So call it a pre-mid life crisis if you will but I convinced my wife, Lynda, who took redundancy from the bank, that we should set up Rockbarton Garden Centre where we could grow and propagate plants and live off the land so the speak, all right at our own back door. We could blissfully skip around the garden, Lynda could be picking flowers and gently placing them in her handmade wicker basket and I could be leaning on my border fork, laughing and enjoying the gentle summer breeze on my face while the children frolicked in the rays of glorious sunshine.
So, we went to see our local enterprise office for some advice and direction. We were greeted by a pleasant but stern woman in her 50's who’d seen it all before. We were waxing lyrical about our proposed Garden Centre and the beautiful walled garden which we were going to create. She asked to see our business plan and on discovering that we didn't have a plan of any description she introduced us to the "Trough of Despair." "The Trough of Despair" she told us "is to business what a black hole is to the universe, sucking in all life and matter, tearing apart the very fabric of the universe. Some make it through but most don't." I could feel that gentle summer breeze turning to a cold winters chill as I learned that most businesses fail within the first 18 months due to a lack of cash flow which is the "lifeblood of your business." When you first start your business you are full of energy and positivity, then as things settle down you come to realise that you face almost insurmountable obstacles. Slowly, your enthusiasm begins to fade and you reach the bottom of the graph at the Trough of Despair. Nobody avoids the Trough of Despair and every business must go there. The question is whether you can crawl out of that hole and make a success of your business or end up in the Valley of Doom (which is sort of Hell for businesses where they are Incessantly poked with hot irons by the Revenue Commissioners and various other creditors).
We are now almost a full 12 months in business and I'm not exactly sure when we entered the Trough of Despair. It was almost imperceptible. Maybe it started in early January when I was digging the bare-rooted hedging back into the ground at 10.30pm in the cold pouring rain with sodden clogs clinging to my boots. Or maybe it was that time in April when I suggested a plant for a particular location and the customer snorted and sneered that the plant would not at all be suitable for that location and that she would have expected me to know better (Lynda always has better ideas for that sort of thing). However, I knew for certain that we had finally arrived when I came home from the office complaining that the watering had not been done, Lynda was looking exhausted and dejected and every last penny we owned had been sucked into the molecule destroying vortex that is owing your own business. John, our five year old, has taken to asking why we don't go anywhere or spend any time together as a family and why are we always WORKING!!, which begs the question what the hell are we doing all of this for?
I suddenly feel the need to quickly answer that question lest I start a fire sale in the large shrubs section. Well for starters, there is always tomorrow. There is the reasonable chance that this thing might be a success. Maybe things will even get so good that we could afford to employ someone to help us. Someday soon, we might all be harmoniously working together at home in our Garden Centre. Maybe then we will get to spend more time together as family. Hell, maybe we might get a small mention in the columns of a reasonably well known gardening publication….... the sky is the limit here people. But for the moment, we are still trying to climb out of the Trough of Despair. Starting a business is tough and not particularly rewarding at this stage of the game, but there is always hope for the future. In the words of Derek Trotter "This time next year Rodney, we'll be millionaires."