local grocery chain, taking care of five of their locations as a subcontractor. In 2009 the main contractor got fired by the grocery chain but they wanted to keep us so we incorporated and continued on our merry way, contracting directly with them.

In 2011 we picked up another pretty big local government location and everything was going… semi-ok. It was a struggle. Cleaning is a cut-throat business and to be honest very few companies are willing to pay a fair wage to have their building cleaned properly and also fairly. It was never easy and most of the work was late at night or overnight and early morning. As you may know, through the years I have consistently applied for other jobs because I wanted out. It was a job. It paid the bills.
We had some other small contracts, and over time we either lost them due to being undercut or simply replaced with the next great promise or quit, due to withheld pay, lack of pay, or not enough pay. We were taking care of about a dozen contracts at this point.

Until December 2012 we employed between 20 and 25 people. In 2012 we lost those five grocery locations, first one, then the other four. I wrote about that here.

Everything happens for a reason. Things landed on their feet after that anyway. 2013 was stressful, but we came out fine all together after we cut the company in half. My dad always had his own work in construction, my mother became a realtor and started working with a local agency, right around the time we downsized in December 2012. She had the job offer within days of our downsizing and moved on right away. I stayed with the company and became its main caretaker. We had loyal employees to take care of, and other contracts that were worth keeping. I was pretty broke myself as I took a big paycut for a long time.

Over the years we gradually downsized more and repaid all debts. It was pretty rough for a while in 2013 as the grocery chain did not pay us properly at the end which resulted in some tax debts and a ton of stress. 1 CRA audit in 2014 later (that ended up in our benefit!:) )and a lot of work we came out the other end in 2016, the company became debt free. We ended another very unsatisfying contract (QUITTING FEELS SO GOOD!). And then last December I gave notice to another small location, there were only 2 contracts left to start 2019.

I’ve been the only family member left manning the corporation for a few years with a varying staff of about 8-11 people in full and part-time positions. It’s been fun, at times hard, at times rewarding, and at times not satisfying at all to do this. I became bored with it all few years ago so I stopped doing any cleaning work myself and stuck mostly to site visits, supervision, payroll and admin. I was able to gradually increase my wage a bit and I then added other full time work with one government contract in 2017, which was way worse haha… and then another more fulfilling government contract, that I loved in 2018.

Being busy is great, but being too busy is not and that has been the topic of this blog for the past few months as I have been sorting out how to un-busy my life, work less, and live more. And that has led us here today. As a family we discussed over the past 6 months the closing of the company. The government facility awards its contracts by occasionally posting contracts publicly at set intervals, as required by regulations. (That sounds vague and thats about all I’m willing to divulge about that here!) Given that the time was coming for this, the options were:

a) bid a little higher, continue and earn a fairer income
b) bid higher as a sort-of proxy resignation, if they take it, laugh… take the money, do awesome! If not, FREEDOM!
c) quit

After doing the budget and combing it through again and again and getting the input of the people working for the company, we ended up going with option b. On April 1st I submitted a tender package to the facility with a bid substantially, significantly higher than the current pricing with a letter substantiating our planned increase. I spent most of April 2nd in nerves but knew by evening that they weren’t going for it. Hey, a shot not taken is an automatic loss, right? At about 10AM April 3d I got the confirmation from our site contact that they would not accept our bid. I smiled. I was immediately relieved.

He was surprised that I was happy to receive the news. I let him know we would be closing the corporation, he was taken aback and mumbled an apology. I told him not to worry. 🙂 I spent the rest of the day informing everyone myself. I arranged a meeting the next day and resigned from our one last remaining contract.

About two weeks have passed now, today as I am writing this is April 13th so I have had a little time to adjust… I went from feeling butterflies and relief, to feeling simply happy. I made a return to our supplier and let them know we were closing. I smiled so big that they smiled too. Sometimes closing a business isn’t sad, sometimes it’s a newfound freedom that was needed. The company is debt-free and required taxes are already mostly prepaid to the best of my knowledge. All our staff are taken care off, which was my main worry. Our company is leaving the facility, but the staff is not, they’ll mostly assimilate with the new company taking over, and others will simply go back to working just one full-time job.

I didn’t receive a lot of income from the company in 2018, in fact I only received an income of about $14,000 for my responsibilities, which is appalling, really. I’m working on rectifying that imbalance, and once the company closes officially on May 1st and all residual payments and bills are processed, I hope to be left with some income to span the rest of 2019, maybe a few thousand, perhaps more.

My other sources of income already largely cover my basic bills, so I picked up some cottage cleaning on Saturdays this summer as a stop-gap measure.

In any case, about one month from now… I will be officially free. There will be no more schedules, no shifts to cover, no payroll to run, only myself to be responsible for. I don’t really know yet how that’s going to feel… I do know I am looking forward to it a lot and I’m not too worried financially.

Everything is going to land right side up, and this summer is going to be the most relaxed and best summer I’ve had in a decade. 🙂

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