Most of my life was spent in sales and small business management. I was good at it, really good. By the age of 26 I was married with 3 kids, and my family of 5 was taking a piece of the American dream when we bought our first home in 2007. Things were going great.
In 2009 I went through some knee surgery and had been off work for about a month when the recession hit the area. It affected my industry, but not nearly as bad as the hit my family took in October 2009 when our house caught fire. We lost almost everything we had. Clothing, furniture, my wife’s wedding dress, our home… and my sense of direction with it. Our insurance claim was denied, leaving me with a family of 5 to care for, a sense of defeat, and a sales management job that demanded too much of my time. We had no place to live, no money to rebuild what we lost, and no idea where to go next.
I was fighting 2 court battles to get my home back, one against a national insurance company, and another against a national bank. The worst part is I had to do it Pro Se (representing myself). So I spent a lot time learning about contract law, the litigation process, and legal documentation. I was also spending any available time tearing apart and rebuilding the house piece by piece. This left me with almost no time for my family.
In January 2011 while at a management training meeting in Indiana, the Regional VP was reviewing a few marketing pieces I had put together for my sales team. I remember his exact words to this day:
“Ryan, if you were not such a great sales manager for me, I would say you were in the wrong business. You should be in marketing.”
I took his words to heart. If I were to start my own business I could have the extra time necessary to rebuild my house, learn the legal system and fight in court for my home, and still be able to spend time with my family.
In Jan. 2011 I took the dive and started a business. Initially, RyCOM offered graphic design and digital marketing services. Things grew slowly that year, but soon I had moved out of my basement to a small office in Downtown Rockford. In 2012 I had tripled my 2011 revenues, and in 2013 it grew by 200%. Things were going great for the business.
Unfortunately, I was still fighting in court to get my house back, and laboring away on the house rebuild. Plus, I was completely wrong about having more spare time. I was running a business – spare time was nonexistent. I had a choice to make – my house, or my family.
Through this process, I was locked into getting back what was taken from my family. Rebuilding the walls of our house is how I envisioned restoration. I was wrong…so very wrong. The entire time I was spending at a construction site, in a courtroom, at my office, or in meetings – my family was desperate to spend time with me; to connect with me; to recover with me.
By the end of 2013, I had finally realized that I was fighting for the wrong things. By starting my own business, I wasn’t giving myself more time to rebuild my house, I was building a future for my family that wasn’t going to rely on anyone else – not an insurance company, not a bank – nobody but us.
So – I expedited some resolution to all the unimportant stuff. Since then, RyCOM has become a great company that helped me refocus on what matters, recover from our loss, and to establish roots in a community that we love. Needless to say, we don’t live in that burned down house anymore – but who wants to live in the past?