Sucker Punched but Not Knocked-Out

Posted on September 16, 2021 by James Harold Webb
Knocked Out - James Harold Webb - Johann Walter Banz

You see it every time a child starts learning how to walk, ride a bike, or do any number of physical activities – the beginning is rough. There’s a lot of falling, a lot of hurt body parts, and in some cases a building sense of discouragement. However, it’s the will to get up and try again that ultimately leads to mastering the skill and experiencing the pride in learning and experiencing something new.  It’s in these early years that we get a taste of true resilience. In those challenging moments when you feel knocked down, perhaps the temptation is to withdraw and declare ‘never again’. But triumph and success come from getting up and trying again and again and again.

There are some things in life we can anticipate possibly being a struggle. However, there are other times where the blow comes out of nowhere, landing a suck-punch of a blow when you least expect it. Like a boxer avoiding a K.O. – you do everything in your power to stay standing and compose yourself to keep fighting.

Anyone who falls in love with the dream of entrepreneurialism and its upsides needs to also realize the nightmare of uncertainty and fear that go along with it. At one point in my entrepreneurial career, my colleagues and I faced the challenge of obtaining funding for the growth of our imagining company. When some banks are slow to invest in start-ups or to give loans to unqualified applicants, there are industry-specific companies that allow you to borrow funds – we found one such lender which allowed us to upgrade our equipment and set up an imaging center.

Once it looked like the first center was on its way to turning a profit, we decided to add MRI to a second location. To do so, we had to refinance and take out a loan for equipment and all the other necessities –  from a different lender than we used at the first center. They were an industry leader that “invested” in guys like us. Lots of experience but not deep financial “pockets.” They were involved in everything, including requiring personal guarantees and factoring our receivables, which meant that when checks were written to us, they were sent to a lockbox owned by the lender who would collect them. A couple of days later, cash—about 85 percent of the receivables—would be in our account. It was a pain, but it was what we signed up for, and it gave us the runway to build the business we had wanted to create all along.

Things were going well for us in our two locations; we had success with our patients and their doctors.  We were interested in opening a third location, to which our lender granted additional funding and allowed us to withdraw one hundred percent of our deposits unlike before. We were racking up debt, but the extra money allowed us to get the third center up and running.

I had a feeling that something wasn’t right, but after a couple of years of scratching and clawing our way out of hell, I wasn’t about to let the smell of a little sulfur stop me. The patients were happy. The doctors were happy. The money was coming in … until it wasn’t.

One afternoon the money we had deposited was gone.  We couldn’t get ahold of anyone from the lender – it was as though they had vanished.  We would learn the board members and the CFO of our lender were running what amounted to a Ponzi scheme. It was a mess. Our loan was eventually transferred to a successor lender, a larger bank, and our hope was to establish a new relationship and move past the previous debacle and get back on track.  Initially, it looked as though we weren’t knocked out – that we had the chance to stay on our feet and stay focused on our business. Unfortunately, another sucker punch was delivered by this new bank when they decided we were in default of our loan due to the terms set by the previous lender. They filed a lawsuit for $3.6 million against my colleagues and me. It was a nightmare. You can read more of the details in my book, Redneck Resilience. Let’s just say, in two and one-half years, we came to a settlement that allowed us to get up, brush ourselves off, and move forward. In life, that is what it takes to eventually find success. Blows will come when you least expect them – get up, stay standing, pick the right path, and do your best to continue fighting.